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Managing Change in the Era of COVID-19

Change management is more than a buzzword; it is a performance driver necessary to achieve any kind of sustained organizational success. Why? Primarily because people are naturally resistant to change, even though they are becoming more accustomed to it. Overcoming this resistance requires a systematic approach involving a transition to new organizational processes, technologies, values and goals. A change management initiative must implement successful strategies so employees can accept and adapt to change.

According to Forbes, 62% of people do not like to leave their comfort zones or only do so occasionally. Without competent change management leaders, they resist and falter. There must be effective sponsorship of change coming from senior leadership and competency in coaching individuals through the unique aspects of their own change journeys on the part of middle managers.

Completing the AACSB-accredited Global Master of Business Administration with a concentration in General Business online at University of Houston-Victoria provides preparation for change management. Graduates emerge from the program with the tools and knowhow to deal with a changing global business environment.

3 Categories of Change

There are three common categories that organizational changes fall into, each of which must be mastered by supervisors and managers on up to executives and the top brass:

  1. Developmental change – Improvements upon established operational and business practices.
  2. Transformational change – Fundamental changes to an organization’s values, culture, operations and practices. 
  3. Transitional change – Organizational changes to solve a problem, such as meeting new competitive challenges, mergers and acquisitions, and automation. This is the type of change management that COVID-19 requires.

A Pandemic Is a Change Management Challenge

Examples of events that require change management skills include new directives from top leadership, mergers and acquisitions, and implementation of new technologies. No change tests the organizational leaders’ skills and the employees’ willingness to change more than a crisis — and few crises are as severe as a global pandemic like COVID-19.

Leaders are being called upon to prioritize the health and safety of their workforce while maintaining operations. To do this effectively, they must have a clear and consistent communication strategy, yet they must be nimble enough to adapt as the crisis worsens. They must quickly put together a cross-functional central response team and a crisis-response strategy to keep all stakeholders and employees informed about the current plans and abreast of any changes as they occur. They must account for business continuity plans should the situation deteriorate.

For many organizations, adapting has meant implementing new digital interfaces that allow employees to work from home. Adapting to this change requires a virtual work environment with new systems, processes and structures to drive the organization toward acceptance and commitment to the new or transitional way of operating, according to Deloitte. This includes hardware and software infrastructure and IT support with laptops, data cards, VPN and firewalls for security. Supervisors and managers have quickly learned to host virtual meetings and use cloud-based collaborative software. Learning management and training have transitioned from in-person to online platforms.

The people management side of change management during COVID-19 has included succession planning for when leaders are unavailable due to the sickness or in quarantine because of exposure. Middle managers and supervisors have had to become more empathetic as many employees struggle with the job-related stresses of a pandemic, not to mention personal and family challenges.

Adapting successfully when an organization goes through drastic or sudden shifts demands change management training. Only with this training can a leader seize the narrative and re-envision the organization while remaining transparent about the challenges to gain companywide buy-in. Fortunately, many of America’s great leaders have been efficacious in implementing change management, and many would credit MBA training for their success.

Learn more about UHV’s Global MBA with a concentration in General Business online program.


Deloitte: Combating COVID-19 with an Agile Change Management Approach

Smarp: Change Management Definition, Best Practices & Examples

Prosci: What Is Change Management and How Does It Work?

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