10 self-reflecting questions in getting your organisation from chaos to control in post-COVID-19 reboot times

We all know change cannot be mandated or forced. It has many aspects and these aspects count. As a change manager, you need to ask yourself some difficult questions before you set out to ‘shake things up’. And you must listen to the answers. In this ‘Business Watcher’ video, Professor of Change Management Peter De Prins raises 10 questions to consider, before you set out to make things better.

Video Peter De Prins

1. What is my organisational culture and what is the employees’ perspective?
To mobilise a workforce to transform itself, you must know what people in the organisation are thinking. You should not rely on second-hand information or make assumptions about what you think that employees think. Therefore, you need to invest in an organisational culture measurement tool. To make sure you truly understand the culture. Only then you can begin to design a strategy that builds on synergies and fills in perception gaps.

2. Have you created the right context for change?
Did you ‘set the stage’ for change? One of the most vital roles of leadership is to anticipate the organisation’s future and proactively respond to the challenges. Therefore, you must continually reinvent your business to maintain your competitive advantage. Not only in market position, but also on procedures, processes, software, hardware, physical working space, etc… Context is a much stronger driver for behaviour than communication and telling.

Video Peter De Prins

10 self-reflecting questions in getting your organisation from chaos to control

3. Are you suffering the illusion that it has been accomplished?
As important as it is to find out what employees are thinking before the change, it is just as crucial to have a system for monitoring employee perception throughout the process. When it comes to communicating change, leadership must be especially careful not to suffer the illusion that it has been accomplished by just telling them. You should gather organisational feedback immediately after the delivery of every important message and repeat that often during the process. Here are some questions you can ask after every message you delivered:

  • What in your view are the most important points we just covered?
  • What do you agree or disagree with? 
  • How would you summarize my message? 
  • Is there anything you missed in the information I shared?
  • How will impact this information your job and behaviour?

4. Are you giving rigorous honest answers to difficult questions?
In insecure times, employees must be able to rely on their employers to give them honest information; allowing them to make informed choices about their own jobs, careers and futures. When you can't answer every question, it is best to tell people that you understand their concern but don't know the answer. It is even better to tell people that you have the information but can't release it than to withhold or twist the truth.

5. Can you clearly explain “what's in it for them"?
The question that I hear most often about change is definitely “What's in it for me?”. You need to ask that question for yourself and for your employees and prepare an honest and concrete answer. And share it. If you find yourself making up things, you know you will find resistance and non-belief on your path.

6. Is your communication concrete and based on behaviour?
Organisations send two concurrent sets of messages about change:

  1. One set of messages goes through formal channels of communication (speeches, newsletters, corporate videos, values statements and so forth).
  2. The other set of messages is delivered informally through a combination of "off the record" remarks and daily activities.

Both types should focus on the desired behaviour of people. The answers to these questions should be clear for all employees:

  1. What do I currently do that already supports the change?
  2. What do I have to do differently to align with the change?

For today's sceptical employee audience, rhetoric without action quickly disintegrates into empty slogans and company propaganda. What you do in the hallway is more powerful than anything you say in the meeting room.

7. Can you paint the big and the little picture?
Vision is the big picture, and it is crucial to the success of the enterprise. But along with the big picture, people also need the little picture: how to bring it back to their experience, their role, their context.

Talking about transformation is the big picture. How we are going to do that is the little one.

  • Setting long-term corporate goals. Little Picture: Where do we begin? 
  • Developing the overall objectives of the transformation. Little Picture: What are the priorities? 
  • Creating the mission of the organisation. Little Picture: Where does my contribution fit in? 
  • Communicating organisational values. Little Picture: What does this mean in my daily life?

8. Is it my or their or our vision?
A compelling vision of the future inspires employees to set and reach ambitious corporate goals. Of even greater importance is the sense of meaning that people derive from their jobs when they can tie their contributions to the fulfilment of that vision. But if the vision belongs only to top management, it will never be an effective force for transformation. So, the crucial question becomes: "Whose vision is it?". If you want employees to feel the same kind of connection to their work that the executives felt at the retreat, then you have to get them involved in its creation.

9. Are you emotionally mature?
To be an effective manager of change, it is not enough to engage people's logic; you also have to appeal to their emotions. As leaders gain the insight that people skills hold the key to organisational change, human emotions take on new significance. Large-scale organisational change almost invariably triggers the same sequence of reactions: denial, negativity, a choice point, tentative acceptance and commitment. You can facilitate this emotional process by investing in your emotional intelligence and human touch. When ignored, it will erode the transformation effort.

10. Do you know what stays the same and shouldn't change?
The greatest challenge for leaders is to know the difference between what has to be preserved and what needs to be changed. I often make a list of things that need to change and put it next to a list of things that will NOT change. It creates a different emotional response from employees around the change than when you only talk about what is changing.

Discover more tips in the book ‘Six Batteries of Change’ or follow our 5-day programme ‘Leading Change’.