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Mar 21 2020
Change Management in the Era of COVID-19

When we think of change management, we generally envision implementing a new system, process, strategy, or policy. Or perhaps we need to plan for a corporate reorganization, and all the changes that will be produced and needed for success. Change management methodologies, such as ADKAR from Prosci, offer processes for systematically preparing for and then executing big change – when timing is under our control.

We've seen over the years that our Performance Thinking® methodology for organizational performance improvement is also a powerful tool set for change management. It has the added  advantage that we thoroughly address the behavior influences needed to ensure sustained change, once the celebration and novelty are over.

But what about when we face changes out of our control?  What if the Universe slaps us down with events or conditions that change everything, that leave us fighting for survival?  That's what's happening now with the worldwide pandemic of novel coronavirus and COVID-19. That is what we all face now.

At the Performance Thinking Network we've been trying to derermine how best to help our clients, colleagues and friends, faced with unexpected and out-of-control changes caused by the threat of COVID-19.  In many cases there is the likelihood of great suffering, potentially to the point of bankruptcy or going out of business. We recognize that this is no ordinary change management situation, where we manage planned changes in operations, business models or strategy.

Instead it's a question of managing in the face of unexpected and potentially catastrophic change beyond our control. Many of us need to quickly shift our products and services, business models,  strategies and tactics for staying afloat.  We need to survive an unknown period of reduced revenue, inability to operate as usual, and painful impact on our employees and customers.

Performance Thinking, as taught in the Six Boxes® Practitioner Program, offers a powerful implementation and sustainment methodology. We're confident that Performance Thinking gives us a path for implementing and sustaining change that may even be more robust than some well-known change management methodologies.

But how do we know what changes to make in our businesses or organizations? How do we figure out what to implement, how the change will look, what the outcome of change should be?  That's where our colleague, Surya Vanka of Seattle's Authentic Design, and formerly Director of User Experience at Microsoft, can help. At last year's Six Boxes® Summer Institute, Surya made a big splash by conducting an all-day Design Swarms® process to invent ways that Performance Thinking might help to address environmental issues.  Using his "innovation on demand" process, we arrived at some truly unique solutions.  Since then, we've been exploring synergies between  Design Swarms® for innovation and  Performance Thinking® for implementation and sustainment.  We think that COVID-19 offers a perfect, and rather urgent opportunity to combine these two powerful methodologies.

We can combine Design Swarms® and Performance Thinking® into a simple but powerful two-step process to help organizations design innovative strategies and tactics, then implement them with speed and sustainability.  We can help organizations be agile in the face of the pandemic.

In the coming weeks we all face the reality of the exploding pandemic.  Surya and I are inviting a few innovative but struggling organizations, large or small, to combine virtual Design Swarms for rapid innovation with virtual Performance Thinking work sessions to quickly create implementation plans that will allow them to survive the pandemic.

If you're interested in working with us to help you innovate and implement, we'd like to speak with you about a possible path forward that fits your circumstance. If there are groups of non-competitive small business owners in the same field, we might also work with them. None of us are certain how this will play out. Please reach out if you want to work with us from the safety of your homes.  We can offer a significantly reduced fee or free-of-charge for truly struggling organizations.  We want to help if we can, and be innovative in the process.

You can contact us at or call me personally at 206-866-3229.  I'll pull Surya into the discussion, and we'll take it from there.

- Carl Binder, CEO


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