A crisis is a transformation process, which can be based on a wide variety of triggers. If one gets into this state, the old system can no longer be maintained. A defining characteristic of a crisis is therefore the need for change. If no change takes place in this situation, consequently there is a standstill and a failure becomes imminent.

Today, Kerstin Mumenthaler and her colleague from #clearedtoland Edith Tieber take a closer look at what business continuity and crisis management have to do with change management.

In the best case, proactive and reactive processes are closely linked in a company.

Figure 1: aim4safety-Modell

The aim4safety model (Fig.1.) illustrates the need for close linkage of the four pieces of the puzzle. In order to achieve the best possible results at all times, the very proactive safety management, the holistic business continuity management, the more reactive crisis management and the quality management should be closely linked.

We will examine the differences between the individual management systems in more detail elsewhere. Today, we will focus exclusively on the aspect of change that consequently results from these processes.

Continuous improvement is an elementary component in all management systems. All lifecycles, whether ISO or BCI (Fig. 2), include the need for continuous review and improvement.

Figure 2: Business Continuity Institute Guidelines: The “Validation (PP6)” section deals specifically with the quality and functionality of BCM.

Thanks to the agile approach and continuous improvement, it is possible to shorten the time between impulses and their implementation, to increase the exchange of skills and knowledge, and to learn more quickly from mistakes by sharing know-how. We call this “Failing Forward”, an approach that has been practiced as a matter of course in aviation for decades and contributes significantly to the continuous improvement of safety. This creates the basis for enabling small but steady development steps through agile cycles and thus achieving maximum results.

Points for improvement can be identified on the one hand through established audit processes or also findings from exercises. Economic decisions as well as crises, as we are currently experiencing, can prompt companies to initiate change processes in order to remain competitive on the market or to become competitive again.

Debriefings should not be neglected. These should definitely be carried out after each process. We would like to refer you to the blog article “Basis of debriefings and why they are an important part of continuous improvement“.

In short, a crisis is not a crisis until change becomes necessary. 

Figure 3: FACT24 crisis cycle

If we take a look at FACT24’s crisis process (Fig. 3) as an example, it is also clear that this is a cycle. Continuous improvement is firmly anchored even in reactive processes such as this one. Especially after crises, change is inevitable and in most cases existential. It is advisable to address change during the Return and Prevention phases.

In the end, however, it does not matter which event or audit identified the points for change. The urgency following real crises is likely to be a lot higher, but the need for appropriate action to achieve improvement is present in all options.

Management systems do not provide enough support for change processes

From here on, however, the established management systems leave us, because they do not give any clues HOW a change should be made in the company.  This is left to the user alone. In our opinion, most traditional change processes are rather cumbersome and also rather lengthy in their implementation due to the waterfall structure and are therefore no longer up to date. Agile change processes are to be strived for, so that even spontaneous decisions can be implemented without serious consequences. Ideally, they are structured in such a way that they can be carried out on site, virtually or in hybrid form.

Much emphasis is placed on the organization. But just as with the topic of Recovery, we are of the unconditional opinion that a change process can only succeed if corporate concerns are addressed hand in hand with employee needs. 

Let’s start with this: What makes a company? It’s the employees. That’s why it is important to realize that it’s not the companies that change. It is the employees – the people – who do their best for the company every day. It is the same people who make the decisive difference in the entire change process. It is important to remember that change processes do not only change existing corporate structures, but also the employees. Rarely at the same time, but gradually. In our opinion, this awareness is a central aspect that must be taken into account in order to design and implement a change process successfully and sustainably.

Man falls into oblivion

Our experience shows that in change management, changes are often initiated in organizations without taking the people behind them on board with the necessary lead time and support. 

Of course, there are situations – especially crisis situations – where quick action is required and it is therefore not possible to involve all those affected in detail. Here, however, a clearly communicated and convincing change vision, i.e. a description of the goal to be achieved, can be of great benefit. 

Caution. A change vision is not necessarily the same as a corporate vision. Do not make the mistake of dispensing with it on the assumption that sufficiently well formulated corporate visions are available.

How many change processes have already failed due to a lack of acceptance by the people who were ultimately responsible for implementing the new processes? The more change projects fail in a company, the more critical employees are of future changes. 

The challenges become more and more diverse, the change processes faster and faster. Not losing sight of the employees here is extremely difficult, but absolutely crucial for success. 

A change process requires meticulous preparation – on the organizational as well as on the personnel side. The acceptance and understanding of the necessity as well as the knowledge of the consequences if the change is not carried out is a basic requirement so that the entire process is supported and carried along. All subsequent measures, no matter how well developed, are doomed to failure if this first step is not fulfilled. 

Success factors

Change management is the art of combining economic (business), organizational and psychological components. 

Since each employee undergoes an individual transformation, it is essential that the management and those responsible are also equipped with the appropriate tools. On the one hand, this requires a change of perspective, and on the other hand, additional measures should be initiated such as

– Strengthening the resilience of employees so that the strain and underlying stress can be cushioned

– Promoting communication among employees

– Implementation of debriefing processes

What we also recommend to companies is the possibility for real-time coaching of the affected employees.

Implementing a change process from within is associated with many hurdles and is usually very difficult to implement. A network of external consultants, who can optimally support both sides – the business and the human side – and additionally underpin the credibility and importance of the measures with their additional know-how, can be an important support during implementation. 

Thus, an optimal starting position for a successful change process can be created.   

Abbildung 4: Closed Loop der kontinuierlichen Verbesserung

Our Change Flight

In this context, we looked at various change processes and models commonly used on the market (including Kotter, ADKAR, etc.), integrated and reinforced the human factor, and linked it to models from the aviation industry. The FORDEC model developed by NASA, which serves as the basis for our own model, seemed to us to be the most suitable. This is originally a fact-based, very objective decision-making model, which has been extended by additional components around planning and soft skills.

In our change flight models, there is not only a close link between the four puzzle pieces of the aim4safety model and the 8 core points of the #clearedtoland success principle, but also between the organizational and human factors. Figure 4 shows the process or “closed loop” of Continuous Improvement.

In the new world with all the new challenges, we also see the need for new ideas that combine the approaches from the current change models with the necessities of the management systems.

Thanks to the modular structure, individual organizational and human factors can be taken into account and we can step in at any stage of the change process and ensure optimal support. We work with agile approaches. The introduction of agile cycles and practices, which include the aforementioned “failing forward”, enable continuous development. In this way, new routines that emerge from the process are automatically anchored, strengthened and continuous learning is encouraged. This also makes it easier for leaders and management to regularly take the pulse of the change process and use reward programs (celebrating even the small successes) to keep employee motivation high during and, most importantly, after successful implementation.  

A change process rarely happens overnight and is not easy. This is precisely why the selection of tools that support successful and sustainable implementation is crucial. 

Further information on this topic is available at www.aim4safety.eu and www.clearedtoland.ch.

We are happy to support you in your change process. Please contact us:

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