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Change and Crisis Management: A Parallel Perspective

Organizational Change Management (OCM) and Emergency Management (EM) apply different methods, strategies, and standards. However, they share several foundational principles. This series seeks to explore how, by drawing parallels between OCM and EM, leaders can be empowered to steer their organizations through change with resilience and confidence.

Part 1 - Preparedness is Key

Preparedness is a universal principle, applicable whether you're managing change within an organization or responding to crises in Emergency Management (EM). In part 1, we'll explore how the concept of preparedness unites Organizational Change Management (OCM) and EM. Both fields emphasize proactive planning, effective leadership, and adaptability as core elements in achieving their goals. By aligning OCM with EM principles, organizations can leverage preparedness to navigate change and crises confidently and with resilience.

Meet Sarah Mitchell, an experienced Organizational Change Manager at Vanguard Tech Innovations (VTI), who has a background with the Colorado State Office of Emergency Management.

Sarah Mitchell, VTI

At VTI, a significant change initiative was underway aiming to revolutionize internal operations, streamline processes, and enhance efficiency. However, it encountered resistance and uncertainty among a workforce recently affected by a major merger and fatigued by ongoing changes. Previous change efforts at VTI had been riddled with challenges, including employee struggles with adapting to new digital tools, decreased productivity, and widespread uncertainty.

Sarah applied preparedness principles by conducting a detailed risk assessment and impact analysis, pinpointing areas requiring additional support. Drawing inspiration from resource stockpiling in EM, Sarah ensured the project team had comprehensive training materials, job aids, and dedicated support channels readily available.

In a manner akin to the meticulous standards of crisis communication protocols, she also developed clear communication plans that outlined the "why," "what," "when," and "how" of change-related messages, along with establishing response protocols for addressing employee concerns.

Sarah's team organized frequent town hall meetings, workshops, and set up a helpline. Sarah's ability to apply EM principles to OCM resulted in the successful adoption of the platform with minimal disruptions to the business. This case highlights how preparedness and adaptability are valuable skills that transcend domains.

Read on to see what you can learn from shared OCM and EM Practices



Emergency Management

Organizational Change Management

In EM, Preparedness involves planning for and responding to disasters and emergencies to protect lives and property.

In OCM, preparedness encompasses the anticipation and management of change within an organization to minimize disruptions and ensure success.

Practice 1 - Risk Assessment and Scenario Planning

Hazard Risk Assessment

Change Impact Assessment

In EM, hazard risk assessment is a preparedness practice that involves identifying potential hazards (e.g., natural disasters, technological incidents) and assessing their likelihood and impact. This assessment informs emergency plans and resource allocation for effective response.

OCM professionals conduct a change impact assessment to evaluate the potential impact of a change on the organization. This involves identifying stakeholders, analyzing consequences and assessing readiness.

Practice 2 - Resource Allocation and Stockpiling

Resource Stockpiling

Resource Alignment for Change

In EM, resource stockpiling is a critical preparedness activity. Emergency agencies stockpile essential supplies like food, water, medical equipment, and fuel to ensure they are readily available during crises.

In OCM, resource alignment is essential for preparedness. It involves ensuring that the necessary resources, such as training materials, communication tools, and personnel, are allocated and available to support the change process.

Practice 3 - Training and Exercises

Emergency Response Training and Exercises

Change Training and Drills

In EM, training and exercises are central to preparedness. First responders undergo rigorous training, and emergency agencies conduct drills and exercises to ensure that personnel are well-prepared to respond effectively to crises.

Preparedness in OCM includes training employees on new processes or systems. Drills and simulations help teams practise and familiarize themselves with the changes, reducing the potential for confusion and errors.

Practice 4 - Communication Planning and Response Protocols

Crisis Communication Protocols

Change Communication Plans

In EM, crisis communication protocols are critical preparedness components. Agencies establish communication systems and protocols to relay vital information during emergencies, ensuring that the public and responders receive accurate and timely updates.

Preparedness in OCM involves developing communication plans that outline how change-related information will be conveyed. These plans specify the timing, channels, and responsible parties for communication to minimize resistance and confusion.

These parallel practices underscore the significance of comprehensive planning, resource readiness, training, and efficient communication in both OCM and EM. Each of these elements contributes to overall preparedness and the capacity to respond effectively to change or crises. Recognizing these parallels and aligning OCM with EM principles empowers organizations to navigate change and crises more effectively, ultimately emerging as stronger and more resilient entities.

Stay tuned for part 2, where we'll look at shared practices related to leadership and training.

Matthew Baker is a Change Management and Learning & Development professional with over a decade of experience delivering user-centered graphic, audio, and instructional design, as well as project management. He holds degrees in Instructional Design, Applied Physics, and Organizational Management.

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