Virtual change management (VCM) exercises are a great way to simulate real-life situations and test out new strategies before they become reality. They also provide a safe environment where employees can share their ideas without fear of reprisal.
Change management is the process of managing changes within an organization. The goal is to ensure that the change is successful and that everyone involved benefits from the change.
This article provides eight winning strategies for implementing virtual change management exercises.
First, let’s take a quick look at change management.
What are change management exercises?
Change management is a process for managing changes in an organization. The purpose of change management is to ensure that the organization is prepared for any changes that may occur. This includes making sure that all departments are aware of the changes, and that they understand how the changes will affect them.
Change management exercises are important for any team, whether they are located in one place or distributed across the globe. The main goal of these exercises is to ensure everyone understands what is going on, and how to work together effectively. These exercises also help to identify potential conflicts early on, which helps avoid them from happening later.
11 actionable steps for implementing virtual change management exercises
1. Create a culture of trust
The first step in any change management program is taking cultural initiatives.
Virtual teams are becoming increasingly common in today’s business world, where collaboration between geographically dispersed individuals has become essential for success.
However, when working remotely, team members must be able to rely on each other to deliver high-quality work. Trust is one of the key factors that enable remote teams to function effectively. Without trust, communication breaks down, productivity suffers, and projects fail.
Remote workers must feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, and suggestions. This means that the management team needs to be open-minded, willing to listen, and supportive.
2. Cultivate leadership competency
The ability to handle change at the organizational level depends on leadership competence. It helps enable the business to change more quickly and efficiently involves a strategic competency.
The second key factor in a VCM exercise is having someone who has experience working in a virtual environment. A facilitator should understand how the technology works and be able to explain it to others.
Virtual change management will demand competency from senior executives as they need to lead change for your business. It includes being an effective sponsor of change and demonstrating organizational commitment to the change, albeit individually and collectively.
You will have people managers working directly with the front-line team. If you are looking to pass down the legacy of change, they need to train their direct reports through a definitive change journey. Competency in change management varies depending on your relationship to change, but businesses benefit more when you cultivate a change management culture throughout the workforce.
Implementing a set of successful virtual change management exercises is not just about getting the words out and playing games. It is about managing mindset at all levels, which involves implementing structured processes and comprehensive tools to succeed after the exercises.
3. Define change management roles
A change management professional works behind the scenes to ensure all virtual change management activities meet higher business goals. As a change facilitator, the practitioner supports and equips senior leaders and managers to perform distinctive, employee-facing responsibilities that help design change management strategies.
Executives like to get the change messages across from top management. This means supervisors and managers need to be in the management process to ensure the successful implementation of activities.
The professionals responsible for change management will help your team with the necessary management tools and resources for senior leaders and managers to carry out their duties. This should be passed on to the executives, helping them adapt to the changes without much fuss. The success of change management depends on the ability of senior management and people managers to carry out their duties effectively in these crucial jobs.
4. Foster participation and involvement
You want everyone aboard when the change is expected. Most of the change management exercises are team-based. But then, some require individuals to be honest with themselves. And therefore you need everyone to be a part of this practice. In a participatory change exercise, the individuals involved are listened to, and their advice is considered.
Engaging executives and managers in virtual change management exercises is a great way to pave the way for a change. This is useful if the change advisors want to know more about the team and individuals before designing activities. Employee engagement and information exchange are vital for effective change management.
After all, no change is possible if your team is unwilling to adopt it. A successful change management strategy for exercises involves taking the whole team together. Remember, poorly-designed change management exercises may lead to a disastrous conclusion, and it takes a long time to correct the results. Therefore, ensure everyone participates in change management by getting into the exercises with the right frame of mind.
5. Get feedback
Remember, change is a two-way process. So, before you begin with virtual change management exercises, identify how employees will give you the feedback. This should involve questions about how they felt in the exercises and whether they found it useful. Employees from all the departments should provide feedback in the form of surveys, quizzes, and one-on-one interviews.
Over a period of time, you can adopt these methods to increase employee engagement which benefits you in various ways. For instance, employee feedback gathered after organizing the change management activities helps identify gaps in your management plan.
You can also get more innovative ideas by collecting necessary input from the employees regarding their participation in the change management activities. This also helps create a progress report which becomes an excellent representation of your company’s culture and a vehicle for expressing organizational goals and aspirations.
6. Ensure effective communication
Successful change management activities rely on effective communication. Communicating clearly the current challenges and how the change will be helpful to the organization and to the employees both. Participants should be told about the purpose of the exercise, the time frame, and its impact. Prior to designing and communicating the plan to remote teams, SWOT analysis is always helpful.
There must be constant communication throughout the whole process of change management. Simply announcing change management activities is not enough. Ensure providing a thorough understanding of what you are trying to achieve to virtual workers. This will help them to accept the change better and give their best.
The reason and advantages of the possible change must be communicated to employees to accept the changes. Moreover, you must also create channels for two-way discussions to take place. Employees should be able to share their questions or concerns with senior leaders.
It is possible to begin the change management process by announcing an all-hands meeting. This can bring together all of the employees in the organization. The objective is to assist the impacted teams in accepting the change by participating in the activities and by understanding its importance for business.
7. Prioritize employees
For you, it can be about bringing out a policy, but for employees, a small change means a lot of adjustments. And since executives are more affected by the major change in the businesses, they should be heard first. Therefore, ensure that everyone in the team is on the same page. Employees will be more willing to cooperate if the focus of the change is on them.
Change management may also involve icebreaker exercises and team-building activities that help teams express their concerns about organizational changes. The idea should be to encourage employees to communicate openly with managers, and the latter should get the necessary information that simplifies bringing the change.
8. Identify employees’ personalities
When you go about conducting change management activities, you are bound to come across three types of personalities — resistive, early adopters, and the spectators.
You need to identify these and get a better understanding of how your change management strategy will be perceived and how to advance it.
- The resistants: These employees will show resistance to change and may have a hard time appreciating the benefits of change. They often show their dislike for management or other employees who promote change. You need to identify these people who are difficult to persuade to accept a new way of working at the organization. Your change management activities would need to prepare separate games to identify these people based on their traits while playing.
- Early adopters: These are the set of people ready to embrace your new change plan with open arms. They are also a great spokesperson for change within your organization. Your change management exercises should aim to identify this lot and leverage them to help the resistant ones.
- Bystanders: Lastly, you will have some members of the team who remain indifferent to change. They show no particular concerns or excitement about it. Bystanders may be less engaged in the change since they do not perceive it affecting their daily lives. Your change management exercises would check out these people and help engage them more by explaining the importance of their work.
9. Celebrate goal completion
It might be difficult to maintain a high level of enthusiasm or morale during times of change. You can boost a team’s morale by setting minor goals within the exercises and rewarding those who achieve them. When you’ve achieved major milestones, make a big deal out of them and share them with others within the organization to give them recognition.
10. Analyze results
Your change management exercises will have a series of checkpoints to monitor the progress of your change management efforts. This means you will evaluate how teams have performed and analyze their actions to interpret more about their personalities. This way, you will be able to implement the right change management methods for faster and simpler adoption.
11. Encourage team participation
Multiple uncertainties might arise due to changes in the team, and therefore, it is best to have as many team members as possible to participate. Try teaming them up as a part of competitive games or reward them for participation. Also, this will help you keep everyone in the loop.
As mentioned earlier about feedback, you can also involve your employees to improve these exercises for their good. Keep an ear out for what your employees say participating in change management activities. This helps determine how to execute changes that benefit everyone in the company.
Time to implement change
Once you are done planning the change management exercises, you will need to come up with the right methods that solve the purpose. A manager’s ability to lead effectively depends on how you plan to implement change management tactics. While real-world experience can help build certain change management abilities, you can always resort to custom exercises that fit certain team members. When planned with the right purpose, your change management exercises can help bring about necessary change with wide acceptability amongst the employees. You can reduce the friction amongst employees by keeping them informed.
As the world evolves and more companies embrace remote work and scattered workforces, the demand for deliberate approaches to virtual team building is bound to increase. It is not sufficient to simply wish for the best outcome but also plan your change management exercises to improve adaptability amongst remote teams.