Getting Ahead Of The New Normal

05/20/2019 by Gerry Gibson

Leading Change and Cultural Transformation While the Dust Settles

If you live in a place like Houston, Texas where the future is closely linked to the price of a barrel of crude oil, you may be starting to feel the knot in the pit of your stomach beginning to shrink a little. Every day there are tantalizing drips of positive news appearing in various business communication outlets suggesting a growing consensus that the bottom of the latest energy industry down cycle may have been reached. The signals are reinforced by reports of modest profitability coming from the key players in the market and even suggestions of new hiring or at least fewer job cuts.

The past two and a half years have been rough in the Oil & Gas / Energy Services Industries. A number of prominent names in the business have either filed for bankruptcy or simply gone away forever through consolidation or liquidation. All of the companies in this sector have had to make significant reductions in headcount, top to bottom, capital investment and how they spend money in general.

Changing how business is done has become a primary component in the formula for future growth and, in some cases, survival.

With this as a backdrop it seems to follow that leading companies will take deliberate actions now to manage change and re-energize their cultures in order to adapt and position the organization for success in the “New Normal” business environment. One way or the other, the market will shape the look of its players. In my experience, you can either let circumstances define you or you can choose to be one of the definers.

The following are twelve steps I have found can help organizations get out in front of managing the change and shaping a culture poised for success in the future.

1. Re-cast and re-communicate a clear and compelling view of what the future looks like

Paint a picture of what the “new-normal” will look like for employees, customers, vendors, communities and other key stakeholders. The picture should clarify what is changing and associated benefits. The more you can reinforce the “what’s in it for me (WHIFM)” features, the better.

2. Re-enlist and re-engage Key Stakeholders

Invest time and effort in reaching out to and involving Stakeholder groups in defining and accepting what the future will look like and the role they can play in helping the organization get there.

3. Re-charter a senior level “Guiding Coalition” and recruit Change Champions

Chances are Executive Teams may have changed over the turbulent times and it is probably safe to assume their attention has been focused on things that may have seemed more urgent to weathering the storm than “change management.” Now is a good time to re-constitute this group and gain their genuine buy-in and commitment to leading the organization to the newly defined future state. This would also be a good time to identify and recruit people in the organization that can serve as Champions, Coaches and Cheer Leaders for change within their work groups.

4. Re-clarify Customer Priorities

Steps should be taken to clarify, validate, communicate and create a line of sight between what is important to Customers in the new business environment (chances are they have had to change as well) and how the company and its people perform and behave accordingly.

5. Re-calibrate Vision, Values and Business Strategies to assure alignment with Customer Priorities

Make sure business plans and work practices are aligned with supporting the Customer’s updated needs and priorities.

6. Re-calibrate core business processes against new requirements to succeed in the marketplace and support profitability, safety and productivity goals and aspirations

Undoubtedly the “new normal” will include a need for a continued and in some cases, upgraded focus on safety, productivity, efficiency, customer service and talent retention. Opportunities to leverage automation to replace “manual” processes are increasingly becoming effective solutions.

7. Re-calibrate core competencies that will be required to effectively deliver and execute updated business plans

Successful companies make a habit of periodically revisiting the core competencies for their key roles to assure they are in synch with current and changing skills and behavioral requirements to be successful on the job. During times of change, there is a good chance there will be organizational structure modifications and the key roles that will make up the newly configured organization. Core competencies for these roles should be set and capabilities assessed to increase the probability of success.

8. Re-create a clear and practical plan for managing change and communication

A classic principle of effective “Change Management,” planning and managing change and communication using robust and rigorous “Project Management” practices and disciplines is a critical component to successfully “managing and controlling change” as opposed to letting change happen “accidentally…”

9. Re-set accountability for getting to the new and improved future state

It starts at the top. Assuring leadership teams understand and accept their role and accountability in successfully achieving the new future state of their organization is vital. Successful companies include this as part of performance expectations and structure reward and recognition programs accordingly. It is also important to reinforce the idea that responsibility for “Change Management” should not be viewed as a responsibility of the HR Department. Certainly HR Team Members will play a key role in enabling their Customers to effectively accept and implement change. But, the ultimate responsibility and accountability for successfully achieving the “future state” must reside with the Customers of HR.

10. Re-Institutionalize new work habits, practices and behaviors

At some point the “new normal” must become “normal.” Leaders will play a key role in setting the organizational mood and cadence in a way that builds stability, consistency and reliability at all levels of the company.

11. Re-set Employee Engagement levels and where to focus improvement efforts

An outcome of “turbulent times” and the effect on people is often a decline in morale, trust, motivation and commitment. All of these are part of what creates “engagement.” As the “new normal” emerges, it will be important for companies to understand their current levels of engagement in order for them to set priorities and make informed decisions and take actions to re-energize employee engagement.

12. Re-invent organizational norms, rituals and celebrations that reinforce the “Transformed Culture”

Successful companies will take deliberate steps geared to bringing their culture to life and make it “stick.”

The future belongs to those who can hear it coming.” – David Bowie