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Change Management: 10 Steps for Responding to a Crisis

Change and crisis, for various and unfortunate reasons, are inextricably linked. Vawns Murphy, writing for the ITSM Review, warns that every so often you’ll need to put aside your flashy tool set and refined policy instructions to deal with a change management crisis. So before a fellow employee brandishes another mug or piece of apparel with the “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogan, consider these ten steps for averting the inevitable crisis that accompanies change.

The Change Management Crisis Survival Guide

  1. Don’t Panic
  2. Status Update
  3. Confront your Stakeholders
  4. Isolate/Terminate the Problem
  5. Review the Incident
  6. Stakeholder Follow Up
  7. Rescue Employee Morale
  8. Identify Repeat Offenders
  9. Preserve the Lesson
  10. Inform Successors

Don’t Panic

I think this first step is perhaps the most important of all. In the early stages of a crisis, your actions as a change manager could make or break the entire recovery process. Take a deep breath. Good. Now it’s time to get down to business. First on the agenda, get a clear picture of what is happening. Prioritize people and safety (safety first), then look at the business effects.

PR Script

Once you’re sure the situation is stabilized, address the angry customer / press / appropriate regulatory body / business stakeholders and work that PR magic. Rehearse after me: Here is what went wrong ____. We’ve already begun to fix ( Issue X ). We’re taking (X) measures to ensure that ( Issue X )does not occur again.

Run the Gamut

Now, don’t let that issue slip away! Get the right people on the job with a solution ASAP. Prioritize the fix across all relevant functionaries. Delay paperwork in order to speed up recovery. When the crisis is averted, take an incident review. Follow up with your customers or stakeholders to lend reassurance and to validate your previous claims of restoring normalcy. Give your team a reward for undue stress. Then sift through other projects or processes looking for similar risks. Chisel the ‘lessons learned’ into stone. Share lessons with partners or successors. And alas, carry on (until the next crisis).

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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