Planned vs Emergency Change

Many view Organizational Change as an indicator of potential problems in the organization. However, this isn’t always necessarily true. In a lot of cases, the change is voluntary, and underlines the organization’s willingness to proactively recognize and exploit the potential opportunities latent in the organization or its circumstances. But whether you are always on a lookout for opportunities to improve or are forced by market imperatives to alter your working ways, there will always be situations when you will have to implement a change that you were not prepared for. And when faced with such an Emergency Change situation, many organizations tend to bypass their standard change management process, take whatever actions are required to achieve the immediate objective, and then document whatever is remembered. While this is one way to go about it, such an ad-hoc approach will leave your organization vulnerable to certain audit risks if a key piece of information is left out. Rather than bypass the change management processes in case of an emergency, you should consider institutionalizing a set of guidelines specifically designed for an emergency situation, as there will always be times when you’d need actions sooner than possible as per your standard change management process. Rather than deal with such a situation on a case-by-case basis, it is better to design a process that will expedite the high-priority changes, while still retaining certain degree of review. Below are few tips to institutionalize such a process:
  1. Have a separate and explicit Emergency Change Management policy for all systems, especially those that are predisposed to undergo an emergency-fix situation. Spend time in identifying what procedures will need to be followed and who will sit on the Change Advisory Board. While the best time to carry out this task is during the release management phase of a system, it can also be done retroactively for systems that already exist.
  2. The decision to deem a change an Emergency Change should not be taken lightly, as it will breed a culture wherein Emergency Change is the norm, rather than an exception, and becomes a way to getting changes acted upon for whatever reasons. You might have a formally appointed and empowered Change Manager, or an escalation list that that identifies the people authorized to make that decision.
  3. Have a minimum core group of the Change Advisory Board that will have to provide their sign-off for anything that calls into action an Emergency Change response. If a Change Manager is not available (or has not been appointed), it should be the responsibility of the senior most member of the core group of the Change Advisory Board to notify everyone of the emergency change.
  4. If a Change Request Document wasn’t created prior to the implementation (as is quite likely), have that document created after the change is implemented. This then needs to follow the lifecycle of any normal change request document, including proper review and archiving. This is important for a number of reasons, including:
    1. To perform an Impact Analysis on other systems and change requests that are yet to be acted upon. Also for the communication to the general public and future reference
    2. To perform a Root Cause Analysis and gain an understanding of lessons learned. You should also take this opportunity to find ways to avoid such emergency situations in future
    3. Post-Facto confirmation that it really was an emergency situation. If it wasn’t, the Change Advisory Board should take corrective action, including a warning, a rollback or even a formal disciplinary action.
Any change brings with it a shift from the comfortable state of Status Quo, to the uncertain future state, and this is more so with emergency changes. Hence, you must be extra careful when dealing with these type of changes so as to minimize employee resistance and cost to the organization while simultaneously maximizing the effectiveness of the change effort. If you want to limit the risks of an Emergency Change situation to an acceptable level, you must understand that even emergencies must follow a defined process. If you are faced with a Change Management situation, emergency or otherwise, that you think can unlock profound opportunities for your organization, but are just not sure where to begin, contact us today. We can help ensure that the change is truly a change for the better!
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