Muriel Weinstein on change and transformation during a pandemic

23 September 2021 5 min. read

The Covid-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on how business operate, and in its slipstream on how change and transformation is managed. A Q&A with Muriel Weinstein – a consultant at business transformation specialist BlinkLane Consulting – on how organizations she works with are navigating the new ways of working.

What is in your view the biggest change and transformation lesson from the impact of the pandemic?

In responding to the pandemic, I have seen many organizations recognize the importance of being resilient. The crisis has shown how important it is for the organizational design to be able to change along with what is needed, but also how important it is that people are capable of – and empowered to – adapt to changing circumstances and situations. 

The pandemic has also triggered a collective need for everybody in the organization to change their way of working. Typically, people tend to show resistance to organizational transformation – often because they don’t see or back the need and urgency of the change. 

Muriel Weinstein, Management Consultant, BlinkLane Consulting

The pandemic created a clear and unquestionable ‘case for change’, and as a result, a lot less resistance occurred when, for example, people were asked/required to work from home. People just did it because they knew ‘why’ they were doing it.

Lastly, I have seen (and continue to see) a notable change in perspective on how people view their work-life balance. The pandemic caused a paradigm shift in this regard. People are for instance re-defining whether they need to be in the office five days a week, and the entire concept of an office space.

Agile working is an important lever of being resilient to change. What developments are you noticing in the agile space?

First, and notably, the urgency for a transformation to an agile way of working significantly increased, in particular among organizations who previously had resisted its adoption. Organizations with a low agile maturity recognized the need to adopt more agile practices, and ramped up their investments dedicated to agile working.

This accelerated awareness and adoption of agile was not just visible in the software development sector, but across all industries. While this trend was already visible before the pandemic, it has accelerated over the last 1.5 years. 

And second, indeed as uncovered by research, organizations who were already working agile managed to reap the benefits from the approach, due to their ability to quickly adjust to the new way of working. 

Working from home seriously impacted the daily communication lines that many people were used to. Agile teams suffered less from this impact because one of the crucial aspects of working agile is the regular cadence in terms of communication. Agile teams also benefited from the structure and direction that an agile way of working brings to planning, which especially in a crisis environment can be chaotic.

In your experience, what will the future of work look like for most organizations?

I am not sure if the future will be hybrid working but it will be easier to have a conversation around the ideal setup, as the past months have shown over that people are effective when working from home. Several recent surveys for example hint at the fact that office workers on average want to work 3-days a week from the office and 2-days from home. 

Obviously, we will see a lot of experimentation with office-home setups in the coming months. One of the main questions that will have to be addressed is: how can you forge and maintain a strong culture when people have a different rhythm and are physically disconnected. Especially younger people who are new to the company will need to be considered, with intensive integration plans required. 

Out of my own experience in consulting, it is possible and effective to work remotely but the value you can bring by walking, listening, seeing, and creating with a colleague / client on location is irreplaceable with online working. Especially in the context of organizational transformation – culture and change are very difficult to grasp in a remote setting – finding an optimal mix will always include some form of physical working. 

Further reading: How the future of work, the workforce and the workplace is changing

How can organizations set themselves up for such a future?

The starting point is to gain insight in what needs to change, and the journey towards this new normal. Talk to people of different ages and positions to understand their needs and wants. How do they envision the new way-of-working to look like? Do not fall into the pitfall of accepting your own view as those of everyone else.

The role of leadership is paramount. They should establish a balance between on the one hand being directive in what is in the best interests of the company and its people, and on the other hand ensuring that employees are given the space to decide for themselves what work set-up best fits their profile.

Project teams take with managing such change should engage with leaders and employees to find the right approach. There is no one size fits all, solutions need to be tailored to the specific of a sector and an organization.