Imagine you are happily married, your children have grown up and left home and you are enjoying a quiet Sunday together with your partner when the phone rings and Sally, a family acquaintance, asks if you can look after Jack, her three year old son for a couple of days, while she goes up north to visit her mother in hospital.

A change manager in this situation has little difficulty, beyond the inconvenience of having one’s life interrupted.  He makes a quick activity/time chart spread over 48 hours (with an additional 12 hour grey zone, for contingencies).  He divides the chart into awake and asleep times, based upon an internet article on ‘normal sleeping habits for three year olds’. He breaks the chart down again into feeding times and washing times and divides the remainder into convenient blocks of 12 minute and 45 minute intervals.  The 12 minute chunks are for short term entertainment or diversion activities.  The 45 minute slots are for longer periods such as video’s and children’s TV, walks with the push chair (weather permitting), visits to the park and aimless car journeys etc. 

After several brainstorming sessions with his wife, games, toys and activities are thought up that fit into either of the two time slots.  These are written onto cards and arranged on the time intervals on the chart.  Short intermediary time slots, are left open for transitional periods between one activity to another.  Ideas such as baking a cake, that require very specific components and/or additional preparation are marked with a star, to be sure they are prepared upfront and not over-looked.

The secret to the change manager’s natural skills in child minding is not their emotional intelligence but their almost super-natural ability to anticipate ‘everything’ including the need for having first aid kits on hand in case of minor accidents and grazes etc.  However, our change manager also requires a communication strategy towards the various stakeholders: Sally, her Mum in hospital, the people not chosen to look after Jack but think they should have been, Jack himself, his partner (especially needed for light relief at high stress points), friends, relatives and all those with whom they had made other plans that now need to be cancelled.

Once the communication strategy is formed (the how and when and which media channels the communication will take shape in: face to face, phone, video, photography, e-mails, get well cards, hugs etc.), A communication plan is needed.  This will be prepared along with some key communications, just in case on the ground activity or exhaustion levels prohibit it later on.  “Dear Sally, Jack is having a lovely time, he’s just finished baking you a cake, ready for when you come home…”.  “Dear Sally, please don’t worry, Jack’s having a great time… yes he did fall in the fish pond but the fish are fine and he’s breathing normally again”. 

So apart from the logistics and the strategic planning (for which one obviously needs a project manager, the CM’s wife) all the other components are ready and in place.  “No worries Sally, we’d simply love to have Jack.  No it wouldn’t be any trouble at all, when are you bringing him over? …  This afternoon?  OK no worries, I think we have everything covered, hang on a minute, my wife is trying to say something – I tell you what I will hand her the phone, see you, bye!”

Have a nice week,