The 4R Approach to Managing Change

On today’s episode of Hive in Session, our resident host Ben Lind talks to friend of Hive, Mark Crabtree! Formerly the Assistant HR Director at Durham University, Mark is now an independent Organisation and Leadership Development Consultant with a keen interest in supporting people through change and transformation.

Now… let’s kick things off with the big question: what exactly is the “new normal?”.

The world of work has changed, so the “new normal” isn’t going to be so normal after all. It’s easy for organisations to want to open up and go back to the way things were before, but that’s not the right thing to do. 

To get through yet another round of forced organisational change, we’ve got to sit back, reflect and learn. We need to start by creating a space for people to really think about what change they want to see based on their ways of working and their experiences.

But how do we do that, exactly?

With a little help from Mark’s change management model, the 4Rs: reflect, review, reconnect, reboot.

  • Reflect on what has worked well and what hasn’t worked so well
  • Review which changes to keep, which to amend and which to ditch
  • Reconnect with your people, customers and market in new and improved ways
  • Reboot your organisation to make the most of opportunities and ambitions.


The 4R approach to change management

Mark created the 4Rs approach as a way to really consider, understand and tackle the different views and expectations that have arisen thanks to the pandemic. 

There are those who really want to go back to communal office spaces—the more social creatures—usually because they miss the incidental learning that happens from our smaller day-to-day interactions. Then, there are the people who you’ll often hear saying “I don’t miss the two hour commute!” or “I’ve got so much more time to spend with family and friends and do more exercise!”.

Some want to stay where they are, some want to go back and some are still on the fence—and the 4Rs help you create an approach that deals with all of the changing preferences that people now have about their own world of work.

A huge part of that is creating the space to have open conversations and learn from our experiences to better manage people’s expectations moving forward; if we don’t, conflict will surely arise when we aren’t armed with the people insights we need to make effective decisions! 

There are lots of people facing uncertainty, which of course leads to some anxiety—so let’s dive into Mark’s 4Rs and start moving forward into a better world of work:



The reflection element of the 4Rs of change management is about understanding people’s individual experiences over the past 12 months—or longer!—and creating meaningful conversations about those experiences. 

It’s not just about reflecting on outcomes and results, but reflecting on the process and journey towards those outcomes and the impact that’s had on people. It’s a time to self-reflect, but also a time to appreciate the experiences of others in the organisation too. So when you’re kick-starting conversations—whether that be through employee feedback platforms, focus groups, interviews, or even general chit chat—look to find out answers to questions like:

  • How would you describe your overall experience of the past 12 months (or longer)?
  • What about it has worked well for you?
  • What about it hasn’t worked so well for you?
  • Is there anything you’ve missed about the old ways of working?
  • How have the events of the past 12 months impacted your wellbeing?
  • How have the events of the past 12 months impacted your productivity?


Having those open, reflective conversations gives you the structure to really unpack your people’s experiences. There’s been a lot of unfortunate, collateral damage and there’s no avoiding that. But, we’ve all learned a thing of two about what we want from work and that’s what we need to use to guide our future aspirations and change management programmes.



Armed with your insights, knowledge and understanding of people’s experiences from your reflection stage, it’s time to start thinking about the common themes that will influence the way you approach your change management programme. Think about a few key questions during your review stage:

  • What have we really benefited from? 
  • How do we adapt to make sure we keep those beneficial ways of working moving forward?
  • What hasn’t worked so well, and how do we ditch it?
  • What is really at the heart of the way we’ve been working?


It’s all about deciding what to keep and what to ditch; it will help us think about how we communicate and collaborate with each other, how we support each other, how learning and development takes place, and ultimately, how we connect with each other in the future of work.



It’s not just our own people and internal processes that have changed; every organisation has adapted and transformed in one way or another, so we need to start looking at how we can reconnect with everyone from our employees to our customers to our suppliers.

Organisations large and small are trying to recapture their markets based on their new ways of thinking this past year. A lot has changed with the way we use or consume certain products; think about the likes of the Zoom boom in 2020. But some organisations haven’t been as fortunate and some products have needed to seriously adapt to new needs to be able to stick around.

Plus, team dynamics have changed absolutely everywhere and that’s what we need to reconnect with—meaning we need to figure out better ways of working together that suit the new world of work. So, structure your reconnect phase around a few key questions:

  • How do we learn from customers’ experiences and aspirations?
  • How do we think about things from our suppliers’ perspective?
  • How do we re-engage our employees?



You’ve reflected, you’ve reviewed and you’ve reconnected. Now, it’s time to create action plans based on what you’ve discovered and mould your organisation so it’s fit for the future.

The reboot stage is time to celebrate all the differences we’re faced with to make sure we build something that’s purposeful, based on the needs of people and their individual experiences.

People sit at the heart of all change programmes, so we need to build a future of work that’s based on what actually meets people needs to enable productivity, happiness and engagement!

“What is needed are facilitated conversations, people who are willing to ask the naive questions, the playful provocateurs, the workplace mediators, those who can help teams work through conflict so that learning takes place.”

So, when you’re in the midst of organisational change, remember the 4Rs of change management: reflect, review, reconnect and reboot!

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