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Leading through uncertain times - five change management strategies

How you lead through turbulent times has a profound impact on your people and your business. Nathan Sri, Principal of Strategy at Unispace, shares five change leadership strategies that will help you steer your business through unchartered territory.

It is true that these times are unprecedented, and many leaders, staff and corporations would never have faced such a significant and challenging situation in their careers to date.

Preserving culture, safeguarding jobsand scaling technology can be delicate and difficult to balance. But with adversity comes opportunity, and effective change leadership can help your business emerge stronger.

Here are five change leadership strategies you can adopt now:

  1. Be visible:This is not the time to be hiding in the boardroom. It’s important for key business leaders to be front and centre, steering the business, and providing staff with accurate information, especially as more of us transition to remote working arrangements. Here at Unispace, our managing directors and leadership team have been running daily all-staff video conferences with studios across APAC, EMEA, and The Americas. These calls have provided staff with routine updates on the rapidly changing situation while serving as an open forum for questions and feedback.

    Tip: Pulse surveys are a fantastic way to help senior executives understand how messages, initiatives and actions are being received by their people. They will also provide an insightful data set to help inform business strategy and decision making.

  2. Support your people leaders: Give your line managers access to the tools, resources and support they need to think objectively and make rational decisions. Over the coming weeks and months, it's imperative that your leadership team are supported with a framework to collaborate across departments and geographies.

    Tip: Objective decision-making frameworks such as the RAPID decision matrix, the fishbone matrix, and cost benefit analysis matrix are all cost effective mechanisms to support leaders with decision making. 

  3. Set expectations using strategic pillars: Introduce strategic pillars to help your business communicate at a high level how it plans to respond to change over the coming months. To ease anxiety and confusion, it’s important for these to be outlined early so expectations are clear.

    Strategic pillars will differ from business to business but most commonly these will account for how you will manage your people, business, cash flow and technology. These themes should become the baseline for all communications and messaging out to your organisation.

    Tip: Develop 3-5 simple key themes for the organisation’s response to familiarise staff with the nature of actions being taken. As your organisation pulls the different levers of the strategy, staff will already be familiar with them.

  4. Maintain a single source of truth: As you build out collateral like fact sheets and work-from-home guides, be sure to store these in a secure repository that is easily accessible to staff. This repository should act as your ‘one source of truth’, keeping staff informed and dispelling rumours. A great example of this is Singapore's Ministry of Health website with regards to the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Tip: The implementation of a ‘push and pull’ strategy in managing change can be effective. This works by having one source of truth that enables staff to ‘pull’ or access information as and when they need it, while the business can ‘push’ updates and announcements when they are available.

  5. Keep to a weekly rhythm: People crave order and structure in their lives, especially during times of uncertainty. Develop an operating rhythm for when communications, meetings and information is shared to help ease uncertainty and confusion. The rhythm should not prevent the need for urgent communications or meetings.

    Tip: Even if you don’t have an update, continue with the meeting, reassurance that nothing has changed is just as important as communicating a change.

Managing change is difficult in the best of circumstances. But at the end of the day, change is inevitable and human. When circumstances are constantly evolving, placing focus on the human element is key, as this is a constant. Show respect, ask questions, acknowledge fears, and empathise – we are all in the same boat.

If you would like to discuss any of the above strategies, get in touch with our team here.


About Nathan Sri

Nathan has over 14 years of experience in workplace strategy and has led several large transformation projects involving new ways of working. He has strategic insight into a range of industries including banking, technology, government and real estate, and a unique perspective on different workplace needs from both a business and employee perspective.


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