Leading during rapid & profound change

During my MBA studies the sessions on change management stressed that the success or otherwise of organisational change pivots on a fully informed, progressive and collaborative preparatory phase.

Well that has gone completely out of the window. The word ‘unprecedented’ has been hammered recently so I will just say the textbooks really don’t have a handle on this. We are all pretty much on our own. How do we manage change that arrives abruptly and industry wide?

Don’t Panic.

You have all the resources, skills, intelligence and charm you had one month ago. Everything you have accomplished in your life so far has prepared you for this challenge. These feel-good platitudes sound great and may gain you better quality of sleep but they bring little of substance when the rubber hits the road.

However, there may be some truth in it, and when the chaos subsides you will be the main asset to draw on. The more information and skills you can accumulate during this phase of change (known as the chaos or neutral phase depending on your model but I think the former is more accurate) the better positioned you will be for the rebuilding phase (new state, mindset shift or death). Sorry about the ‘death’ bit, but business failure is one possible result of change followed by rising from the ashes.

Here are some points (in no particular order, so read on) to help you prepare and execute the changes that may be relevant for your business. These are generic because readers differ in terms of business sector, longevity, geography, complexity and experience. Hopefully some will resonate with you. For more specific information, see the section following.

  • Transformational change begins with no clear vision of the end point or target. It is a series of steps and missteps, course corrections and restarts that progress toward a goal that will appear out of the mist of confusion. Don’t limit your options by having a fixed end-point or goal. Be flexible.
  • Use your team. You have hired smart people, listen to them, let them vent, hear their fears and share yours, ask them for advice without judgement, encourage creativity, be supportive and open, look for ways to grow people rather than cut them down. Be a leader not a hero.
  • Model your desired culture, values and mindset. Unleash your potential through considered thoughts and actions. Your team, clients, patients and family are looking to you for a clue how to get through this.
  • Use your list(s). You have a database of clients who are under stress. Contact them, send e-newsletters telling them how they can access you at the moment. Include useful tips for managing their physical health while in lock down. Simple exercises they can do with their kids, the value of quality sleep, recipes, anything really. Just stay in touch as you will need each other in a few months.
  • Cut your costs in business and personally. Negotiate with lenders for a payment freeze. Speak with your landlord about a rent holiday for six months at least and suggest they speak with their lenders re a freeze. Shop prudently, do your own cleaning, gardening and home maintenance.
  • Chase all outstanding payments. If others have your money, go and get it.
  • Investigate alternative business models such as telephone consults for clients, Telehealth (secure online video) or one-on-one clinic visits that respect the no-gather rules accessed via an online diary. With only one physio and one client at a time, and a 10 minute gap between appointments, a receptionist is a bit of a luxury.
  • Learn stuff – check on online training and education options for you and your team. For example, the Going Private program from the PBA is ideal for recent arrivals in private health practice. Click here for more.
  • Register immediately for any government assistance for your business or for your family situation. I say immediately, but factor in a four hour phone waiting time.
  • Stay productive – make a list of all the tasks or projects you have put on hold ‘until you have time’. Start with the simple and cost-free ones. Take your time and enjoy the process.
  • Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues. Use technology to touch base and share experiences. Finish every call with something positive – any wins you can share.
  • Cry if you need to.
  • Make a tentative recovery plan with a floating start date of how you are going to rebuild your business or work once the restrictions ease. Be specific with what comes first, and then next. Prepare materials for mail out, signage ideas, special offers, staged re-opening, safety messages re hygiene, etc. Model the cash flow projections of a re-start and determine what you need to preserve until then.

That covers the general advice. If your questions, confusions or aspirations require a more specific or tailored approach to down-sizing then up-sizing your business (the current buzz-word will be ‘right-sizing’, just you wait and see) you might like to work one-on-one with me.

I am right-sizing my business mentoring consultancy to an online model only. You can make appointments for a secure, online video appointment during which we can assess your current situation and start to plot a return to being awesome again. Or at least minimising the damage and trauma of the journey.

For those who would like to explore their options and actions, to bounce ideas with a colleague who brings experience and business training to the table I am keen to help. These sessions are confidential, secure and non-judgmental. This is about your future, not your past. You may need one session to get on track or you might opt for regular sessions at a frequency that suits you as your transformation change process evolves. There is no obligation, expectations or subscription model, you simply make appointments as you see the need. Availability is limited so you may need to be flexible.

  • To make an appointment, click on the type of consult you want to start with. I recommend a long session first up so we can get a full assessment of your situation.
  • Appointments must be paid for in advance. Refunds available if you cancel with at least 48 hours notice. Payment is online via credit card after you make an appointment.
  • You will receive some preparation material and a confidentiality agreement to sign prior to commencement. This is important to protect both our businesses.
  • Times are for Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. You will need to adjust if calling from other time zones. The current time in Brisbane is:

Here we go together, towards the ‘new normal’. How ready do you want to be? What competitive and commercial advantages need to be established during this transition phase? How do you retain good people (staff, patients, referrers). Lots to be done and now you have the time to dedicate toward it.


A/Prof Craig Allingham APAM, Exec.MBA