Manage Organizational Change During Crisis

By Boris Joaquin


Change is consistent, and often challenging - but all the more difficult to manage when you and the whole world is going through a global crisis. So how do you manage change during a crisis?


First, it’s important to acknowledge whatever emotions you have during this time. Being called to change could make you feel anxious. You might feel ambivalent, going back and forth between wanting to be in your safe place and needing to make the necessary adjustments. The whole thing can make you feel awkward, as you force yourself to try new things. Worse, in all these, you might be feeling alone (you’re not!). Whatever you might be feeling, the best place to begin is to own up to your emotions. Only then can you create a plan of action.


Here you will find three steps to help you manage change well through this crisis.


1. Be purposeful. In the midst of a crisis when you are on survival mode, is the idea of a personal purpose still relevant? On the contrary, this is the season when having a clear sense of purpose will be most important to you. But this is a time when the value of your purpose will be put to the test: if you see its essential and lasting value, then a crisis would not be sufficient reason to throw your purpose out the window. Rather, your purpose will serve as your motivation for you to soldier on.


Take this opportune time to find clarity. What are you living for? What are you working toward? When your answers become clear to you, you will have better reasons to forge on aside from simply surviving. Having a sense of purpose will give you that extra kick in your step when you start your day. Think of your strengths. Think even of your failures - and triumphs. Think of those valuable life lessons that others can learn from you. Think of your design. You were God’s idea: you were not put in this world simply to exist.


If your purpose is clear to you and worth your while, no setback will cause you to despair. If it is important, you will have it ever before you in your heart and you will find ways to fulfill it. Even if you feel like the avenue for you to fulfill your purpose does not seem available to you at the moment, this might be a time to work or prepare for it. Even the Apostle Paul had to go into the tent-making business to support his goal of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Living purposefully will give sense to even the seemingly smallest task. Actually, no task will be small as long as you see it contributing to a bigger purpose, and you will find meaning in everything you invest time on.


Clarify to yourself what your purpose is, what is important to you, and what your goals are, then communicate it to other people. Remember that your purpose may not always translate to pesos. If your purpose is to raise your child well, yes, you will need to work to ensure that your child has access to education; but that is not the sole means to your end. The quality and quantity of the moments you spend with your child daily can also contribute to that goal, and so make sure you put in the time. Purpose then becomes the filter through which you decide how to use and invest your time.


Remember that you may not be profitable at the moment; however, this should not discourage you. You still have a purpose, and being purposeful is key: if we know our purpose, we can seek not only to survive, but even thrive in this quarantine.


2. Be proactive. Once your purpose and your goals are clear to you, you will find that while being productive is valuable, being proactive has great value. It’s time invested on things that may not have immediate returns, but the eventual payout will be great in the fulfillment of your goal. Try out new things that get you closer to that destination. What does that look like?


If you are in between jobs, some proactive actions might be - well, first of all, reviewing your purpose, then reacquainting yourself about your strengths, skills, and passions, investing in upskilling yourself in relation to your field of interest, pursuing further studies, casting a net on the opportunities available to you, updating your CV and LinkedIn profile, and expanding and revisiting your network.


On the other hand, if you run a business that is affected by this crisis, to be proactive means taking time to plan on ways to capturing opportunities so that your business will continue to thrive. Michael Wade and Heidi Bjerkan identified three ways businesses can respond proactively to challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic: #1: same products, different channel; #2: same infrastructure, different products; #3: same products, different infrastructure. [1] An example of Wade’s strategy #1 is how the corporate learning and development industry found itself maximizing online channels to continue delivering training workshops and executive coaching to client companies. The fashion industry’s pivot to producing personal protective equipment when this was needed the most is an example of strategy #2. With 95% of its motorcycle ride-hailing business affected by the requirement for social distancing in the midst of this pandemic, Angkas pivoted its services to deliveries for the sake of its bikers. [2]


Whether seeking work or finding ways to make your business profitable, thinking proactively will make you assign values to your various efforts and lead you to prioritize some activities over others.


[1] Michael Wade and Heidi Bjerkan, “Three Proactive Response Strategies to COVID-19 Business Challenges”, MIT Sloan Management Review, April 17, 2020,

https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/three-proactive-response-strategies-to-covid-19-business-challenges/.


[2]Angkas 'pivoting to deliveries' as coronavirus crisis paralyzes ‘95 pcs’ of operations,” ABS-CBN News, May 12, 2020, https://news.abs-cbn.com/business/05/12/20/angkas-pivoting-to-deliveries-as-coronavirus-crisis-paralyzes-95-pct-of-operations.


3. Prioritize - Tochart your next steps in managing change, apply this feasibility vs. impact grid. Which activities are doable for you, given your resources, that will make the most impact on your purpose and goals? These are what you need to prioritize as they are highly feasible and will yield the most impact. Perhaps if you are in need of clients, being visible online can be a good investment. Your products and services will be known to others through digital media. What about getting an MBA at this time? While this might be high impact for you, if you do not have the resources for it now, it might be a low feasibility action. Do your research to see when this is doable. Activities that are feasible but have little impact on your goals should be set aside, while activities that have little impact and are hardly feasible anyway should be disregarded altogether.How much of your time should be given to which activities? The crisis cone helps you figure that out:

Crisis Cone


a. High impact, high feasibility - Do it on a daily basis

b. High impact, low feasibility - monthly or quarterly

c. Not important but may have an impact - Research and gather information,

include in strategic planning and discussion


Change is not entirely bad. Change can bring you from the old to the new: from depressed to determined, from sidelined to significant, from barely surviving to thriving. You just need to remember that you were made for a purpose, and having compassion for others while surveying the resources and opportunities you have in your hands, embrace the new trails you might be called to blaze.

About the Writer:

Boris is the president and CEO of Breakthrough Leadership Management Consultancy, Inc., founder of the Project Purpose Team, Inc., a corporate educator under the Duke CE Global Educators Network (UK) and a registered Investors in People (UK) specialist.

A management and marketing professional, Boris was involved in various industries both local and international for more than two decades. He is presently the National Director for Lead Like Jesus Philippines. Boris is married to Michelle Joaquin and has two daughters, Ysobel and Julia.



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