Managing change in Uncertain and Volatile Times with Vanessa Akhtar and Gaurav Gupta

Most organizations, at some point in their lifecycle, come to points where they have to carefully navigate through volatile and uncertain times. And throughout the last couple of years, we all have been going through a period of extreme uncertainty. One of the keys to successfully handling volatile times is the ability to change. Since not all organizations are built the same way or with the same culture, some are better at change and transformation than others. In today’s episode, we have a deep conversation with Vanessa Akhtar and Gaurav Gupta, co-authors of Change: How Organizations Achieve Hard-to-Imagine Results in Uncertain and Volatile Times.

We start the conversation by asking our two guests what motivates them personally and professionally. They also share their message to our listeners. In the last two years, our lives were drastically changed due to COVID and its ripple effects. Although this has been the same for organizations, many industries have been changing rapidly over the last century. We dive into the discussion by talking about what change means to organizations and people.

According to Gaurav and Vanessa, there are two aspects of our minds that they call the survive channel and the thrive channel. The survival channel is an instinct we’ve developed over millions of years that responds to threats in the environment. Thrive channel, on the other hand, is what enables us to look for new opportunities. We dive deep into how these two sides of our minds come into play in today’s work environments. We talk about how organizations can implement practices that allow the members to activate thrive and how it helps organizations progress in volatile environments.

Project management is another key aspect we talk about that is important for many organizations. We analyze some of the project management frameworks that became popular for some time and then faded away, why they failed, and how to overcome the shortcomings that caused the failures. We also touch on how organizations can approach restructuring the right way. Towards the end of the episode, we talk about how we can utilize these concepts in our personal lives for family decision-making. 

[01:26] Motivation & Messages – We start the discussion by talking about what motivates our two guests personally and professionally, and their message to our listeners.

[05:00] Change & People – Many of us feel that COVID made huge changes to the way we used to live. While that’s true, the world has been changing rapidly over the last century. We talk about what this means for organizations and individuals.

[12:00] The Survive Channel – Vanessa dives into the part of us that looks for threats in our environment, how it affects our decision making, and how we can manage the survive channel for progress as individuals and organizations.

[15:57] COVID & Work – How COVID has affected the work culture, communication within organizations, and work-life balance and some of the positive aspects that emerged from it.

[21:02] Activating Thrive –  What organizational leaders can do to activate thrive within their members. 

[26:39] Have to and Want to – Have to and Want to is the first of the four guiding principles mentioned in the book. It focuses on creating a sense of wanting change within an organization.

[28:32] Head & Heart – Vanessa explains why incorporating the emotional side of things rather than making decisions based on just data points is better in the long run for an organization.

[30:00] Select a Few & Diverse Many – Vanessa dives into the fourth guiding principle, which is based on the idea of gathering ideas and perspectives from a diverse range of people within an organization in order to get better outcomes.

[31:20] Strategy for Change – Leadership & management strategy for change within organizations, the difference between strategy and long-term planning, and ways of implementing strategy within an organization.

[39:00] Pivot – An organization’s ability to pivot varies based on its nature. In general, younger organizations tend to be able to pivot better than their more established counterparts. Gaurav explains the reasons behind this and the leadership and management traits relatively more established organizations can adopt in order to be able to pivot.

[43:50] Efficient Project Management – Gaurav shares a story that explains why some frameworks that are developed to make things more efficient aren’t really achieving what they’re supposed to achieve and how to overcome their shortcomings.

[52:50] Implementing Change – Vanessa describes the ideal approach for change with an example of implementing a new CRM in a typical small IT firm.

[58:00] Restructuring – The problems with the way people usually approach restructuring and how to implement restructuring the right way within an organization.

[1:06:09] Family & Change – How families can incorporate the strategies for change in their family decision-making process.

[1:21:00] Adaptable Culture – Gaurav shares with us some of the key things organizations have to improve in order to create an adaptable culture within the organization


Change: How Organizations Achieve Hard-to-Imagine Results in Uncertain and Volatile Times:

Connect with Vanessa:

Connect with Gaurav:

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