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Know-hows of achieving high performance in times of change

23 March, 2021

Neetika Bansal

Neetika Bansal

Head of Engineering, Money Movement at Stripe

Neetika Bansal

5-step strategy to manage change from the “Stripe’s Head of Engineering for Money Movement - Neetika Bansal”

The COVID pandemic is a great example of change, an unplanned large external event that most people were unaware of. Several other factors that can force you towards change:

  • Pivoting a company
  • Changing market needs
  • Growth
  • Decline in usage etc

All your detailed plans and execution strategies land in limbo in such situations, leaving you anxious and in fear. Embracing these five techniques will help you manage change without impacting your work:

1. Display Ownership

As a leader, you need to internalize that your team is counting on you to lead them through the change.

Remember, you are the best person to understand the impact of this change on your team. Waiting for someone else to come and guide you will be detrimental for your team, so it's you who needs to figure the best way out.

Proactively take ownership and game plan the required changes in the strategy for your team. Revise your plan and steps of action to suit the current situation.

2. Set a Mode of Operation

Compared to normal operations, you should be more diligent about your standard operating procedures in times of change. Ensure that your processes unblock people faster and have tighter feedback loops. Consider sparing some dedicated time to design a specific operating model for such ambiguous situations.

3 important things you can rethink about:

  • Who are the decision-makers?
  • What slack-channels can be more useful?
  • How many meetings do we need, and at what cadence?

Many companies have such operating models called as "Code Yellow," which is reserved to help critical projects when they want to increase execution velocity and reduce execution risk.

3. Create Alignment

Now that your team is following a revised plan, it is important to:

  • Paint a clear vision of the new direction. When you tie this vision to the business, it will motivate your team and help them understand how this new plan benefits their users.
  • Communicate with authenticity and vulnerability. It's okay if you don't have all the answers (and you probably won't). In uncertain times, it's advisable to clearly point-out at the unknowns.
  • Repeat your message in a variety of ways for it to resonate with people. At times, you have a clear vision in your mind but you fall short of getting it across to your team. Here, repetition is the key while being mindful of your audience.

4. Make Decisions Iteratively

In normal circumstances, you have enough time to make crucial decisions and stress-test your plan from various angles. But during unforeseen events, It's normal to feel paralyzed while making decisions. Here’s how you can beat your paralysis-analysis situation:

  • Set a balance between having a clear overall direction and adapting the specifics of your plan as and when you know more
  • Think through the risks associated with your decisions, and be agile with decisions that are at low risk and are easily reversible
  • Don't forget the value of being nimble and flexible in such times

5. Be Compassionate

Have empathy and compassion for others and don’t forget yourself. Remember that your team and colleagues, just like you, are dealing with stressful circumstances and are under high pressure. These small yet effective gestures can create that change you need:

  • Create a culture where everyone can come together and support each other
  • Bring a sense of humor to stressful situations
  • Celebrate small events
  • Promote a culture of casual talk on specific slack channels

Conclusion

As the classic saying goes - change is the only constant. Learn to embrace change and become comfortable with it. Tech-industry is all about disruptions, and the pandemic has accelerated the process. Getting good at dealing with change should be like building a muscle; the more you go through it, the better you get at it.

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