Sudden and unpredictable change, part 1: Leader, make sure you’re on the pulse of your organization 

How to lead when change is sudden and unpredictable, and it feels like there is very little chance of influencing the situation? Above all, organizations need flexibility and the ability to adapt to change. From management and supervisors, this requires constant discussion with people in the organization and the ability to clarify procedures. 

The fact is that all organizations are made up of people and they work just as well as people do. Whether the change is long-lasting and predictable, or sudden and unpredictable, its success requires people to be able to adopt new policies and give up the old ones. In a sudden change, this must happen much faster than we would ever think.

Below, we open four perspectives on leading human-driven change. You can think of them as lenses through which to look at the change situation.

There are two dimensions to the four-field field: 1) the top row has strategic level issues, and the items in the operational level issues, 2) left column in the bottom row form the basis of the change, and those on the right make the change possible. To get the most out of it, stop by this quad filed and think about which lens would best help people in your organization in this situation. Probably more or all of them are needed, the most important thing for living in change is together with your own organization to understand why change happens.

This post begins a blog series about leading a sudden change. The blog series is based on the four lenses of human-driven change management presented above. We will open other perspectives in the following blogs. To help you, we put together a few practical tools for change management in this four-part blog series. They are quick and easy to deploy, and therefore they also work in the management of sudden, unpredictable change. 

Will & purpose

Rapid changes in the operating environment require quick decisions in organizations. Changes in the worlds political situation may mean decisions to close business in certain areas. The company’s operations may need to be changed quickly as the availability of critical raw materials deteriorates or when the company’s exports of important products cease. In general, such changes could have been anticipated and prepared, but now decisions have had to be taken in a very short time and with insufficient information.

In times of sudden, unpredictable change, sustainable management relies on values. Especially when there is little information, you should be guided by values.

When based on values, it is especially important to clarify the significance of changes and the will of management. Clarify this value-based activity for your people. Have a debate together based on values. 

  • Why are we doing this? 
  • What value do we act on?
  • Why have we chosen policies that can even harm our own business, for example, shutting down our operations, severing cooperation with some partners or not doing business in some direction?
  • What’s the bigger good than our own business? How does our now chosen action implement it? 

Decisions made based on values should be voiced and communicated clearly and frequently. This time, if anything, measures which company values are realistic and resonate in the everyday life of the whole group. 

Tool: Pulse moment (PDF). A regular discussion event that is frequent enough allows for clarification of the purpose of change and the will of the company. The presence of management creates trust and reassures the organization.

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Our previous blog 4 Common change management pitfalls may also provide good tips on what to consider in change management.

In the following blog, we will focus on how to balance the burden on the organization in sudden change, so that people can quickly adopt new ways of working.


Petra Alijärvi, consultant. Petra is a disaster work professional who has learned around the world that there is always reason to have plan B and C.

Minka Keinänen, consultant. Minka has worked at CCEA for several years on change management projects.

Karoliina Krook, senior consultant. Karoliina is an experienced change and communication professional who is accustomed to acting quickly even in unpredictable situations.