Accept change, it’s the new normal

In emerging companies, there is constant senior management shuffle. We ask experts how to ensure the teams do not get affected by this constant change in their bosses

Photo: iStockphoto.
Photo: iStockphoto.


Co-founder and CEO, CarWale

Online portal for new cars CarWale (Automotive Exchange Pvt. Ltd) was started by four people. Over the course of expansion, three of the founders quit the company. “At that time employees did get emotional, but they were trained well to step up,” says Dubey.

The founders should clearly define the value system of the company that remains constant irrespective of the bosses, new strategies, job roles and other things that change. This also helps set the culture of the organization.

“It must be ensured that the people who are moving out must be given all credit for the efforts and responsibilities undertaken,” adds Dubey. Such situations must be portrayed as an opportunity for the existing employees to step up and lead the way. The transition for employees becomes easier when they are informed well in advance about the change.

“This helps build trust in the long run and gives teams time to accept the change that is coming their way,” he says.

CarWale not only coped with internal management churn, but the company was sold twice. First in 2010 and then to online auto classifieds firm in 2015.

“Communication with employees at every stage is extremely important. When a founder explains to teams about the benefit of such decisions for the company’s growth, he exemplifies how much importance the future of the company holds over other stakeholders. This helps the existing team to build better value for the new company as a whole,” says Dubey.

In case of start-ups, he says, management churns always lead to opportunities for growth, which must be interpreted well by employees. Ashna Ambre


Founder, Enhance Consulting

In emerging companies, it’s all about ensuring that you are ahead of the pack. And if the benchmark is performance and decisions are taken because of performance issues, then shuffles are quite accepted. Reorganization to take into account growth can also mean that the previous management hierarchy may not serve the present business. As companies get acquired or merged, management shuffles are also common. The acquiring company may have different standards that the new employees are expected to live up to.

What should the organization do about it so that their teams do not get affected by the constant shuffles?

First, they need to retain the right set of employees. This is critical. The top performers need to be ring fenced through the changes and a clear-cut retention strategy needs to be in place to ensure that key employees continue to remain in the company. Then there should be clear and effective communication as engagement of employees is likely to suffer, thus communicating with the employees with a focus to keep them engaged, motivated and performing can go a long way. If the senior management continues to keep employees updated, it can make all the difference. Another important point is that management should take decisions swiftly. Employees are more uncomfortable with ambiguity and decisions need to be taken at the right time, not when the entire organization is talking about it. If disruptions in work are kept to a minimum, one stays on course, and acceptance to changes are higher. Finally, organizations need to work to a plan—one that takes transitions into account. Clarity on how things settle down should be part of the plan to allow employees to go about resettling and understanding “who does what” and thereby moving ahead. Questions relating to “Where do I fit? What will I be required to do?” can also arise. Questions can also be about others on the team, and what-if scenarios.

How well the middle management is equipped to handle these questions will determine how well the employees feel or react to the proposed changes.

Lastly, it is about resilience. Change is increasingly being accepted across organizations as the new normal, and as the rationale of change is communicated, and understood, employees can settle in and perform to the new set of expectations from them. Nandita Mathur


Professor of marketing, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad

According to Koshy, changes in senior management have the potential to affect the morale and performance of employees.

“Since senior leadership provides a coherent script that governs the functioning of teams and the roles of individual members in the team, any alterations in the narration would alter performances of actors,” he says.

According to him, shuffling in the senior management can have three different influences. One is a shift in strategic focus. This may include refocusing on the organization’s product-market profile or portfolio roles of products and brands or any elements that influence the long-term trajectory.

Second is reformulating tactical plans such as relative use of advertisements and other promotional tools or altering incentive structures of intermediaries and sales personnel.

Third is reorganizing operational parameters that govern the tone and text of day-to-day functioning.

Given the fact that the rate of change of senior leadership in emerging organizations tends to be higher than in well-established organizations, an unsettling feeling among teams in newer, emerging companies also tends to be higher, he says.

“What should team members do to minimize the impact of greater frequency of changes in senior leadership? One is to develop a strong team spirit. Team spirit is not comradery or friendship; it is a focus on the defined tasks to be achieved,” points Koshy.

“This orientation calls for abilities to differentiate between issues and people. This ability enhances an individual’s wherewithal to handle uncertainties of changes in senior leadership,” he adds.

The second requirement is to insulate team members’ trauma of change in leadership by developing the mentoring abilities of team members. “Support system in terms of ‘buddy counselling’ is a powerful method to strengthen professionalism of individuals in organizations to reduce dependency on the senior team to micro-manage work. Resolve from within is the best antidote to frequent uncertainties of leadership changes in emerging organizations,” says Koshy. Bidya Sapam