In times of uncertainty, stress is inevitable.  Lacking a reasonable level of confidence in future events and their outcomes possess significant challenges to devising strategies, making decisions, and taking decisive action–particularly when the risks are great.  Taking no action at all or reacting to feelings of fear are not viable success strategies.  Action is required to find success in uncertain times.  But what actions?

A study of 197 businesses in Singapore attempted to answer this question (Tan & Tiong, 2005).  Specifically, they attempted to understand how successful businesses coped with uncertain and changing economic climates. Organizational success was measured in three ways: success in implementing change, perceived level of overall success, and company profitability. The researchers found 4 factors strongly influenced organizational success in uncertain times.  These included:

1.  Planning for Organizational Change.  Generally, when change was necessary in response to uncertainty, it needed to happen fast.  The business leaders surveyed believed the quickness and quality of planning was ‘very important’ to organizational success.

2.  Staff Involvement and Support During Change.  Staff involvement and support were critical elements in successful change.  Having staff involved in both the planning and execution phases of change significantly increased the organization’s success.

3.  Flexibility and Adaptability. The research discovered that organizations comprised of people who were more adaptable and flexible were better able to cope with needed changes and consequently more successful than organizations lacking people with these characteristics.

4.  Optimism.  Optimism came up consistently as an important element in an organization’s level of coping and success. The more optimistic an organization was with regards to the future, the more likely it was that the organization would cope well with change and remain profitable.

While the research focused on business organizations, these characteristics may well apply to all organizations as individuals.  The research is clear: Success is possible in uncertain times.


Tan, V., & Tiong, T. (2005). Change Management in Times of Economic Uncertainty. Singapore Management Review27(1), 49–68.