Change Management & Strategy Update During Corona: Smart Continuity & New Initiatives

Radu Magdin
7 min readJun 21, 2020
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While helping in the past few years several pan-European or global organisations in terms of change management and strategy update(s), we believe that “100 days since Corona disrupted us all” is a good moment for laying out part of our own strategy update and change management process. So, here it is, this is a 21 June message from us: we’ve been working a lot at Smartlink in the past 3 months, even more than before (we are sure this is true for many of you reading this article), and we delivered. Thank God, this work was rewarded with the continued trust of our clients and partners; at the same time, hitting the ground running since March in becoming a combination of a crisis (strategic) communications unit and a research for resilient recovery unit (including by our monthly Global Corona Best Practices report) resulted into more people and organisations trusting us to work together in 2020.

Now, beyond the normal initial shock and the quick crisis response, we need to think more strategically than ever: change management has never been more important for our organisation and possibly yours as well. The same is true as regards new mental models and success recipes in a continued VUCA world: the twin health and economic crises brought by covid only added to already existing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. We aim to continue to provide, as much as possible, clarity and solutions to our partners & clients, while helping out more our local, national and global authorities to deliver for citizens (let’s call this process our corona CSR).

Further down, as Smartlink CEO, I am laying out some of the updates we have been working on, to be launched this, working, summer. I am proud of our: 8 years of work (anniversary this summer :) ), our 14 people core team and associates, our projects on 5 continents and more than 25 countries. I am also thankful to God and my family, including for the patience with me, which I am sure a lot of working professionals have had to deal with themselves. Our aim in corona times is to go beyond survival instincts and think big: we want for our partners, clients and us, not only to survive but also thrive. Let’s adapt, shape our communities and countries and succeed. We can’t afford, as individuals, families, communities & country a lost decade / a depression. So, let’s move (on) and lead.

In context, some maybe useful ideas on OUR CHANGE MANAGEMENT:

First, ACT becomes AC4T. Beyond Analysis, Consultancy and Training, covid19 not only got our ACT together, but also made us remember we need to up and re-skill, and help both our people and our partner organisations to do that as well. Three more Ts are consequently added now: Teaching (we will be sharing even more know how with the world, sharing IS caring), Thinking (or -even better — Think Tanking), Tech (we will embrace technology and innovation even more). Also, we are expanding and will continue to move towards new industrial sectors: we now cover energy, pharma, finance and banking, tech, global politics, as well as services for international organisations and foundations. We are expanding into the different aspects of the Global, EU and national Green (and Digital) Recovery, into industries linked to Sustainability (including Agriculture and Food Security), plus focusing more on developments in Trade, Aid for Development, Research and Innovation.

We are also putting on your radar 3 major new strategic projects: ELI, CEE+CTIH, GS&LP, which are also an indication of our future interests and action. We will be detailing them more via concrete projects during the summer and well into 2021 (when we will finish our Agenda2022 plans — in 2022 Smartlink will be 10 years old), but we would like to put on your radar, for possible partnerships (including crisis coopetition :) ) the following:

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I. ELI —Empowerment and Leadership Initiative

  1. Global Liberal Renewal with subprojects:

a) Leadership Resilience, Stratcom and Information Warfare

b) Competitive Storytelling and Word-Craft in Crisis

c) Preparing NextGen Diplomats

2. Power Dynamics in Organisations with subproject: Women beyond the Glass Ceiling.

3. Good Governance, Social Change & Reform Strategies, with subproject: SDGs Success 2030

4. Good Society 2020s — The New Deal amid the 4IR and Corona Crises with subproject Up&Re-SKILL2020s

5. Spiritual Leadership and Inspiration.

ELI will have a monthly Leadership and Empowerment Newsletter (email to add you), as well as a dedicated, symbolic for the times we live in, podcast (email to add you).

Source: Smartlink Creative Team

II. CEE+CTIH — Wider Central and Eastern Europe Competitive Trade and Investment Hub (by “wider” region we mean “regular” CEE + WB & EaP countries + remaining countries around the Black Sea except Russia - so Estonia is top North, Malta /Cyprus /Greece are top South, top East is Caucasus, top West Slovenia&Czechia, we will cover this expanded region in its complexity)

  1. Future of Trade and Investment + subproject: Reshoring and supply chain renewal
  2. Export Power and Economic Diplomacy + subproject: DiplomacyXXI
  3. Smart Financing and Fast Track Growth+ subproject: StartUp2Unicorn
  4. Resilient Recovery EU<->CEE + subproject Global Digital Green Futures
  5. CEE+ Risk and Opportunity Observatory with 3 subprojects:

a) Great and Medium Power Competition Monitor

b) Regional Competitive Watch

c) Coopetition for Consolidation and Crisis Management

As our clients know, we already have analytical newsletter services for Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria and Georgia; we plan to expand this autumn in a first stage to Hungary, Ukraine and Serbia (and complete thereby the circle around Romania), and then more into CEE/WB/EAP/Turkey, per demand.

We will kick off in 2021 our During Corona Webinar Series (register interest at — and check here for updates — ).

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III. GS&LP — Global Superclans and Local Powerhouses

  1. Global & Local Romania Competitive Hub with subproject RO25StrategicRethink
  2. Diaspora 3Is (Image Influence Impact)
  3. Regional Fast Track Success 2025
  4. Family Business and Crisis Management
  5. NextGen Future(s) Academy.

A free webinars calendar (till end of 2021) detailing AC4T & our 3 Strategic Projects will be available end 2020; our regular quarterly investor risk briefing for Romania and Moldova will take place on 15 July, when we will have a better grasp of both Q2 economic impact, and the Governmental strategy/ plan for the incoming (including electoral) autumn.

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In pursuing this combination of adjusted-to-new-realities (previous) plans and new-models-new-thinking strategic projects described above, we are starting our own internal upgrade: a process of up- and re-skill-ing to be completed during 2020 is under way. We understand we need to be better, smarter, faster, even more pro-active: the world is in recovery and redesign mode, and so are / must we. A few years ago, a team leader from one of our top clients, the World Economic Forum, described us in a meeting at their Geneva HQ as “fast, flexible, cost-efficient” (I immediately wrote this soundbite down since no one summarized us before so precisely in terms of feedback). Now we are adding Foresight to the core of our work, to become a reliable “future(s) guide”, delivering for clients/partners in crisis time.

Stay tuned and feel free to write to us ( ) should any of the projects above sound appealing and we can further expand our cooperation (or we can initiate a working relationship). As one can notice, geographically speaking, we are moving forward in our wider region (CEE, Western Balkans, Eastern Partnership, Black Sea), we plan to be even more Brussels-connected (some of us in the team are former Brussels / EU operators) and in touch with EU Presidencies (read my recent paper on the German EU Presidency, with FES, here) and EU and NATO brainstormings (we were part of them before — here) and globally e-present. Speaking of the latter, until a “new normal” allows us to resume at least part of our flight schedule for regional and global training/ facilitation work, we started a series of leadership and communications e-talks in the Global South - in Latin America and West Africa to be more precise; MENA and South Asia are next, we plan to further deliver in English, French & Spanish coaching services.

A final note on this “new normal” and the much touted Before Corona-After Corona duopoly: we believe this separation may be out of focus / touch; we should talk and think more about During Corona (Before Corona is not going to become After Corona), which, after an initial shock (and an “interim / weird normal”) stands yet to be defined, like the AC period. Our project on Competitive Storytelling may be particularly interesting for you in this context, since a war of ideas is looming in different fields / industries on how the future is supposed to look like and what is legitimate normal; lead this process, shape the future, we are here to help!



Radu Magdin

Global analyst, consultant, trainer & think tanker. Former PM adviser in Eastern Europe. Power Strategist -focus: #leadership #competition #communications #risk