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Leadership in Times of Crisis - An Interview with Jens Fritsche

Jens Fritsche, an alumnus of the ZHAW Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, is a manager in charge of business development for the European market at Charles River Laboratories. He talks about his experience doing the MBA program and how he can currently use what he has learned.

One component of the MBA program is the crisis simulation week. How did you experience that week? How did this simulation prepare you for the corona crisis?

The crisis simulation week was a very intensive time with little sleep for me. It was, therefore, vital to create systems that allow simple, unambiguous, and clear communication to document and share all relevant information. I found it amazing how my ability to absorb information declined in stressful situations. The teamwork and group dynamics in changing constellations and areas of responsibility were the highlights of this week. Key activities included selecting the right people for the right tasks and delegating responsibility while keeping in mind the big picture.

The crisis simulation week was all about prioritizing tasks, creating schedules, and monitoring their implementation - which prepared me perfectly for the corona crisis. The style and content of our communications changed significantly during the crisis. To continue working productively, our company had to quickly assess how our customers absorb and process information in the current situation.

"Don’t panic! A well-considered, objective approach to the tasks ahead and the ability to make important decisions even if not all the facts or uncertainties are known, are important qualities of a leader."
Jens Fritsche


Why did you choose the Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the ZHAW School of Management and Law?
After completing the MAS in Business Administration (MAS BA) program and successfully implementing and integrating what I had learned into my day-to-day work, the MBA was an important and logical next step for me. My expectations for the program were very high, but I was not disappointed.

To what extent have you benefited from this program in your professional and personal development?
After completing the MAS BA program, I took up a management position in an international listed company. The MBA program enabled me to take on more complex tasks in a more global context. Therefore, the work, the commitment, and the time spent in getting the MBA were more than worth it.

What did the MBA program teach you about leadership?
As a leader, it is essential to make room for strategic thinking and to reserve time for this. The MBA program also gave me a better understanding of different cultures, teaching me to see the difference in values in a business context. I saw how important it is to trust your team, but at the same time to be able to make independent decisions. Confidence in your own abilities as well as giving support to and promoting the continuing development of employees are all essential, today more than ever.

How would you describe your MBA class?
It was a great combination of people with different career paths and professional backgrounds and an interesting age mix. The diversity of the group led to exciting and interesting group work.

What were the highlights of the program for you?
I especially appreciated the crisis simulation week and the module "Human Capital Management & Leadership". In my day-to-day work, I was also able to benefit greatly from what I learned in the modules "International Management" and "International Leadership".