This post in one in a series written by nonprofit leaders who are presenting sessions at the 2014 BoardSource Leadership Forum on October 9 & 10 in Washington, DC. There’s still time to register!
I’m so looking forward to my two presentations at the upcoming BLF! While they are on two different topics — a report on my upcoming book, The Journey to High-Performance Governance (co-authored with Beth Gazley of Indiana University-Bloomington for the ASAE Foundation/Jossey-Bass), and “Creating Effective Transitions With Interim Leadership” — they are both about change.
While change for nonprofit organizations seems to have become the new normal, leading deliberate change that is effective requires certain leadership attributes and commitments, including the ability to maintain a big-picture focus while managing process. As leaders, what can we do to help make change work for us rather than allowing change to be about reaction? Dr. Lowell Levin said, “Whoever defines the problem controls the range of solutions.” Today, the “definers” need to be informed before posing the definition. This requires recognition, visioning, planning and implementation, and closing the loop.
CEOS report that up to 75 percent of their organizational change efforts do not yield the promised results. These change efforts fail to produce what had been hoped for, yet always produce a stream of unintended and unhelpful consequences. Leaders end up managing the impact of unwanted effects rather than the planned results that didn’t materialize. Instead of enjoying the fruits of a redesigned production unit, the leader must manage the hostility and broken relationships created by the redesign. Instead of glorying in the new efficiencies produced by restructuring, the leader must face a burned out and demoralized group of survivors. Instead of basking in a soaring stock price after a merger, leaders must scramble frantically to get people to work together peaceably, let alone effectively. (Wheatley & Kellner-Rogers)
To best prepare for deliberate change, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the following steps of the change process.
Recognition. Awareness and knowledge of what needs to change and why are vital first steps in enabling change to occur. Typically, the phrase “organizational change” is about a significant change in the organization, such as reorganization or adding a major new product or service. This is in contrast to smaller changes, such as adopting a new computer procedure. In analyzing the type of change that may be necessary, think of the following: Will it be an organization-wide or a subsystem change? Will it be transformational or Incremental? Will it be remedial or developmental?
Visioning. Wheatley advises: “Change can occur in every meeting, task force, or event in your organization. This experiment requires a discipline of asking certain questions. Each question opens up an inquiry. We have learned that if people conscientiously ask these questions, they keep focused on critical issues such as levels of participation, commitment, and diversity of perspectives:
- Who else needs to be here?
- What just happened?
- Can we talk?
- Who are we now?”
Seek the involvement of others and LISTEN. Seek those who have specific understanding of a given situation and have the knowledge, skills, and authority to enable them to think around a topic and explore new ideas. Create a forum for imagining and brainstorming: What are our overarching goals? What will success look like? What might be possible barriers to change?
Be honest about assessing where you are. What type of/number of staff are required to institute and manage the proposed change. As Jim Collins reminds us, do you have the right people on the bus? Will specific training, new equipment, or other resources be needed? Who are the relevant constituents that should be involved? Have you mapped out your internal and external communications to ensure understanding at all levels?
Planning and Implementation. What are your goals, the objectives under each goal, and the needed tasks under each objective? Who will lead each task? By when will each task (or milestones) concluded? Establish a “go” date and regular reporting (both formal and informal). Determine in advance how you will hold people accountable.
Close the Loop. Critically important is recognizing the “end” of the change — actively celebrate it organization-wide and reward success.
Choose to be invigorated by the possibilities of change. As Deepak Chopra states: “The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective — people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.”
Katha Kissman has a 20-year career leading several nonprofit organizations, is a senior governance consultant for BoardSource, author of two of its publications, and since 2001, has provided interim leadership and nonprofit organizational development consulting for a wide variety of organizations. Effective July 1, 2014 she became the president & CEO of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation in Fort Pierce, Florida.