Change. So hard. And yet, sometimes, so fulfilling. The last two months have been a time of change for me. My new website is up. This newsletter is refreshed. Finally, my living room is furnished. And my new book is about to be published.
Indeed, throughout my career, change has been the one constant. As a consultant, I am clearly expected to shake things up. And during the years I worked on staff for a variety of different organizations in a number of different fields—from magazines to graphic arts to insurance and finally to nonprofits—I was often hired to be a change agent.
I like that. Being a change agent means you are an instrument of transformation. And that is good. But you must transform without destruction, and that was the part that I didn’t always get. And changing for the sake of change may be no more productive than not changing at all.
How do you ensure that change will be positive? For starters, know what you want to change and why; and what you would like the change to be…and yes, why.
And then ask:
- Does this have to happen now? If so, why?
- What value will occur for the organization (and, because we are nonprofits—for others) as a result of this change?
- What resources do we need to make these changes?
- While we are making this change, what else has to continue and what resources are needed for that?
- How have you vetted this change? How have you sold this change to others?
And perhaps most importantly,
- What is the cost of NOT changing?
Too often, when we are considering change, we look only at that piece we want to make different. It is truly critical to consider the totality of who you are and what you do before you embark on making changes.
In business, many organizations decide that they want to go from a profitable, local, small entity to a larger, national one. They want to grow for the sake of growth, it seems, and not because they believe they are bringing important value to the new locations. They also don’t consider if this growth will make them stronger; allow them to provide better goods or services; make a real difference in people’s lives. And yes, that last is something even for profit businesses should aspire to.
So they grow and grow and grow and, typically, burst.
Before you burst, or aggravate your staff, your clients or (perish the thought!) your donors, make sure that the change you are anticipating is a good one, and that you have planned for it well.