The Human Side of Change Management

There are ways to minimize the disruption a major change can have on your nonprofit.  Change management depends on a good strategy, long-term goals, and practical tactics as well as your staff’s cooperation.  The only way to make changes comfortable for the staff is to have a plan to align the culture, values, and processes with the other changes.

The change process is incomplete until every staff member, board member, and volunteer is onboard.  Completing the structural changes before people are ready results in ineffectiveness, inefficiency, and sometimes chaos.  Changing people first makes the structural change process smoother.

Start the change process at the top with the executive and the board chair.  They need to start promoting the new values, talking about the strategy and the higher purpose the changes will serve, and initiating the cultural changes.

The executive and board chair need to start by enthusiastically introducing the change to their groups and continuing to promote the changes, especially cultural, values, and processes, until the change process takes on self-sustaining momentum.  It is necessary for the two senior leaders to remain the sponsors of the change until the change process is complete.

There is a temptation to initiate the change process in an isolated group.  While that is an excellent way to prove the functional changes will work, it is impossible to implement new values and cultural changes in a test group.  The test group’s need to interact with the rest of the organization and the organizational momentum of the larger group will prevent the values and cultural changes from occurring.  In addition, the test group will become frustrated and lose its momentum and enthusiasm.  The loss of momentum and enthusiasm will make scaling the changes across the organization more difficult when the time is right.

Next Step:

Define the changes needed in the culture, values, and processes before announcing the change

Start the change process by having your executive and board chair enthusiastically present the change

Ensure that the culture, value, and process changes start first

When the culture, value, and process changes are the first priority, it is easier for the staff to see why the structural changes are important and take ownership for making the structural changes.

It is important to remember that your staff and volunteers (including board members) will respond well to any change, even an abrupt or uncomfortable change, if the cultural, value, and process changes are given the highest priority.  Those are the changes that reassure the team that everyone will have a place after the change process is complete.  If your team members believe their employment will be sustained, they will be more committed to the sustainability of your mission.  They will also become a driving force of the making the structural changes.

Take It Further:

Ensure your executive and board chair are aware of your organization’s culture at all times (cultures are constantly evolving)

Ensure your current values are documented and honored by everyone (it is hard to change anything that is undocumented or poorly supported)


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