July is a month of great change for many Sonoma Valley organizations. July begins the fiscal year for most Sonoma Valley nonprofits, schools and government agencies. It’s also the date that the terms of many local nonprofit board members begin. How well organizational change goes depends on how well an organization’s leadership can manage change.
Change is a process, not an event. And for it to go smoothly, nonprofit leaders must realize that change involves both process management and people management. To neglect helping people navigate through change is a way to guarantee that the change will not be successful. It’s important for nonprofit leaders to remember that people experience change in unique, highly personal ways, that change involves a significant amount of uncertainty and ambivalence, and that all change involves loss.
The first thing that happens to individuals when they plunge into the realm of uncertainty that comes with change is that they search for a lifeline back to normalcy. Through the help of an effective leader, individuals will begin to incorporate new behaviors, people, and skills into their world until they feel surefooted and arrive back to a state of normalcy after the change is complete.
Effective change leaders share the following characteristics: they appreciate that organizational change unearths interpersonal or emotional issues; they understand the implications of change on organizational systems; they know how to frame information to successfully communicate the change strategy; they can build a strategy that integrates the people and the process side of the change; and they can operationalize broad strategy into specific tactics. Above all, change masters are skilled communicators.
During a period of change, leaders need to be proactive in their communications. They need to communicate messages frequently and in a variety of ways, including weekly email updates. Providing a positive vision and clear goals, along with the context and rationale for the change, will help individuals prepare to accept change. Leaders should share plans and details regarding change implementation and address who will be affected by the change, how they will be impacted, and when the changes will happen. If the change will occur over a prolonged period of time, leaders should schedule regular transition meetings that include updates and information about the change, while asking for input, fielding questions, listening to suggestions, and quelling rumors.
The most important tool a nonprofit leader can use to manage change is to conduct regular, one-on-one meetings with those who will be impacted by the change. Having ongoing communication with those affected by change is the greatest way to help overcome resistance to the change.
To become a champion for change in your organization, think analytically; consider the big picture; think in new and different ways; look to technology for better ways to deliver services, create solutions, deliver programs and communicate with constituents; work collaboratively with others to build understanding and trust to achieve common goals; learn continuously by being self-directed and persistent in pursuing new information and ideas; build ownership and support for change among affected individuals and groups; think holistically by understanding how all parts of the organization fit together; and work with others to create solutions.
Nonprofit leaders who recognize that they serve a vital role in helping their staff, board, and those they serve adapt to change will be effective in ensuring smooth sailing through the inevitable changes that occur with the start of the new fiscal year.