We know Change is coming. So why are we caught off guard when it shows up? Maybe we’re too busy to think about it. Or maybe we expect Change to stay away until we’re ready for it. We cruise along with our heads down, hustling to complete that ever-bloated To Do list until we’re smacked in the head by Change.
Pain, Pain, Go Away
Change–whether good or bad–draws us out of our comfort zones. It rips away our cozy routines, and it creates more work. Sometimes it brings painful choices. And sometimes Change brings loss.
Marriage, for example, is Change. When I got married, I gained the love of my life but lost the ability to see my parents every day. They were now many miles away. And I left a job I loved and became another DC-area job hunter.
That Change was our choice, but it still brought joy and pain, loss and gain.
In an organization, of course, Change is far less romantic. (At least it was where I’ve worked.) But organizational Change still brings joy and pain. And being human, we’d rather avoid pain whenever we can.
So we steadfastly ignore the fact that Change may visit us, bringing his unpleasant little minions with him. Then, while we’re enjoying the scenery in the Land of Denial, Change smacks us in the head, knocks us off our feet, and rocks our cozy, predictable worlds.
We can’t ignore Change any longer.
A Fond Farewell To Procrastination
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know already. If you’re over the age of 10, Change has come to visit you at some point in the past. What I AM doing is giving you a reality check and, hopefully, a swift kick in your Decision-maker Before it’s too late.
I know; this sounds like just another thing to add to your massive to-do list. But I’ve been on the receiving end of emergency calls from nonprofits who failed to prepare for Change until it struck.
They didn’t “have time” to plan for Change in advance, either. Then the organization was in crisis and had no choice but to deal with Change. They had to make time. And, trust me, when I tell you that when Change catches you off guard, you might face the pain that naturally comes with Change plus the pain of being unprepared.
Still Think There’s No Time?
Nobody can predict and prepare for every possible form of Change, but we can minimize the discomfort and disruption that comes with some predictable events like the loss of a top performer who just got offered the job of a lifetime. Somewhere else.
Or maybe it’s your founder and board chair–the one with major charisma, contagious passion, and a list of high-powered contacts. The founder is retiring and taking her toys with her to Florida.
These aren’t bad events, but you’d better believe your organization will feel the pain if you’re not prepared.
Your Stakeholders Are Depending On You
Don’t wait. You can prepare your organization for Change by planning for events like the ones listed here. Gather your board and staff leaders and start the conversation right away:
- The exit or absence of key leaders and staff
- The exit or absence of key board members
- The opportunity to pursue an important new grant source
- Loss of a single major funding source
- The need for organizational layoffs
- Negative press or organizational scandal
Too Small to Fail?
Did your heart skip a beat when you read that list? Or maybe you think your organization is small enough that you can deal with those things. You may be right.
But if your program is around long enough, some of them WILL come up. Navigating those things smoothly will help your clients or customers, your funders, your community, and any other stakeholders continue their faith in your organization. And you can leverage that faith into practical support.
So What Next?
Talk about how these situations and others might play out in your organization and how your board, staff, clients, and stakeholders might be affected. Create written plans that will help you minimize the damage, take advantage of any opportunities that arise, and settle things down as quickly as possible.
If you’ve followed headlines in the nonprofit sector over the past few years, you know Change often shows up without warning. And while planning won’t stop Change, it can help your organization face the challenge with more intelligence and grace.
By managing Change well, you might just win even more support for your cause. Isn’t that peace of mind worth adding preparation for Change to your To Do list? I sincerely hope so.