Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Communication and Change

Change breeds uncertainty and discomfort, even when the need for change is agreed upon.  However, nonprofits exist in dynamic environments, as evidenced in the last round of blog posts, in which change is the only constant.  As such creating a culture where change can take hold is crucial.  Below are five common barriers to creating this culture and methods to mitigate them. 

Poor Communication

Communication is fundamental to change.  Communication must be constant, formal and informal, vertical and horizontal, and exist prior to attempting change.    An organization that wishes to change must first be an organization that communicates (Renz, Charan, Cameron). 

Communication has both system and cultural components.  For example, ‘system’ could pertain to the way meetings are organized and held.  For example, when organizing a strategic planning meeting are employees involved? Stakeholders? Which stakeholders? Is the meeting in a good location for all parties? At a good time? The meeting itself permits easy communication across parties and the method of organizing it indicates that participants' input matters.   An additional example of a ‘systems’ tool is a newsletter with a wide range of stakeholder contributors. 

Culture is more amorphous.  Cultural questions could be whether a manager leaves their office to talk to people as opposed to merely relying on a passive open-door policy which requires others to walk *in.* Culture could also be the occasional scheduling of in-depth focus groups with employees or stakeholders Focus groups require  management to listen as opposed to speak.   The openness both speaking and listening as part of communication can filter through an organization as well as provide a broader understanding of the status quo and how to effectively implement change (Charan).

Not Supporting Change

Mandating that people change without providing adequate funding and staffing will instill bitterness. As such once change is planned for, based in part on communication (take some time to communicate and listen to people), resources must be provided to turn the organization in a new direction (Renz).  Supporting change also requires that organizations permit mistakes as people learn about new ways of working.  Finally, evaluation methods must incorporate both the desired outcomes of change as well as (if possible) activities that capture if an employee is participating in change (Cameron).  For example, rewards for employees that streamline a certain process could be offered in an organization with a goal to reduce waste. 

No Urgency

The need for change must also be created (Cameron).  For example, people react strongly to negative information.  Instead of, for example, stating that 70% of clients were served effectively underscore that almost one in three weren’t.  Creating urgency amongst stakeholders will help propel change.

And have you looked into communication? Without it how is urgency supposed to be communicated and reinforced? 

No ownership of change

In class we reviewed a few exercises that were structured methods to ensure that everyone could participate in strategic planning, vision creation, and mission writing.  These methods rely on collaboration and should be employed as they increase the likelihood of ‘buy-in’ to change by providing participants a bit of ownership over the agreed upon direction of the change (Renz, ‘challenges’). 

Also, collaboration is crucial to these methods and it only happens when people communicate.  So, think on that.

No change agents

Organizations require a key group of people to shepherd the change process.  Finding, training, and incorporating these people into the process of the change is crucial (Renz). 

They can be found by effective communication.  So, talk to people.  See who is excited about the future or, at bare minimum, scared of the status quo. 

Works Cited

Cameron, Kim  (1991) “Transformational Leadership.” Harper Collins.

Charan, Ram and Noel Tichy. (1989). “Speed, Simplicity, Self-Confidence: An Interview with Jack Welch.” Harvard Business Review.

Renz, David, (2010). “The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management 3rd Ed.” Jossey-Bass.

Vaish, Amrisha, Tobias Grossmann, and Amanda Woodward (2008) “Not All Emotions Are Created Equal: The Negativity Bias in Social-Emotional Development.” Psychological bulletin 134.3

Challenges “The Challenges of Strategic management” Bibliographic info NA