Monday, February 16, 2015

Why the Status Quo Has Got to Go

Why the Status Quo Has Got to Go          

          Many people have experienced some sort of change in their lives. Whether it is moving to a new city, changing jobs, or even changing wardrobes one thing is for certain; change is hard.

           But why does change seem like an insurmountable hurdle? And what can agencies do to overcome this challenge?

           As a manager of a nonprofit, it is important to understand and identify basic barriers to change. Below are five reasons why new ideas are difficult to implement and some easy ideas to circumvent these issues.

1.  Strategic Planning

The Problem: In almost every agency there is a complex web of challenges that need to be addressed. Facing multiple, complex issues is a very overwhelming task. It is even more daunting to decide which problem to tackle first and how to create practical solutions. Many nonprofits, therefore, are bogged down from the get go and never create a plan to move the organization forward (Hamel, G. & Prahalad, 1989)

The Solution: Hiring qualified leaders who have experience creating strategic plans is one way to solve this problem. Outlining internal and external strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities allows agencies to prioritize problems. Writing down a physical plan makes problems seem more manageable so that real solutions can be created and steps can be put in place to implement these changes. It also creates measures by which the company can assess its progress towards these new goals (Hamel, G. & Prahalad, 1989).

2.  Competing Interests

            The Problem: There are always multiple ways to approach a problem and many perspectives to consider when thinking about change. Nonprofits have to consider competing board, employee, volunteer, funder, and client perspectives before creating a plan for change (Herman, 2010). This can be time consuming, especially if an agency does not have established relationships or open communication with these groups of people.

            The Solution: Managers should be transparent about problems the company is facing. The use of focus groups and surveys can help managers understand stakeholder perspectives before making changes within the agency (Tichy & Charan, 1989). Allowing stakeholders a voice in the change process also encourages buy in from these groups of people. In this way, they will be empowered to embrace change and move the company forward.

3. Mission Creep

            The Problem: Some nonprofits fall into the trap of trying to solve too many social problems. Organizations may expand into areas in which they do not have appropriate skills or resources (Herman, 2010). This creates a lack of fit between the agency’s mission and values, and the work that they are engaging in. 

            The Solution: Firstly, agencies need to clarify their mission and vision (Herman, 2010). This will help guide conversation about how proposed changes reflect the mission of the organization. Organizations can also consider collaborating with other agencies that are doing similar work. In this way, an organization may be able to pool more resources to affect broader social needs (Herman, 2010).

4. Funding

            The Problem: Oftentimes, there is a lack of resources to implement proposed changes. Even if an organization creates the perfect plan for change, it cannot be implemented without adequate funding (Herman, 2010).

            The Solution: Managers need to balance the needs of the community with the potential resource market that is available (Herman, 2010). Nonprofits can accomplish this through an internal scan of the current financial situation and an external scan of economic, social, or political dimensions that may impact funding (Tregoe, 1983).

5. Innovation and Technology

            The Problem: Nonprofits are constantly responding to a changing environment instead of anticipating or creating the change (Cameron, 1991). In this way, organizations are playing “catch up” to other agencies that reward innovation and invest in technology (Hamel & Prahalad, 1989).

            The Solution: Managers need to create a reward system that encourages innovation and the development of novel ideas (Tichy & Charan, 1989). Investing in trainings and hiring diverse employees will also help promote new ideas in the agency. Finally, a work group could be created to forecast trends so that the agency is anticipating change instead of merely responding to it.


Cameron, K. (1991). Developing Management Skills. Harper-Collins: New York, Chpt 10.
Hamel, G. & Prahalad, C. (1989). Strategic Intent. Harvard Business Review, pg 63-76.
Herman, R. (2010).  The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management (3rd ed).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Tichy, M. & Charan, R. (1989). Speed, Simplicity, and Self-Confidence. Harvard Business Review, pg. 112-120.
Tregoe, B. & Zimmerman, J. (1983). Top Management Strategy. Simon & Schuster: New York.