Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Path to Organizational Change

Bringing about change in an organization is a challenging undertaking, and there are many obstacles that may prevent necessary change from occurring. Stakeholders may not think that change is needed, and may want to cling to what the organization has always done. There can be disagreement about the appropriate next steps for the organization, and some members of the organization may feel as if their ideas are overlooked and that they are not valued. Once a new direction is decided upon, the next steps may not be adequately planned, or there may not be an organizational structure in place to help with implementation. There may be a lack of communication or training for staff members or volunteer to execute the plan, resulting in frustration. Organizations may diversifies services too greatly or deviates too far away from the organization’s roots, or may be disconnected from how the organization can best serve its intended clients.

In order for change to successfully take root, there must be consensus among stakeholders, a well-constructed strategic plan, and systems created for an effective implementation of the plan; changes must fit within the organization’s culture and must be adapted to the external world.

The first step toward changing an organization is building a consensus about the organization’s next steps. Consensus building requires a discussion that includes the various stakeholders of the organization (e.g., leadership, staff, volunteer representatives, recipient representatives, etc.); the discussion about the next steps are enriched by multiple perspectives. Because many stakeholders may be attached to what the organization has always done, the discussion should start with convincing them that change is necessary. One method for accomplishing this is constructing a “burning platform,” in which stakeholders are convinced that they cannot stay where they are, and doing nothing will result in the failure of the organization. Leadership must identify the most fundamental issues and threats facing the organization, but then must point to solutions, offering a place for stakeholders to jump (Bryson, 240).

Once the stakeholders agree that there are problems and change must happen, the next step is to engage in a collaborative discussion to decide upon the changes that need to be made. Intentionally collaborative discussions allow for the organization to benefit from the creativity of all of the members present, and it helps all stakeholders feel involved in the changes being decided upon. Some techniques include nominal group thinking, implication wheels, and brainstorming. The discussion should include identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing the organization (Bryson, 242). The conversation should incorporate the origin and that mission of the organization, as well as external trends and forces; this will ensure that any changes align with the organization’s identity, and that the organization is being responsive to changes in the external world (Bryson, 247-248). This will help prevent mission creep into unrelated areas of service, while also helping the organization to adapt to new the new needs of their clients (Brown, 226).

Once the vision for change is agreed upon, it is important to develop an effective implementation process. Leaders that are constructing the new systems must institutionalize the adapted vision, and create systems and processes to have it be realized (Cameron, 16). A human resources management systems is indispensable in hiring or recruiting volunteers to join the organization, offering benchmarks for workers, rewarding successful performance by workers, and developing a training system to help workers succeed (Cameron, 16-17). As changes are being implemented, it is necessary to clearly communicate expectations to the workers of the organization, and to equip them with trainings and resources to help them carry out the change that was decided upon.


Brown, W. “Strategic Management.” The Jossey-Bass handbook of nonprofit leadership and management. John Wiley & Sons, 2016. Pg. 217-239.

Bryson, J. “Strategic Planning and the Strategy Cycle.” The Jossey-Bass handbook of nonprofit leadership and management. John Wiley & Sons, 2016. Pg. 240-273.

Cameron, K. “Transformational Leadership.” Developing Management Skills. New York: Harper Collins, 1991. Pg. 1-26.


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