Over the holiday (and thanks to good weather), I had the opportunity to travel on some of the back roads of the northeast. I came across a relic that is sure to show up in the history books: a gas station without a convenience store, doughnut shop or “pay at the pump” service.
Before you ask, no, it was not in operation. But you already knew that.
A gas station that has not made the leap to automate and expand its service would not be competitive in the current market. It’s too easy to go across the street to that other station. Still, I can imagine the chatter in the parking lot that might have led to the business’s demise:
“If they don’t have to come inside to pay us, why do they need us? Bye-bye job.”
“Sell food? We’ve never done that before!”
“It will never work.”
Over the years, I’ve heard many stories of important organizational change that was met with sabotage. Employees fighting change so strongly that it failed, including such unfortunate events as tanked mergers, thousands of dollars invested in unused software and mass resignations. In navigating the turbulent waters of nonprofit funding, organizations must be willing and able to do things differently, including using new resources. In fact, an organization’s ability to adapt to internal and external changes is an enduring competitive advantage.
Unfortunately, whether big game changers or slight modifications, change doesn’t come easy for many of us. Employees often resist change, even when it might seem obvious to others that the change will be beneficial. We resist when we don’t see the truth of its benefit, when we think the change will harm us in some way or deprive us of something we have or want.
In order to facilitate change, leaders must take an active role, publicly supporting the change and working with their employees to accept and incorporate the change in their work. Based on Kurt Lewin’s Change Theory, here are some steps you can take:
- Share your vision when announcing the change. When faced with change we do not want, we are innately distrustful. You must be transparent about your objectives.
- Communicate why the change is important for the organization and why it is important for them. Convey urgency. Listen to their objections and address each one, repeating the critical nature of the change.
- Ask for their help. The more you involve folks in the process, the more likely it is they will be invested in it. Those who are quickly engaged can help champion the change. Moreover, recognize that your staff likely know something you do not about obstacles, challenges and the who, what, where, when and how of what you are trying to accomplish.
- Create an environment that requires a change in work practices or behavior. For instance, remove access to the old software if you are implementing a new one. Set clear expectations. Provide training and workshops. Set short-term goals so that you can celebrate early successes.
- Make sure your policies and procedures support the change.
- Assume that the change will take a while to stick, no matter evidence to the contrary. Keep communicating, sharing information, and rewarding those who are meeting expectations.
Given the choice to change or not, most people would rather not. However, in order for business (nonprofit or otherwise) to stay competitive, we must remain able to adapt. To quote Sam Cooke, “Change is gonna come.”
Submitted by Robyn-Jay Bage