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Navigating change - How to deliver successful organisational change in the Third Sector

Please note that The Robertson Trust has published its new Giving Strategy. This sets out the priorities we will have when awarding funds through our open grants programme. The existing application form and guidelines can still be used until July 31st. In line with our existing procedures, we will aim to assess and present all applications received by this date to our September Board meeting. In the event that we are unable to do so, your application may be held until our November meeting. In such cases a member of staff will contact you and provide any assistance required to realign your application with the new Giving Strategy. Find out all you need to know here.

“Are you expecting?” they heckled as I addressed a canteen full of warehouse operatives about to embark on a process review and organisational change programme. It was a nod to the fact that I’d said we’d be working together for the next 9 months! This was 20 years ago, pre-social media - now our current outlet of unmoderated comments - and a comment I remember well, since coincidently I was expecting and my son is now 19.

Nature knows that we need time to accept big changes, time to enable ‘targets’ of change, those for whom change is happening, to go through both negative and positive responses, to transcend the negative and positive curves that we can all reference from the internet, management text books or indeed classes such as the one delivered by The Cranfield Trust on behalf of The Robertson Trust.
The change journey begins at the beginning, sounds obvious but establishing when to start a change process can be trickier than it sounds.  Look at the organisational change curve and keep it in mind, pinned to the wall, at what point should you begin?  As a ‘sponsor’ of change make sure you do not begin your change journey too late, if the organisation is already heading down a slippery slope of decay it will be harder to get back on track.  Ideally start change when the organisation is stable.
Make sure you know what your starting point is, your trig point, clearly know its position and don’t move forward without following a well-planned path, which leads to where you want to go; your vision, your desired place.  What is this?  Does everyone in your team, on your Board know where they are heading?  Have you got the right skills and tools in place to make it possible to get there?
Do you have a guide? The guides are your change sponsor, your sustaining sponsors and as targets you need their commitment to get you steadily and safely to your desired place. 

Don’t rush!  You risk tripping or dramatically falling.  It’s wise to think of change as an iterative process of small changes that happen all the time within an organisational culture of continuous performance improvement.  If you put a foot wrong it’s merely a tumble rather than falling down a mountain, and we all know organisations that have either started to change too late or made their journey too long that they’ve decayed or simply run out of steam and stopped to permanent halt.
Here’s a checklist you might find helpful when planning your journey:
  • Know where your starting point is, that trig point  - where are you now
  • Know what your desired destination is – where do you intend to go and PLAN for your route. Communicate your goals and why the journey is necessary within the context of the organisation, building willingness to embark with a team that is able to complete the distance.  It’s easier to plan lots of small trips with stop overs rather than one epic journey.
  • Don’t leave without a guide – without strong, change sponsors you risk losing your way
  • Look after your team – as a guide, pack well with appropriate tools and skills, keep an eye on each person, making sure no one is being left behind or veering off course
  • Bring enough resources with you to fund the change – financial as well as assimilation
  • At each of these stop overs, celebrate the wins, check your team wellbeing, review your desired place making sure it’s still aligned to your organisation’s vision
  • When you finally get there – celebrate big time, whilst anchoring the change, rest a little and then look to the next progression as you continue to improve performance over and over again. 
To learn more about organisational change management here are a some useful resources.