Sunday, May 17, 2009

Crisis and Realignment

There's nothing like a crisis to push an organization toward change.  As much as crisis can pull an organization apart, it can also provide opportunities for renewal, focus and healing.  In fact, crisis is a fairly predictable phenomenon that, as it turns out, is a key ingredient for organizational growth.  I have no doubt that, once we're on the other side of this economic crisis, we'll see many nonprofits emerge stronger, more responsive, and more keenly focused on the impact of their missions because they used this interregnum to realign and plan.   

There are hundreds of books and articles dedicated to coping with, managing or leading organizational change.  (I happen to be a fan of John Kotter's
Leading Change, which is a straightforward prescription for creating an environment in which change is seen as a positive imperative.)  The change agent is usually identified as an individual or a small group of people who see the need for organizational course redirection and who work hard to get enough others on board to tip the scales in favor of movement.  And in this scenario, change is not necessarily born of a democratic process, although its success is almost assuredly rooted in and measured by broad-based support for it.

Over the weekend, I read the following post, which has gotten me thinking about approaching organizational change in a different way:
...the thing that works to make change is not "the best" idea but the idea that is aligned with the gifts, knowledge, experience, experiences (those are different things), imaginations, imaginings, imaging, needs, expectations, and beliefs of the people who have to make it work.
- Ned Ruete, International Association of Facilitators Forum, May 4, 2009
I'm imagining how different the organizational effort might be if the change agenda were largely left up to the "people who have to make it work", no matter whether they're on the inside or the outside of the organization.  Having nothing more than a compelling argument for change as the frame for problem-solving, would a group be able to find solutions on their own without being led to them by the CEO or the board president?  The answer is yes.

And the likelihood that change will "stick" will be greater because of it.

Photo: 51 / 52: Change by -Teddy

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