Change Management

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Change management is a practice based on the sense of loss people feel when experiencing change. Change can put the organization in an unusual situation as established patterns are threatened, altered, or broken, and it results in loss when the old patterns are replaced. TA is ultimately about creating change within an organization. Take, for example, a TA provider that is leading an effort to build and develop the board of directors. The TA provider’s work includes teaching current board members their roles and responsibilities and assisting in the recruitment of new board members, potentially doubling the size of the board. If unequipped, current board members may feel uncertainty and fear as they wonder whether they can do the job they are being asked to do and whether they are still needed by the organization. As a TA provider, you can equip them to manage the change that you’re facilitating by defining the change and maintaining open communication throughout the process.

It is necessary to continuously define the change with each interaction and with each stakeholder.

Defining the change is started with the organizational assessment and process of defining the goals and outcomes of the TA engagement. With the development of a work plan for TA activities, the change is further defined. To successfully manage the change, however, it is necessary to continuously define the change with each interaction and with each stakeholder that will be impacted.

There are several activities that can help in defining the change. One basic technique is to explore the cause and effect relationship that led to the desired change through the “5 Why's” activity. The activity evolved at Toyota when they expanded their manufacturing methodologies. Toyota believed that by repeating the question "Why?" five times, you can clarify the nature of a problem.

Using the example of board development work from above, a TA provider can use the “5 Why's” activity at the beginning of a meeting to remind board members of the reason for the change. When conducting the organizational assessment, the challenge expressed by board members was that they had too much work to do, while the staff reported lack of follow through as their challenge with the board. The “problem” is the starting place for the activity.


What challenges do you face right now as a board? Too much work!

1. Why do you have too much work? We don’t have enough people on the board.

2. Why don’t you have more people? We haven’t had time to do recruitment.

3. Why haven’t you had time? We haven’t made it a priority.

4. Why hasn’t it been a priority, if it is such a problem? We don’t know how to recruit new people, so it falls to the bottom of the list.

5. Why does it fall to the bottom of the list of things to do? We’d rather do the stuff that we know ho to do.

There is nothing magic about asking five questions rather than four or six; however, experience has shown that five is about the right number to get to the root cause. In the above example, board members are acknowledging their desire to bring on new board members and also their need to understand what work they should prioritize and how to do that work.

TA providers will build a great deal of trust by taking a proactive and learning approach.

In change management, the term “resistance to change” usually encompasses individuals who express varying levels of doubt about the change that is taking place. Maybe they do not agree with the need for change at all, or perhaps they disagree with the methods or decisions that have been made. Resistance is often viewed as something that needs to be overcome and neutralized. While this may sometimes be true, we can adjust our understanding of resistance and make it a more productive experience for all involved. TA providers, who are essentially external change agents, will build a great deal of trust by taking a proactive and learning approach with resistance that they encounter in the engagement.

First, consider that the person implementing has done the best she or he can to gather all the information necessary to make a decision or a change. But no matter how much time someone spends gathering information, that process is never complete. Therefore, a TA provider can view resistance to change as an opportunity to learn more about the culture of the organization and the individuals who are its central players. Listening to the resistors’ concerns can provide opportunities for engagement, and if those concerns are both heard and addressed, then the TA provider is more likely to have a successful engagement.

Finally, remember that not every resistor can be “converted” to a champion for the change. A board member or key staff may have a personal stake in continuing to use old systems and will not change his or her mind no matter how much discussion and coaxing the TA provider tries.

Communication is crucial to the health of any organization, especially one that is undergoing change.

Creating an environment where the beneficiary organization feels comfortable expressing resistance, concerns, or apprehensions as discussed previously. To understand how important this is, consider what happens if there are concerns or fears that aren’t expressed. These issues snowball into hang-ups that prevent the change from occurring because the staff who is supposed to implement the change is dead-set against it, and may even sabotage the effort. Even as the change is continually defined by the TA provider, it is the responsibility of the beneficiary organization to ask questions, express fears, and anticipate challenges of implementing the change within the larger organization. The TA provider needs to be open to and responsive to those questions and comments.

TA providers need to ensure that communication about changes is consistent. The executive director should be in agreement and should use the same language to describe the changes taking place as the TA provider and the board, and anyone else involved in the change. This may seem small, but the way individuals interpret the meaning and impact of a change can vary depending on how the change is described. All stakeholders should agree on what the change is (defining the change) and what the change means for the organization. If one board member sees the change as simply fine-tuning existing systems while the executive director enthusiastically describes the change as revolutionary, mixed messages are inevitable and can be counter-productive to the change efforts.

Finally, TA providers and the staff they are working most closely with should be in constant communication with stakeholders within and external to the beneficiary organization. Updates should be provided whenever decisions are made, and even in between just to say, “we are still working on this issue, and we have not yet reached a resolution.”

A few basic tips to establish trust with the beneficiary organization.

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