2 Transitioning Through Change

Kayleen Berwick

Change is inevitable.  It is imperative for a leader to recognize that organizations change in some ways that are large and drastic and other ways which are less noticeable, and these each elicit different reactions from others in and associated with the organization.  Often, a leader can implement small changes that transition to larger changes.  Making small changes over a period of transitional time leading up to a large alteration benefits organizations. Without any preparation, making an immense adjustment very suddenly can contribute detrimentally to an organization’s success by putting staff members and other personnel in a state of complete disarray and confusion.  It is advantageous to introduce grand alterations in an organization incrementally, so as to not leave staff, patrons, or others in a state of shock and misunderstanding.

Organization A shows an example of successful preparation leading to major change through the impending change in its leadership and the steps taken before this crucial transition.  Organization A’s director is retiring. The director’s preparations for retirement included several small, incremental changes to personnel and practices. These were installed throughout the past several years, and these set the organization up for success in its next chapter.

One such alteration is that over the past five years, the director increased the size of the organization by a few members each year. The talent hired now comes from a broader geographic area and is of a higher caliber, as opposed to the former practice of hiring more employees locally and sacrificing the quality of work produced.  These changes allow the organization to be more competitive going forward in attracting higher-quality personnel as well as engaging more patrons to the organization.  Additionally, the director recruited an extremely dedicated pair as President and Vice President of the board of directors that worked tirelessly at fundraising for Organization A and produced immense success over the past year in particular.  The director also involved younger people in board activities.  These particular individuals demonstrate prior experience in the organization and forward-thinking visions that show great potential for future leadership opportunities.  Furthermore, under this leadership, the organization created a brand new staff position.  All of these changes individually were hardly mentionable, but together led the organization to a much better footing.  In its current state, it is now ready to be much more attractive to prospective candidates as the search for a new director to carry the organization through its next chapter – and the great transition to follow – commences.

The director of Organization A placed much thought and care into an impending major change in leadership.  It is apparent that utilizing small changes as stepping stones to a large transition prepares staff members and other personnel for the major change to come.  It also sets the organization, its staff, and patrons to continue propelling forward through this change in leadership and well into the future.  A leader with very strategic decision-making skills thinks far enough ahead to prepare the organization for a major transition on the horizon.

In contrast to Organization A’s thoughtful provision, Organization B underwent a drastic number of position turn-overs in a recent year and suffered the consequences of being ill-prepared.  In this particular year, the new volunteer coordinator was interviewed and brought aboard two months later than anticipated, and another Director of Guest Services was hired shortly after.  Undergoing these changes in personnel in two very critical and intertwined roles without any prior preparation created several setbacks in the organization’s functions. The two new staff members lacked the communication necessary for the roles to perform properly because each was focused on their specific tasks as opposed to keeping in mind the larger picture and how the roles should work together.  This lack of communication led to several minor situations with patrons and volunteers alike.  In such circumstances, these two individuals remained uninformed of certain facts, therefore, creating negative experiences for these particular patrons and volunteers.

Organization B failed to implement smaller changes and detailed processes during a transition period before this specific staff change.  Such preparations would have provided a more stable environment in which the new staff members could settle. Furthermore, the communication between these particular roles would have exceeded what was the reality, which, in turn, would have improved the experiences of patrons and volunteers across the board.

In conclusion, every organization undergoes a wide variety of changes over its lifetime. Organizational change is unavoidable, and it is crucial to recognize that large, drastic transformations often cause confusion, chaos, and disorder. Therefore, it is beneficial to coordinate a transition period with a series of small alterations that build into the large transition. Though it requires strategic planning and forward thinking, the payoffs of preparing an organization and the associated staff and other personnel for change are invaluable.


Change: A Leader's Perspective Copyright © 2017 by Kayleen Berwick. All Rights Reserved.

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