Struggling to manage change? These 4 strategies can help your association adapt and evolve

by | Oct 14, 2020 | Strategy

Change is an unavoidable part of life. 

Some changes are positive, like a brilliant executive taking the helm or a sudden flood of funding transforming your association’s capabilities. Others can be difficult, like an economic downturn that prompts layoffs. And other changes are more mundane but no less monumental, such as the emergence of technology or shifts in language. 

To survive and thrive, associations need to have change management strategies they can count on. 

Having a change management plan that supports employees will help your organization evolve.

Have a clear objective 

By its very nature, change is disruptive. Before asking your entire organization to change its daily operations, it’s crucial to identify and articulate a clear objective. 

Employees and members need to understand why the proposed change matters, what it will accomplish and how it will strengthen the organization in the long run. When organizations skip this step, widespread dissatisfaction can swiftly spread. 

If you can demonstrate how a proposed change aligns with your association’s core purpose, you might be surprised by how quickly people adapt.

Get the right people involved 

Change isn’t just about telling others to do things differently — it also means listening to people with direct involvement in processes and trusting their expertise.

When guiding an organization through a period of change, it’s important to make sure the right people are involved. 

This doesn’t exclusively mean C-suite leaders.

While some changes will be internal, others might even benefit from other sources of input. If your association is considering two equally promising courses of action, you could poll members or even the public to decide. The nature of the change at hand will help you determine who is best positioned to weigh in.

As a general rule, the right people will bring lived experience, knowledge and insight to the table, helping your association to successfully move forward.

Have an inclusive mindset

Thoughtful, effective change management takes everyone into account. Every association is made up of people with diverse experiences, roles and identities. 

These individuals may require slightly different support through times of change — and have unique strengths to offer.

When assembling working groups or soliciting feedback, it’s crucial to include as many perspectives as possible. Not only is this a morally sound practice, but as the old saying goes, many hands make light work. 

An inclusive approach to change management can help your association spot potential issues ahead of time, and come up with practical solutions. 

Communicate like crazy

Successful leaders never miss an opportunity to communicate with their teams. 

When your association is experiencing significant change, a single email, meeting, or memo won’t suffice. Instead, leaders should spend time developing a plan for when and how to communicate—and reiterate—key messages.

Though you might worry about nagging, repeating important information is rooted in empathy. During periods of intense change, your employees may need multiple reminders before they settle into a groove. 

Reinforcing new information will help everyone cope with any bumps along the way, and help managers avoid making any one employee feel singled out. If you feel like a broken record, you’re doing something right. 

With excellent communication and thoughtful inclusion, change management doesn’t have to be intimidating. With enough practice, your association will become nimble enough to weather changes big and small.

Learn how your association can start to reshape its thinking with our FREE Open Garden Organization worksheet. This worksheet will help you evaluate what your organization is doing and understand why it matters so you can reach as wide an audience as possible. Download it now.

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Sidecar Staff

At Sidecar, we create the professional development tools a leader needs to grow their career and their purpose-driven membership organization, like associations and nonprofits. The skills you’ll learn within our growing community, interactive workshops and from our step-by-step courses will drive innovation, empower strategic thinking and institute cultural changes wherever your career takes you.

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