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Is your NFP ready for change?

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Change is often required in not-for-profit organisations to fulfil legal and moral responsibilities, meet the expectations of stakeholders or to enable the organisation to grow.

Common reactions to change

People respond to change in different ways – with excitement, cautiousness, anger or denial. One very common reaction is to resist change. Resistance is a defence mechanism caused by frustration and anxiety about what the change means for the individual. However, resistance is not always negative as it encourages insightful questioning as to why change is being implemented.

While some resistance is natural, a change is usually successful when staff members are open to it. People who are open to change are more likely to have the cognitive and emotional ability to look at change as an opportunity, such as the chance to learn something new or improve service delivery.

The manager’s role during change

During a time of change the manager must:

  • Articulate a clear vision to staff and key stakeholders about why the change is occurring
  • Create a plan that outlines who will be involved in the change process
  • Give everyone a role and a sense of responsibility to help the change become a success
  • Highlight small successes as early as possible – celebrate the small wins
  • Communicate with staff regularly and honestly. You will reduce their concern and resistance when they are treated with respect, have the facts and know the rationale for the change
  • Recognise feelings of loss of status or confidence in staff members, help them express these feelings and then assist them to overcome these feelings. Never underestimate how large the impact of dealing with change can be.

The manager’s responsibilities during change

Managers have a duty during a period of change to:

  • Ask questions and know why changes are being adopted. This will enable you to believe in the change yourself. Remain positive when communicating and engaging with staff
  • Become a change champion and walk the talk. Managers must build and sustain strong enthusiasm about the change. This includes reminding everyone of why the change is occurring and the benefits that will come from the change process
  • Challenge complacency. Complacency hampers change and prevents people from acting. It’s crucial that staff share problems and opportunities, and feel committed to act
  • Complete a risk assessment and have a specific management plan for all the major risks. How will you identify people who need specific support, and how will you build the morale of the team through the change process? Good plans shape good decisions
  • Plan the training and supervision required for each team member in order to help them gain the competencies to adopt the change and overcome any fears or concerns about coping with the transition
  • Don’t accept negativity. Negative mindsets sap organisations of time, energy and focus, eventually affecting the morale of the entire team
  • Constantly monitor change in order to maintain new ways of thinking and doing. Once the wheels are in motion, managers must support staff to maintain the new standards
  • Looking after yourself is extremely important during change. Change can create stress and emotional distress if not managed well. Stress can take the form of depression, anxiety, irritability, anger and isolation. Know the signs, talk it though and use strategies to avoid burn out.
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