“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
Niccolo Machiavelli – The Prince.
Machiavelli’s words, written in the 15th century, have a resonance for us today. They tell us that if we are trying to run a change process in our organisation it will be among the most difficult processes we can attempt. So if it’s so hard why would you want to do it?
My experience of change with charities is wide ranging – from international agencies like Amnesty International to smaller UK bodies like DrugScope. =mc’s consulting work with these organisations over 15 years suggests that there are many ‘presenting’ – or apparent – reasons for change but a smaller number of key drivers.
The five drivers that seem to recur regularly are: Failure, Success, Innovation, Stakeholders, and Finance. Let’s explore each of these to see if you’re clear on why you want to change or need to change.
Failure: many charities need to change because the way they have tried to tackle their issue or mission has simply not delivered the results they or beneficiaries need. This change may involve a review of mission or method. So for environmental charities the approaching Copenhagen deadline is a key moment in history. The planet is being ruined and they have so far failed to delver a specific result by influencing populations or governments to make radical changes in lifestyle or economy – should they change their goal and/or their approach? Should they give up and allow newer agencies to take a chance to influence policy and people?
Success: as worrying as failure can be success – what do you do when you’ve actually achieved your mission? LEPRA, for example, was set up to tackle leprosy – something it has effectively done with a very significant impact. Leprosy has by and large been conquered globally. So the question was what should LEPRA now do? Well LEPRA decided to change and expand its mandate to tackle other, similar, infectious diseases such as TB – building on their success and core competence in dealing with infectious diseases. In this way it built on success.
Innovation: many charities are concerned they have to innovate in a more systematic way – looking for new programmes to deliver services or ways to raise money. UNICEF International, for example, developed many of the key ideas in the current fundraising canon years ago – charity Christmas cards, airplane donation envelopes, philanthropic gifts like adopt-a-goat/school/etc. But two years ago they recognised they had fallen behind in new ideas – and so established a global innovation programme designed to generate a flow of new ideas. Many charities are making innovations fundamental part of their business approach.
Stakeholders: Stakeholders are part of the network charities have to respond to. So charities are now changing to ensure they directly address the developing needs and interests of stakeholders. NSPCC, for example, famously pioneered the donor-centric stewardship approach, now adopted by many charities, as part of its Full Stop campaign. The success of Full Stop is in part attributable to that stakeholder focus. Beneficiary engagement is becoming increasingly important for charities. At the other end of the spectrum we recently ran an online survey of 90,000 across 20 countries members of Soroptomist International – asking them which of a number of strategic direction they should adopt.
Finance: the recent growth in global wealth growth and the even more recent credit crunch/crash has meant a time of extraordinary volatility for charities that raise funds from individuals and corporations. A number of charities are now re-examining their fundamental business model to see how they need to re- engineer how they secure funding that would allow them to operate in a global setting. Where should they focus their attention to secure best RoIs? Should they try for a small number of high value donors perhaps from the middle east – or try to build an online base of millions of small donors?
So if you do want to change, why? What’s the key driver? And who agrees it? Spend some time scoping this out. Imagine it as what’s called a burning platform. This metaphor refers to the time when three oil men had to choose either to stay on a burning platform and face certain death from the flames or leap into the icy water and hope they were rescued in the 20 minutes they might survive. They leapt. And were picked up 19 minutes later…
So a burning platform refers to the process of describing your change process as consisting of two choices: an unacceptable one which involves certain failure and an unattractive risky one.
Once you’ve established why you want to change then you can survive a systematic process to implement the change. In my next blog I’ll be looking at a well-established model to manage change.
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Yvette Gyles, Director