Despite the title of this post, change is neither necessarily good nor bad. It's just inevitable. But as board members, we have the ability (and the duty) to influence whether changes to our organizations will be to their advantage. Still, there are common barriers preventing boards from dealing with change.
First, there is the question of why we should change anything if everything seems to be going well? This is a great question to consider at a board meeting. Some of the reasons that may come up:
- Our environments are changing, our stakeholders are changing, and what has worked well in the past may not work as well in the future.
- We may not be at all certain that we are maximizing our effectiveness and efficiency at furthering the mission.
- We may need to assess or reassess our focus on short-term versus long-term goals or vice versa.
- An opportunity or threat may have been identified that can be exploited, managed or mitigated if addressed in a timely manner.
- We are already constantly changing; we need to recognize what is changing and how to manage all these changes to our best advantage.
Second, there are the fears associated with change. These may include the fear of:
- Screwing up and facing the criticisms that follow.
- Hurting existing programs and their beneficiaries.
- Overcoming the will of a vocal champion of the status quo (or board bully).
- Personally taking on too much work.
So, how should boards move forward and what additional information will they need? Here are some quick tips for approaching these difficult questions:
- Dedicate a meeting to focus on change.
- Use a facilitator.
- Start with an ad hoc committee.
- Create multiple scenarios and make it a game with teams advocating for various competing plans.
For more on governance and change, read my previous post: Nonprofit Boards and Change: Center for Excellence in Nonprofits Program.