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Effective Change Requires Leadership
7 November 2011, by , in Executive, 3 comments

Effective change requires leadership. Leadership from the top.

Compare these two situations (true stories, clients of mine from the past):

Association 1 has never had a centralized data management system. However, the CEO as well as key senior leadership understand the need for a centralized system, and together we work to select and implement a new database. Several months after go-live, my client reports that most of the staff have adopted the new system and that things are moving along as they had hoped.

Association 2 has had a central system in place for years, but is finding it increasingly difficult to use. Together we select and implement a new database, which all staff has access to. However, several months after go-live, the association is unhappy with how the database is working.

What’s the difference between these two? Leadership.

At Association 1, although the CEO is not directly involved in the project, at weekly leadership meetings and monthly all-staff meetings, she always discusses the importance of the database and its relevance to the success of the organization.

At Association 2, not only is the CEO not engaged in the project, but he has actively found reasons to complain about what’s not working, often highlighting to staff all the “problems” the system still has, all the while ignoring all of the improvements that the new system has brought to the organization.

One critical key to success in change management is buy-in from senior leadership. Buy-in does not necessarily mean daily engagement on the project. But it DOES mean communicating the importance of the project, maintaining a positive attitude about the project, and providing the necessary resources to make the project a success.

Association 1 succeeded, in part, because the leadership was strong and positive. Association 2 struggled because there was no leadership where it was most important.

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3 Comments on "Effective Change Requires Leadership"

Daniel Shanahan - 7 November 2011 Reply

Thanks for this case study, Wes. "One critical key to success in change management is buy-in from senior leadership." - I couldn't agree more.

Amith Nagarajan/Aptify - 9 November 2011 Reply

Wes, I completely agree. In addition to this, senior management needs to support tough decisions along the way. Many times in our experience as an AMS vendor, a client will state their support for embracing change in the beginning, but as the tough decisions come to pass, they back away. Senior management MUST work to convince staff that are comfortable with "the old way" to adopt new processes that will ultimately improve the organization. If needed, senior management will also need to override staff if they don't buy in to needed changes. Without a consistent drum beat as you describe, a project will not succeed. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

    Wes Trochlil - 9 November 2011 Reply

    Well-stated, Amith.

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

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Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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