Effective Change Requires Leadership

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.

About Wes Trochlil

For a quarter century, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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