How's Your Capacity to Execute Change?

What associations and nonprofits need now is a greater capacity to execute change and there are lots of organizational experts ready to tell you why this is a priority and what to do.

In an inbox cleaning binge, I read three McKinsey assessments and one Associations Now guest article that collectively create this insight that associations and nonprofits now need a greater capacity to execute change than they have.  

In The Past and Future of Global Organizations (Aghina, de Smet & Haywood), consultants in Houston, Amsterdam and London, conclude:  “There’s no substitute for regularly revisiting how to adapt structures, people and processes to create the most effective organizational design.”  Then the authors forecast that process-centric thinking will be a more prominent feature of organizational design.  What do they put in that process bucket? Decision making, end-to-end business processes, cross-functional linkages, and performance and knowledge management systems.  I would like to persuade them to add change leadership to their process list.

I could enlist some help from Hamel and Zanini based on their counsel in Build a Change Platform, Not a Change Program.  They agree that organizations need “constant experimentation with new operating models, business models and management models.”   

Cammie Kovalick identifies the struggles associations face in executing multiple initiatives and posits a solution in The Project Management Office: Coming to an Association Near You?  Her association, American Geophysical Union, is getting good results with a newly launched project management office.  (Associations Now article exclusive to ASAE members.)  I agree project management is a critical core competency for association executives, and where it is missing, change initiatives stall and fail.  I liked her solution until I read Hamel and Zanini who explicitly argue don’t go there.  

They are equally clear on getting change out of the C-suite and into everyone’s jobs.  Instead they advocate for “building self-organizing communities that identify, experiment and eventually scale new initiatives…. Change comes naturally when individuals have a platform that allows them to identify shared interests and to brainstorm solutions.”  

Hamel and Zanini recommend using social technologies to power change platforms but then promptly list important attributes that must be present to make that platform work, like good culture and process practices. It’s a good list of attributes and probably a more important insight than their enthusiasm for social technologies. 

Thanks to the assessment of Birshan, Gibbs, and Strovink in Rethinking the Role of the Strategists, I will insist governance be included in any change platform.  Based on a survey of current strategy practices, they observe:  “Effective organizations seem to be transforming strategy development into an ongoing process of ad hoc, topic-specific leadership conversations and budget reallocation meetings conducted periodically throughout the year.” 

How long have association management consultants been advising boards to include strategic conversations in every board agenda? Or that strategic planning is most effective when it is seen as a continuous process with metrics, performance monitoring and regular updating. Can we now rest our case?

As McKinsey has found in analyzing corporations, associations and nonprofits do need a greater capacity to execute change. If process-centric thinking is becoming more important, they should look closely at how decision making, current business processes, collaboration and knowledge sharing help or hinder change. If no platform for change exists, they might look first to create that capacity in self-organizing communities and equip them with the social technologies to collaborate. And they should get their boards focused on their own capacity to lead or hinder change.  This could be the next strategic conversation on board agendas everywhere:  how does our board get in its own way in leading change?