It’s been said that the only thing in life that doesn’t change is change itself. But can people really change—their knowledge, skills, and abilities? Can whole organizations full of people change—their systems, processes, and culture? We at Brighter Strategies believe that they can.

We are all operating in a VUCA landscape—volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The world of work is increasingly affected by macro-level forces such as globalization, innovations in technology, and new generations of employees. If we as nonprofit leaders are not continually evolving to meet the rapidly changing needs and preferences of our stakeholders, we risk becoming irrelevant.

But first, a little background

The time is now to talk about change management, the next Brighter Strategies Blog series. If you missed the last one, check out our six articles on strategic planning here.

And if you’re new to Brighter Strategies altogether, here’s a little background. We believe that nonprofit success is holistic, the sum of the planning, people, process, and performance systems in an organization. The more integrated these systems, the more streamlined overall growth can be.

This year via the Brighter Strategies Blog, we are examining each system by explaining some theory behind our recommended improvement approaches, dissecting real-world case studies, and suggesting practical action steps you can begin to take today. Early this year we looked at an invaluable people process—competency modeling. In the spring we unpacked a planning process that is imperative for any nonprofit to operate effectively—strategic planning. And now with autumn, the season of harvest, we bring you our thoughts on change.

Throughout this blog series, we encourage you to add to the discussion. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below each article. We want to hear the collective experiences and insights from the nonprofit community at large.

And now back to change.

What is change management?

Change management is the process of helping individuals and the organization to transition from a current state to a desired state. While there are many definitions and models describing this process, when you get down to the basics, managing change is all about effective communication.

Organizational change can be either continuous, the ongoing adjustment of organizational processes to make existing systems better, or discontinuous—a major people, process, or business change that requires a dedicated project team to manage it. Additionally, change is either proactive—initiated in anticipation of future opportunities or threats—or reactive, as a response to outside situations or forces.

Why should I care about change management?

Traditionally, change management initiatives have taken place primarily in the for-profit sector as a response to financial forces and market disruptions. However, an increasing number of nonprofit agencies are beginning to experience the benefits that change management initiatives can offer them. Nonprofits are ripe for change management excellence because the needs of those they serve are ever changing.

Organizations that plan for and effectively deal with change can learn to thrive—not just survive—through major organizational disruptions. They can move faster to a new normal, one that is sustainable and produces results. Additionally, individuals who are able to adapt well to change are more productive and have a greater overall well being.

In Part Two of this series, we will examine Brighter Strategies’s change management approach in detail. Subsequent articles will illustrate this approach using a real-world case study. Stay tuned!