Change is always a scary thing for an organization. Staff changes, volunteer leadership changes – they can all put the organization on edge. I have seen this first hand at a previous client of mine, we experienced two executive director changes and a president stepping down all in a year span. So when I found out about an upcoming change at my current client I was a little more prepared than the last time. I was also a bit excited as it meant an increase in my current responsibilities.
When the change was first brought to my attention I was a bit saddened as I was good friends with the outgoing executive director. Over our time together in the same office we had become friends prior to our work together on my current client. My previous experience’s have been an outside contracted employee leaving, so having a more internal change like this was something new to me. The one similarity was, like my previous client, there had been some turnover in a short period of time. This can be hard for an organization; the loss of organization knowledge can be great when you see too much turnover in a short time.
So what does this mean for me? The change is bringing a re-structure of sorts. My new role will be Chief Operating Officer, expanding my current role of overseeing the certification program to include the membership and all other operations of the association. The position will be an inward facing executive director, and hopefully turning into a more traditional executive director position. The opportunity is great and I have confidence going in. From the start I have been extremely comfortable with this client and felt like I have built some great connections with the volunteer leadership. So while it is not the executive director position, I feel like after I have some time to show what I can bring to the organization in this expanded role.
In the end, transitions like these are tough, no doubt about it. They happen and the best way to get through them successfully is to know they can come at any time and make sure you know what to do when it does happen. A transition plan that ensures that everyone involved knows what is happening, why it is happening, and how the organization moves forward. It is important to not only take care of the behind the scenes things, like who is picking up what work in the interim, but also how the change is communicated to the associations stakeholders. It is never a good thing to have members coming back a few months later with no idea a change has been made. It is important to realize that having a transition plan does not mean you anticipate change, it just means you are ready for it.