A Formula for Successful Change

It is time to face some hard realities in the government and nonprofit sectors. Things are not going to get easier if the sector maintains the status quo. Waiting for the economy to rebound is no longer a valid excuse for making radical changes to the way business is done. Even though the economy is getting better, the social sector is not feeling the rebound. The Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2014 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey revealed that 56 percent were unable to meet demand in 2013 (the highest reported in the survey’s history) and that only 11 percent expect 2014 to be easier than 2013 for the people they serve.

Although these statistics show the reality of the current state, they don’t have to predict your future. Successful government and nonprofit leaders have discovered that making a shift towards operating and making decisions based on sound and reliable outcomes and performance data allows them to beat the odds and increase their revenues and their impact.

If social sector leaders hope to create high-performance cultures with a focus on measurement, thereby transforming their organizations, pursuing excellence, and increasing impact, three crucial elements must be considered: dissatisfaction, vision, and the first steps toward change. To achieve significant organizational, systemic, or individual change, all three must be present.

Richard Beckhart’s (1969) well-known formula, outlined in Organization Development: Strategies and Models, outlines the essential elements that result in change.

      Change = D x V x F > R

This model, often called Gleicher’s Formula, provides a way to assess the relative strengths affecting the likely success of organizational change efforts. The formula suggests that, in order for successful change to occur, dissatisfaction with the current state (D), a desired future vision (V), and the concrete first steps (F) must be stronger than the natural resistance to change (R). Dissatisfaction, vision, and first steps must be combined to overcome the natural resistance to change if organizational change is to occur. If any of these three ingredients is absent or present in a weakened state, resistance to change will dominate and change will not occur.

The desire to lose weight provides a relatable illustration of this principle related to successful change. Many have the desire for weight loss, yet these individuals frequently encounter significant obstacles and are unable to overcome resistance to change. This keeps individuals stuck in an undesirable current state.

As a personal example, after my third son was born, I decided it was time to lose the extra weight accumulated from my three pregnancies. I had a desired future vision. I visualized myself in a fabulous dress I wore before delivering my first child. I imagined how great I would feel in the morning as I got dressed. I also knew the exact steps I needed to take to get there: I needed to eat fewer calories and exercise three to four times a week.

However, I was not really dissatisfied with my current state. After all, I was having fun with my family. I had not heard comments from my family and friends regarding my weight, and most of my pre-pregnancy clothes still fit. Because my level of dissatisfaction was not very strong, I never took the actions required to lose the weight. Quite simply, I was not motivated enough to accomplish the desired change.

Whether the goal is weight loss, the implementation of a new policy, or a complete overhaul of Medicaid, the root cause of a failure to change the current state can be traced back to the absence or lack of one of three factors: 1) dissatisfaction with the current state, 2) a clear desired future vision, or 3) the concrete first steps towards success.

If you are ready to overcome resistance and make permanent sweeping changes to success, take these four actions.

  1. Conduct some research or use existing research that highlights your community’s, stakeholders’, staff’s, and clients’ frustrations and unmet needs. This is a great way to uncover and strengthen everyone’s dissatisfaction with the current state
  2. Now take these results and share them with your supporters, stakeholders, and clients to create a collaborative vision of the future. This should include specific and measurable benchmarks to success. Ask the questions, in one year, three years, and five years, how will we know we are successful? What data will we have to demonstrate we are different?
  3. Use this future vision to create a plan to take the first steps. Don’t worry about what needs to be done one or two years from now. Just focus on what you can reasonably do in the next ninety days to get closer to your big goal. Remember to set concrete measureable benchmarks for those ninety days. Then commit to taking just those actions.
  4. Continue to visit your goals and repeat. As you go through this process, focus on taking the next 90-day steps. At each interval, look back at your measurable progress for motivation. You will be amazed at the successful changes that have occurred and before you know it your current vision will become a reality.

If you are looking for some consultation and coaching to help you make a successful change, Measurement Resources is here to help! We take organizations through the current state data collection, strategic planning and visioning process, and the measurable goal development, implementation, and tracking. Our favorite part is to celebrate our clients’ success on their increased impact on the world! We’d love to celebrate with you. Contact us today for your free 20 minute strategy session.

Want more information on how to increase funding, morale, positive press, and organizational impact? Join the Achieving Excellence Community and receive our free eBook, Ten Tips to Open the Door to More Grants (and Other Funding): Overcoming Common Mistakes in Outcomes Measurement.

Sheri Chaney Jones
Measurement Resources Company
April 2014

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