How to Navigate Change – and Grow!

It’s natural for people to resist change. Most feel wary of the unknown – even if the unknown has potential for bigger and better successes.

But as an organization, you’re going to encounter a time when change is necessary. Your revenue will plateau or maybe one of your departments will grow unproductive – and you’ll need to rethink your daily operation.

Change can be painful, but I want you to know that it can also be powerful.

Your ministry can survive (and even grow!) in the midst of an overhaul. You just need to approach that change carefully. I suggest using a simple framework that incorporates what psychologist Kurt Lewin identified as the three phases each organization encounters during times of transition.

First Phase of Change: Unfreeze

Everyone gets in a rut – especially nonprofits. That’s why you have to “unfreeze” your normal mode of operation and examine each department and process carefully. At this point, you can identify which parts of your organization need updating and lay groundwork for the upcoming change.

You can do this in four ways:

Establish a sense of urgency. You need to recognize that some part of your ministry isn’t working, and you must adjust it before the issues affect your impact.

Form a guiding coalition. Find the people in your organization who best understand its culture and can help the ministry build toward new goals.

Work with your guiding coalition to cast a new vision. Clearly outline how you want your ministry to look and operate in the future.

Communicate your vision to your team. Think about how best to introduce your team to change. Don’t simply spring a new policy or structure upon them last-minute; instead, talk about it little by little over a period of This prepares them to not only feel more comfortable with pending change but also better understand its benefit.

Second Phase of Change: Transition 

The second phase of change is critical – because it’s when improvement actually happens. It’s also the phase in which your team has a chance to get excited and involved in the transition. That’s why it’s vital to ensure that everyone feels a part of this new direction.

Here are a few tips to get you through this phase:

Empower your team members to act on your vision. Make sure they have the tools and knowledge to implement the change. For example, you can’t develop a digital ministry unless your ministry director knows how to make it happen. So, make sure everyone is prepared for their new roles.

Plan for short-term wins. Set several small, achievable goals for your team as you navigate your transition. Celebrate each win (your first online broadcast or your first 1,000 likes on Facebook) so the staff stays motivated and excited about the vision.

Evaluate your progress frequently. Get together with your guiding coalition on a regular basis and take a close look at the steps you’ve taken and the ones you still need to implement. See what’s working and what’s not and adjust as needed.

Third Phase of Change: Refreeze

Naturally, an “unfreeze” calls for a “refreeze.”

Once you’ve evaluated your organization and taken steps toward change, it’s time to solidify the new processes. This doesn’t mean you sink back into your rut but rather that you work hard to maintain your progress and incorporate your changes into your ministry’s culture.

In this phase, the new mode of operation becomes your norm, and your organization begins a new path toward greater Kingdom impact.

There’s so much more I want to tell you about how to successfully guide a nonprofit through transition, so check out my course, Managing Change for Growth, at the Dunham Institute.

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