In change management theory, there are critical moments when resistance to change is no longer an option due to external pressures that can’t continue to be mitigated or brushed aside. Coronavirus gives us exactly such a moment.
We didn’t choose it. But we can make the most of this opportunity to start deliberately transitioning away from aspects of the old status quo that no longer serve our teams.
While this reality is true across many aspects of nonprofit operations, we’re finding it to be particularly apt in describing the ongoing efforts of mission-driven organizations to harness technology to improve and streamline how they do their work.
As your offices shut down in March, and your team scrambled to work from home, did your colleagues have convenient, centralized access to all the digital files that they needed? How were these files categorized? Did you already have a user-friendly digital system to guide the planning and organization of your internal work streams—showing team members how individual tasks flow into bigger projects, and how they support your organization’s strategy? If you needed to quickly shift the focus of your team members, how was this messaged?
Digital transformation is about your people, and how they organize to produce and distribute work. It is not about a shiny new tool or system. It doesn’t happen during a website redesign, and it is not something you checked off a list when you implemented Salesforce. Rather, it is an ongoing and fundamental shift in business as usual. It’s oriented around being better coordinated, and more effective, in how you achieve your organization’s mission.
Be in this for the long haul.
This kind of transformation is still a multi-year process. We are going to get through this immediate crisis—and we need to keep moving and building momentum for the future. This requires flexibility. It is hard to be 100% productive and effective when we feel overwhelmed and inundated with this moment of newness. Especially now, “good enough” needs to be enough. The important thing is simply the ability to function—as long as you have a plan for documenting what is working (and isn’t) about your current systems so that you can make informed adjustments in the upcoming weeks and months that are cumulative enhancements, rather than constant, frustrating, and costly do-overs.
Still, now is not the time to put your digital efforts on the back burner completely. Given how the status quo has been swept away, now is precisely the time to invest, to experiment, to develop roadmaps that everyone can see within your organization (and if possible contribute to). To map the course and start (or continue) on the journey. Digital operations are the way of the future. Given how long sustainable transformation takes, I worry about groups that were already behind on digital transformation falling even further behind once organizations attempt to move back into their prior ways of operating.
If this current moment shows anything,
It is that everything can change in an instant. A clear vision of your desired future state for digital operations will help you prioritize your change efforts and make the most of the unexpected changes in your environment. They will also help you take full advantage of any organic opportunities as they arise.
Your mission matters more than ever for all your constituents, including your staff. So, prioritize your efforts to transform the impact and efficiency of your work. I realize budgets are being cut and a call for investment seems at odds with surviving the moment. But, you should start where you are, plan and move incrementally, focusing on the highest priority needs and continuing to build over time.
If you’re interested in an open conversation (no-cost, no-strings) about your current state and considerations for planning, I have opened a calendly link for 30-minute slots here. My only request for these sessions is a willingness to be introduced (afterward) to other peers in the nonprofit sector for insightful conversations–I don’t need to be involved, just happy to connect folks.