At a time when change seems to be constant and rapid, it seems odd that so many organizations find it hard to change themselves. Even when organizations find it harder and harder to fulfill their mission they may also find it hard to make the significant changes necessary to remain relevant and successful.


All of the good planning, using the best of information and taking all of the time needed to make sure new ways work, cannot guarantee an organization will fulfill its mission more effectively and that those it serves will be served more effectively.

Not only might change not make things better, it could make things worse!

Moving from the known and comfortable to the new and unsure may seem too risky. It certainly will feel uncomfortable for all.

For organizations that have vital responsibilities to the people they serve, the recognition that there are no guarantees can raise the fear that changes that do not work will result in clients being served less effectively; that fear can stop an effort to meet the challenges before an organization even gets started.

In the world of Non-profit organizations which provide critical human services this is a fear that effects staff and volunteer alike. The stronger the vision and the deeper the commitment they have to the work, the stronger the fear can be.

But while there are no guarantees that new approaches and methods will be better than present efforts, there is also great risk in doing nothing in the face of declining effectiveness. Standing still in the face of struggle will result in continued struggle and growing ineffectiveness.

The organizational choice is between continuing to operate poorly and taking the risk of trying new ways that may work but have no guarantee of success.

The answer to this dilemma is to see change as not a one-time event but as part of an ongoing process of continuous improvement.

Building the ability to see the organization’s internal and external reality is the foundation for building an organization that can manage an effective effort toward improvement. A strong and unbiased sense of reality, the ability to see success and failure as equally important data points and a willingness to challenge sacred cows, allows an organization to see change as an ongoing effort designed to improve results.

The need is for organizations to see themselves as constantly evolving organisms. Organizations (and their leaders) need to see change as a continuous effort to fulfill their purpose in the face of never ending change in their environment.

If the goal of planning and making change is to reach the perfect answer so that the next 100 years have been shaped, here is our advice: Don’t start! It will not happen.

The best way to confront fear of change is to never stop changing!


Marty Levine