Making the best of unexpected circumstances by Mary Moss and Susan Ross

Nov 19, 2015 | All Posts, Fundraising Counsel, Staffing, Strategic Planning

Perspectives on change and the unexpected from moss+ross co-founders and partners Mary Moss and Susan Ross…

Over the course of our consulting careers, we have worked intimately with more than 100 organizations. Some embrace change, planned or not, while others grit their teeth and hope they make it through. Our perspective is that change can be a wonderful catalyst for leaders to step back and rethink, reorganize and restructure operations for the best. And in the 21st century, change is a given in almost every environment.

An organization that is not changing is probably withering. Sometimes forced change offers opportunities that were not there before. Maybe you have an unspent salary to invest in strategic planning or an assessment you know you need. Perhaps you have been organizing your staff workload around a person’s strengths or weaknesses, and the change gives you a chance to rethink staff responsibilities in a more logical fashion. Or maybe the board has let itself become too dependent on a few key donors/members, and this is the time to let it bloom on its own.

moss+ross co-founders Susan Ross (on left) and Mary Moss

We often joke that consultants are rarely hired when everything is going perfectly, so it is no surprise to find that our role includes some repair work. We nearly always find that the solutions are not as difficult as feared, and that an outside perspective can bring clarity so that the organization can move forward. Our approach is pretty straightforward:

  1. Get the lay of the land. We try not to offer opinions too early in the process.
  2. Seek input from multiple sources. An assessment always includes interviews with key stakeholders, because they tend to see the problem and have some solutions in mind, even if they have not shared them.
  3. Deal quickly with obvious problems. Seems simple, but it’s not. Letting a bad situation fester is not good for the organization.
  4. Evaluate solutions and move on. Every step you take at this point moves you down the path to a better future.
  5. Say thanks to those who helped. When there are problems, many staff at all levels have to jump in to keep the ship afloat. As Board members or managers, don’t take this extra effort for granted. Your people are the most important asset you have, and they will work harder if you show you appreciate their efforts.