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Change jenga

The most damaging phrase in the language is;

“We’ve always done it this way” - Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

The human race has a tendency to be adverse to change. “It works so why change it” – we fear the unknown and are cautious in our approach. When you look back on your own life and consider where you are now compared to the start of your career, you have gone through a considerable amount of change. Much of it has just evolved around you, some of it rapidly (digital world), some at a slower pace, but it has changed. We have a government that is really struggling with change when we would expect them to be showing a lead. Can we wait for them?

A CEO once said to me why do business leaders who make complex decisions in their own companies go into risk adverse modes once in trustee meetings? The main reason is that it is not their money. They are responsible for safeguarding the assets of the charity for the benefit of current and future beneficiaries, hence will revert to the natural human instinct of being cautious. There is a fear if it goes wrong it is their fault and they will increasingly be hung out to dry.

Evolution is change and we are evolving all the time. The pace has increased considerably in the last 50 years. However, we can no longer sit back and let this happen around us. We need to take control and own the journey as we go forward. We cannot rely on the traditional governmental system to take the lead; as a sector we need to take up the baton and run our part of the race before we pass the baton on to our successors.

Let’s go back to basics – why does our charity exist and what does it hope to achieve. What do we need to do to meet that need? Is what we are currently doing meeting this objective. Be honest with yourselves, are we just busy fools or are we making good inroads. The question we have mentioned before is “if we weren’t here what would happen to our beneficiaries”? You need to challenge yourselves before someone else does.

Once you have “appraised” the charity consider what changes you need to make. Involve the whole charity team (trustees, staff, volunteers and beneficiaries) but as trustees you need to take a lead, listen, challenge but be enthusiastic. If you start with “we tried that before and it didn’t work” or “we’ve always done it this way” then the rest of the charity team will do the same. Trustees need to encourage and champion review and improvement. The sector has a great opportunity to influence what it does and how it does it. This could be through better use of the digital technology, new delivery modes or changes in engagement with the public and potential donors. Don’t wait for others, they have their own issues, take ownership of your own future.

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