Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WADITWA Disease- "We've Always Done It That Way"

Nonprofit organizations seem to be diametrically opposed to change. My friend Mary always says that one of our greatest problems we face as a profession is overcoming the resistance of our organizations to change.


 Let's face it, many of us are solidly stuck in the 1980s when it comes to change management. I've written about my change management theory called shaking the snowglobe before here.

But how do we overcome the obstacle of tradition in our profession and allow for progress? We ourselves must be fearless in the pursuit of evaluating what is currently working, pushing for best in class programs and making a future for ourselves and our donors. Let's face it, most of our donors work in industries that have fully embraced the new millennium and beyond. Yet when they interact with us, they are driven back into the stone age by being respectful to our "traditions". To this I say, there has to be a better way.


One challenge is that being a risk taker in a traditional environment isn't always rewarded or applauded, but when it happens and when we embrace calculated risk and change, the results can be remarkable. Charity:Water is a great example of a non profit that embraces the new, different and challenges the status quo and they've been very successful doing it.

I find it ironic that nonprofit organizations' missions are tied directly to changing the world they're in, yet they resist change at every turn (cue Alanis Morrisette here). Is it because we lack the resources to affect change? Nope, not a good excuse. Is it because our leadership is risk adverse? Not necessarily, when I come in as a consultant I find leadership most welcoming to new ideas have sound reasoning behind them. So what is it that gives us the WADITWA disease?   

Is a cultural shift in nonprofits that difficult? I don't think so. Is now not the right time? Nope, carpe diem! Let's together stop making, accepting and allowing excuses to get in the way of fantastic progress. I'm here to help, provide resources and challenge your status quo. Join me as we venture forth bravely to banish WADITWA and all that comes with it. We must be the torchbearers for change from within our organizations.

What are your thoughts? What challenges do you face?

Cheers,
Lynne

20 comments:

  1. Oh, Lynn, LOL. I might hang the racing photo up on my office wall. I can sort of understand traditional processes not changing because they seem to work well enough, are familiar, and can be followed relatively quickly and without errors precisely because they are familiar. I can also understand the risk factor: the very real fear that changing a process that is known to work will result in both obvious and hidden errors and problems. Workloads are a sort of Catch-22 consideration in process changes: who has the time to drop what they have to do in order to spend the time and thought to review how they do what they do so they can do it better and more efficiently? Changes in traditional institutions therefore seem to more often come as a response to a problem that won't go away rather than as a result of a proactive process review. I find the worst thing about WADITWA is when it's used as an excuse to not correct something that is clearly wrong! I work in a traditional institution, and love my job, and I am very happy to see good changes being implemented here but I want more! So I continue to imagine (and work toward with others when time and circumstances allow) that perfect day when we have no more stupid processes. Love your posts, Lynne. Keep on pushing us forward. Fay

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Fay! I honestly can see both sides as well. We can all push forward and realize that we can have an impact on our organizations, no matter how large or small the change or the organization. Cheers!

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. 4. There really isn’t as much competition in the marketplace for charitable dollars as we’d like to think there is. Do you, as a donor, want to support higher education? Great—my guess is you are going to support the institution you matriculated from (or your child’s/spouse’s alma mater). Maybe you’ll support the college in your hometown, even though you didn’t attend there, because it’s a local organization that provides you and your family benefits. It’s doubtful that donors are going to expand their perspective much. The cause/cure folks might disagree with me somewhat, but the underlying fact remains that people support organizations that have meaning to them—and that meaning is almost universally derived from a very personal experience with the organization or the organization’s raison d’etre…

    5. …And furthermore, there’s no real market factors forcing organizations to innovate or die. Does Harvard get a special prize if they raise more money on an annual basis than Yale? Methinks not. The real competition is (and rightfully should be) internal—How can we be the best version of ourselves possible? If we can address that, we will solidify our own basis for support and our own niche in the marketplace.

    6. We don’t invest in professional development. This certainly isn’t true of every organization, but when money gets tight, the first thing to go is usually professional development. Our industry is unique in the sense that (as mentioned above, there are limiting competitive forces at play) we like to share our secrets and our best practices with one another. Home Depot certainly isn’t beating down Lowe’s Hardware’s door to do this! But when we deprive our staff of professional development opportunities, we’re not just depriving them of the opportunity to grow as individuals—we’re depriving our organizations from the opportunity to hear about what other organizations are doing successfully—and as an extension, how we might apply a similar solution to our own institutional operations to achieve better results.

    Not that I’ve given the matter much thought, but I could probably go on for a while. I’m interested to see whether or not people agree or disagree with my thoughts, and to see what other perspectives are shared. I might even see something that helps me think about an old problem in a new way, and that leads to my own little innovation!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is fantastic- thank you so much for the post!!

      Delete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lynn, you nailed it. And you made me laugh in the process. The WADITWA disease is something I think our healthcare industry could embrace in terms of levity and relatability. Excellent post and I'm sharing with our staff. Keep raising the donor relations bar for us. -Becky

    ReplyDelete
  7. First off, kudos for asking the question—it’s one that’s near and dear to my own heart.

    I’m afraid you’ve buried the lede somewhat, however. Especially because of your travels and interactions with a wide swath of the industry, why do YOU think our organizations continue to suffer from this affliction? I’m not going to allow you to get away without answering, either! 

    A few personal thoughts, in random order:

    1. The compensation and operational resource structures of our organizations don’t really reward innovation. Not that NPO staffers are motivated PRIMARILY by financial remuneration, but people need to be paid competitive wages commensurate with the benefit they bring to their organization. We also need to give our employees the resources they need to accomplish innovative tasks. I’m all for the ‘Moneyball’ approach to operations—that, to me, is just being a good steward of the resources we are entrusted with. But there are an awful lot of problems that actually can be solved in our organizations simply by throwing money at them.

    2. We value organizational tenure too much. How many times have hiring managers or committees looked at the resume of someone who has had four jobs in 15 years and dismissed them as an unsuitable candidate due to their career movement? Yes, I know that this is a relationship-based business, but rather than looking at someone’s tenure at an organization, I believe that it’s more important to assess what someone has accomplished in the time they were with an organization (i.e. the results of the relationships they’ve built), what that organization’s operating environment was like, and why the individual chose to pursue other opportunities. Many times, these are the people that would benefit stagnant organizations the most—simply because they bring a lot of outside perspective to the table. Plus, too much tenure at an organization breeds complacency. The ideal should be a nice balance of institutional perspective with new ideas—at all levels of the organizational chart.

    3. While you note that organizational leaders are generally receptive to well-reasoned ideas, what are they doing to seek them out or cultivate an internal culture that values the generation and implementation of new ideas? All too often, in my opinion, our development leadership defaults back to the old ways of doing things because it’s easier and less risky than trying to justify something new to a President (who may or may not have a big ego and may know little to nothing about fundraising) is demanding results NOW. That’s certainly an ironic paradox, given the value we tend to place on organizational tenure described above.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your second point, Josh. I've been hearing for the last several years that the average tenure for a Development Director is 18 to 24 months with one organization. (I haven't researched this lately, but suspect it is still valid given my personal experience and that of friends in the industry.) So why are we surprised when applicants have changed positions "frequently?" I agree with you 100 percent--what were their accomplishments? That seems a much better predictor of performance than length of service.

      I think higher ed is particularly guilty of this. Perhaps it makes sense given the academic career path, but let's be honest, outside of tenured professors, few people are going to stay at one organization for 20-30 years in this day and age.

      Delete
  8. Dang it - I meant Lynne. #donorrelationsfail

    ReplyDelete
  9. Also--sorry for all the deleted posts. I just upgraded to Windows 365 yesterday, and I seem to be experiencing some technical difficulties!

    ReplyDelete
  10. This post makes me truly thankful to be working for an organization that is investing in new positions and focusing on new ways of doing donor relations better. That said, how do you convince other siloed departments on campus to join you in this exciting endeavor when they are most comfortable doing things the way they have always done them? Showing them our ideas and even successes has not yet primed the pump enough for them to embrace change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't agree with you more Tad.

      Delete
    2. The key is that the priming of the pump can't always come from us, sometimes it has to come from the donors themselves and our volunteers.

      Delete
  11. Yes! It can be quite discouraging though to try to implement many of the new things I read about in this very blog. At first ideas are "welcomed" but when it comes down to actual implementation, new processes are quickly pushed aside to revert back to the old and familiar ways. And for us, it is not that these old ways are necessarily successful but they can be relied upon to bring through the minimal results we have come to expect of them over the years. Leadership is under the assumption that because we have large a donor base that is in their 60's, that we need to continue to tailor to them in what is truly outdated ways and which doesn't do much to foster our younger base of donors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Show your leadership the data! Demonstrate to them that 60 is the new 40 and that just because you're old doesn't mean you're not tech savvy. Look up the new generation "silver surfers"

      Delete
  12. Thank you Lynne for your post. I was just talking to my colleague about this same topic. Our Institution is in higher education and I truly feel that we are stuck in the stone age in terms of donor recognition. Yes, sadly we still PRINT Honor Rolls and use #10 envelopes to mail appeals. We are given some room to prove ourselves with innovative ideas however, we don't receive the support that we need to continue to implement change. Without the support from our management (who lacks leadership), our hands are tied and we continue with the same boring ways. What other methods can we use to help our management team understand the need for change? Proven results and metrics aren't enough proof here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The donors and volunteers must be your evidence. Instead of you always pleading your case, have the donors who believe in you sit your leadership down and express to them what happens in the real world. This isn't a "self promotion" but I have learned that also bringing in an outsider to say what you've been screaming for years is also very very effective.

      Delete
  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete