The diagnosis must be followed by an action plan. The development of an action plan for organizational transformation must be rooted in a participatory collaborative approach, which involves transparent deliberations. All stakeholders should be given opportunities to provide their inputs, ask questions, and suggest changes. The development of an action plan should include a set of strategies to communicate the need for organizational transformation, a clear process, a comprehensive timeline, a list of measurable benchmarks, and contingency items needed to deal with the politics of transformation. Box 24.1 illustrates the generic items that should be included in an action plan.
Change is always difficult, because the change agent faces a challenge to beat the odds. Organizations that are mature tend to be very comfortable with the status quo, and are afraid of changes that may seem too radical. In fact, radical change can be frightening, because it promises the unknown compared to what is already concrete. Radical change is threatening because it may take away opportunities or privileges that are good for a few, but will not serve the effectiveness and sustainability purposes of an organization. The main challenge is that it may be difficult to find out who will be individually affected
BOX 24.1 ACTION PLAN
the most if an organizational transformation occurred for the financial sustainability of an entity and for the benefits of the clients. It turns out that it is not difficult to realize who will be affected individually the most, because these individuals will be the most resistant to change regardless of the long-term benefits that an organizational transformation can bring for the clients. The solution is not to ignore individuals with personal interests in the organization, because they play a key role and may be vital for the future success of a change process. As a matter of fact, people who have individual interests in organizations tend to have a higher level of commitment, which is essential for organizational sustainability. The solution is to identify individual interests, find areas of compromise, and develop a consensus with all internal and external stakeholders, so that the organization can engage in a transformational process as a whole. Obviously, consensus does not mean total surrender to individual interests at the expense of the strategic interests, vision, and mission of a nonprofit organization. Consensus is made with everyone who wants to make a consensus, and at least concedes something. If a stakeholder cannot concede anything for the strategic interests of a nonprofit organization, the stakeholder must go and cannot be part of any organizational transformation project. Sometimes, an organization has to separate from some of its funders, some of its leaders, and some of its key members, and then start with new energy, if this is what is needed to prevent the organization from dissolving in a manner that may significantly affect the clients.
Even with the most effective diagnosis possible and a well-designed action plan, organizational transformation does not happen until it has been implemented. The implementation is critical, because it will test the real commitment of an organization as a whole to go through a process of transformational change. The implementation phase should be based on the outcomes, benchmarks, and timetable set in the action plan. There should be a system of ongoing reporting about progress being made, challenges encountered during the implementation, and strategies adopted to overcome them. The implementation is an opportunity to provide evidence of a new or continuing culture of accountability.
Accountability is very important for organizational transformation. In addition to the action plan and implementation strategies, an organization should develop a specific calendar for accountability, specifying what information will be communicated to internal and external stakeholders, when such information will be shared, what feedback will be collected, and how such feedback will be used for continuous improvement of the organizational transformation process.