We are living in unprecedented, peculiar times – times of uncertainty, untold anxieties and change. Change is everywhere. Change happens all the time. Some have said, the only constant is change. Everyone, all organizations, all countries are experiencing the effects of change. External and internal factors exert pressure on the individuals and organization to change. As we have encountered this Global Pandemic called COVID-19 or Coronavirus, I can say without a doubt, “we’ve never done it this way before!” A year ago, or even 6 months ago, none of us would have guessed that a significant portion of the world would be on “stay at home” orders. Schools, businesses, churches and various organizations have adapted through starting new and cutting-edge ways to survive. Online learning has become the norm, Zoom meetings are the new buss words, and churches are contending with holding online worship services. Change is upon us. To remain viable, schools, churches and other organizations must adapt to remain viable, and must stay ahead of the curve in their response to anticipated changes.
Determine of an Organization’s Readiness to Accept Change
Like the impact of Covid-19, various external and internal factors can destroy an organization unless the organization is ready and willing to embrace change. Some external factors which negatively affect organizations are pandemics, competitive business environment, political environment, the economic environment, business laws and regulations, cultural shifts, changing customer preferences, and technological advancements. Some internal factors which cause organizations to change are employee illnesses, employee demands, cost of doing business, wages and salaries increases, organizational culture and structure, lack of vision and strategic planning, the need for growth and development. To prepare for change, organizations and churches must restructure and reinvent themselves to avoid decline (Wischnevsky, 2004).
Competitive Business Environment
The organization’s competitors might outperform the organization, claiming a larger market share. The organization’s market share losses have a direct negative impact on profitability. The organization must adjust the sails or be swept away into oblivion. Without the adjustment to change, the dire situation continues. Change of the business plan, pricing structures, or the introduction of new, competitive products helps the organization regain its competitive advantage. In an organization like The Salvation Army, restructuring of the all the internal structures will ensure the organization’s viability.
Organizations struggle to survive in harsh, hostile political environments. Government laws and regulations like higher taxes cut into the organization’s profitability. Some government laws dictate price points or restrict the harvesting of raw materials in certain areas. When faced with a changing political landscape, the organizational leadership must change its strategy, raise prices, or move the organization to other business friendly climates. During this pandemic, we have heard much from local and national politicians. It remains to be seen how much of the political discourse will impact The Salvation Army positively.
Most societies these days experience demographic and cultural shifts. Cultural changes mean cultural shifts in preferences of certain goods, products and services. Organizational leadership must study and understand demographic shifts so as to supply products the customers want. For example, restaurants and grocery stores in areas experiencing an influx of Hispanic families must adjust their menus to reflect Hispanic meal choices. Failure to adjust to the customers’ preference could lead to the demise of the businesses. In The Salvation Army, we are stronger and richer for having embraced the demographic changes which have influenced our worship styles, language in worship, and general organizational culture.
The Covid-19 social distancing rules have made it necessary to conduct daily business online. As I mentioned earlier, online learning, Zoom meetings and live streaming of worship services have become the norm. Kudos to our society for the prompt adaptation to technology. I don’t know how long the pandemic and the restrictions will last, but all organizations contend with ever-changing technological innovations and gadgets, or they face extinction. Computers, social media, smartphones, and the internet have tremendously changed the business landscape, and they continue to do so. The Salvation Army, too, must embrace and morph together with these technological advances lest they stay in the stone age.
Vision and Strategy
Setting of a new vision and strategy prompts changes within the organization. The organizational leadership could set a vision and strategy encompassing an internal structural adjustment to increase productivity and improve efficiency (Wischnevsky, 2004). When this is all over, will we return to our old, normal ways? I hope we choose to continue on this path. Let us make online Live Streaming of Sunday Services the new street corner open air meeting. Let us have a strategy which discards or rather, add on to the victories of yester year by creating a compelling, bold vision for the future. A future which is at home with technology. A future where churches, schools, businesses all embrace and utilize technology to advance their mission.
Buy in from critical stakeholders
To determine if the organization is structurally ready to support change, the leadership must solicit and establish buy in and support from critical stakeholders. Stakeholders are any groups or individuals who have an interest in the organization. Lack of support from critical stakeholders leads to a disastrous change effort. Critical stakeholders are the influencers and decision-makers. Their support mobilizes the doubters and critics. The Salvation Army leadership, at all levels, will have to engage all stakeholders for an ambitious, technological change.
Trained and effective communicators and strong message
Successful change efforts rely on clear, effective communication of the need for change. Communication is key. To determine if the organization is structurally ready to support change, the leadership must establish the existence of an effective change communication strategy.
Financial and other resources
Change costs money. A new budget item line supporting change must be added onto the budget. Organizations must put their money where their mouth is. A belief in change is evidenced by financial support rendered.
In an ever-changing environment, stagnant organizations risk extinction. In a fast-changing, Covid-19 ravaged society, change must happen promptly and decidedly. To remain relevant, viable, and profitable, organizations must continuously reinvent themselves, adjusting their sails to the vibrant winds of change. We are living in unprecedented, peculiar times – times of uncertainty, untold anxieties and change. Change is everywhere. Yet, the bold, the adaptive will survive and thrive. My prayer is that our Salvation Army, which was here 155 years ago, will be here for another 155 years as it changes and adjusts to the winds of change.
Curado, C. (2006). Organisational learning and organisational design. The Learning Organization, 13(1),25-48.
Wischnevsky, J. D. (2004). Change as the winds change: The impact of organizational transformation on firm survival in a shifting environment. Organizational Analysis, 12(4), 361–377