Three simple truths to strengthen your organisation for change

Thinking for Change: part three

Previous blogs in this series:

Part 1: Playing with the rules 
Part 2: Finding inspiration

If you’ve been anywhere near a business blog in the last month or so, you’ve probably seen some predictions for the year ahead. While we can’t be sure which predictions will come true, one thing is certain: change will come. When it does, how will your organisation adapt? Will it respond to chaos in “firefighting mode”, or with intention and grace?

Instead of wasting energy trying to predict change, it can be more helpful to focus on the factors that never change.

In this post, I’ll share the three areas to focus on this year – and every year – to strengthen your organisation, ready for whatever the year has in store.  

How about you? What enduring truths have helped anchor your organisation in stormy times? Let us know in the comments!


It starts, and ends, with the Mission.

Every purpose-led organisation has a mission statement. A great mission statement describes your organisation’s enduring purpose. When well expressed, it can be the catchcry that drives everyone in your organisation forward. While it’s great to have your mission written on the wall, and in your annual report, it can do so much more when embedded into all of your programs.

An impact model (otherwise known as a logic model or theory of change) can help. It’s a roadmap to describe how your organisation delivers on your mission. It specifies:

  • The specific outcomes your program/s must deliver to realise the impact you hope to achieve.
  • The activities and outputs that will create your chosen outcomes
  • The inputs or resources you will use to deliver the activities and outputs.

The Compass: Your Guide to Social Impact Measurement from the Centre for Social Impact is a great place to start learning more.

If you don’t have a logic model, think about establishing one. As organisational changes happen, you can review and adapt the model – giving you a solid roadmap to guide your decisions as things change. Mapping your annual business plan to your impact model is a practical way to make reviewing, adapting, and measuring your progress easier.

This diagram shows how the most common areas within an annual plan, relate to the different stages in a simple impact model.

People are everything.

It goes without saying that for-purpose organisations put people ahead of profit. But how well does your organisation really understand the people you serve?

If you’re involved in service delivery, it’s likely that your organisation has strong empathy for the people you serve – and has been delivering services to similar people over a long period. The danger here is getting stuck in a service orientation where your culture assumes that your experience as a provider of service means you automatically understand the perspective of the people you serve.

The shift towards market-based models in areas like Aged Care and the NDIS demands that we take a step beyond service orientation, to a market orientation. This perspective:

  • Starts from the assumption that you, as a provider, are biased – and cannot understand the customer, donor or beneficiary’s perspective
  • Looks beyond your existing customer and stakeholder relationships to understand the whole market or landscape. Including only your existing customers and stakeholders in research is like the parable of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant. If you try to guess the shape of something by feeling just one part, you might be partly right, but also wholly wrong.

Embedding a market orientation requires a cultural shift, and takes time. A good place to start is by improving your market research practices.

A good research program will investigate the needs of your customers/donors/beneficiaries, as well as provide you with a solid assessment of the context in which your organisation operates, and the core competencies you bring to the table.

Armed with accurate human insight, you’ll be better prepared to respond to the unexpected in an informed way.

Evolution before Revolution.

You can’t achieve your mission if you’re always struggling for survival. The world does change quickly, and with this comes the need to find innovative ways to adapt your business model.

While it’s exciting to think about new products and services, setting up a new model takes a lot of resources. Provided there is proven, ongoing demand for your service, if you need to improve your viability it can be better – and easier – to aim for an evolution, not revolution.  

Start by gathering a detailed understanding of the way your current systems function. Making assumptions about what’s happening isn’t helpful, but it’s often exactly where we start – getting straight to brainstorming solutions without really understanding the issues at hand. Holding off on the brainstorming until you have all your facts will save you time and generate better solutions in the long run.

First: Gather Data. If you don’t know where you’re spending time and wasting resource, start measuring! At CBB our consultants use the time tracking software Harvest to measure the outputs we generate. We know how much time is being spent with clients, and how long it takes to keep up with professional development. We can measure the inputs used to deliver different kinds of projects, which helps us give clients realistic proposals.

As well as tracking inputs and outputs, it’s important to take time to observe your activities. This will help you put the data in context so you see both the trees, and the forest. Use your observations to diagnose the barriers against, and drivers towards better performance, and prioritise which to tackle first.

Need support to evolve your services, business model or marketing? CBB’s consultants can help guide your organisation through the process from gathering data, to generating ideas, and implementing changes.

Talk to us….

Meg Drechsler
Senior Marketing Consultant
Phone: 1300 763 505