The November 6 post at this blog features JJ Harris, President of the Clay County Economic Development Corporation, as a prime example of a new-style chief executive: the Transformational Change Leader. The post describes 5 key attributes of CEOs who succeed at leading transformative change, including being “laser-focused” on very concrete change initiatives that are the polar opposite of the “Christmas list” of goals found in traditional long-range strategic planning tomes.
My book Leading Out of the Box Change (www.leadingoutoftheboxchange.com) describes a very powerful, change-focused planning logic and methodology that have been developed and successfully tested in the nonprofit sector in recent years: the “Change Investment Portfolio Process.” The Portfolio Process has proved to be a very effective tool that Transformative Change Leaders can employ in engaging their boards in shaping change initiatives. In a nutshell, the Portfolio Process, which is run parallel to, and separate from, your organization’s business-as-usual operational planning/budget development process, generates change projects that are housed in your organization’s Change Investment Portfolio until they are ready to be mainstreamed into ongoing operations – or occasionally abandoned if they’ve proved unworkable.
The Change Initiatives housed in your organization’s Change Investment Portfolio are intended to address a small number of issues – think of them as “change challenges” – that your organization is facing, in the form of opportunities to grow – in terms of program and service diversification, revenue generation, or customers/clients – and challenges and threats to your organization’s future stability and growth. By far the most challenging aspect of the Portfolio Process is to select the “right” issues to address: the ones that are so high-stakes and so complex that you could not reasonably expect them to be handled effectively through the parallel, business-as-usual operational planning/budget development process. Never forget that your annual operational planning/budget development process is a very effective vehicle for dealing with the great majority of issues your organization is facing at any particular time, but there will always be issues you wouldn’t want to trust to mainstream planning.
Each of the Change Initiatives being managed in your Change Investment Portfolio at any particular time will have its own time frame, which is why arbitrary long-range planning cycles such as three or five years make no sense where serious change is concerned. For example, let’s say that your economic development corporation is handling three Change Initiatives in its Change Portfolio right now: ((1) developing and pilot testing a new entrepreneurial training program (18 months); (2) re-designing its governance structures and processes, including the board of directors (24 months); and (3) building a partnership with the local community college (30 months). The Portfolio Process is by design highly selective for the simple reason that your organization’s resources – in staff time, money, and technical capability – are limited. The Portfolio Process is at the opposite pole from “supermarket planning” lists of ten, fifteen, or more goals. In my years in the change business, I’ve never seen a public or nonprofit organization effectively manage more than three to five Change Initiatives concurrently at any given time. Of course, as Change Initiatives are implemented, they drop out of the Portfolio and are integrated into your organization’s operating plan and budget, and new Change Initiatives are regularly added to the Portfolio.