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Club Turnaround: A Formula for Managing Change

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things” Niccolo Machiavelli.

Well, the last days of the season are upon us again and it’s a good time to take stock and get a feeling for where the club is now.

Many of you are in the thick of it with Club Survival and Turnaround projects on-going and this will be a worrying time for you as the obvious income diminishes now that the green is closing for winter and the members are heading off to their indoor clubs or other winter activities.

Trying to turn a club around isn’t easy, but it can be made a whole lot easier if you understand what is going on behind the scenes.

I know it can seem a bit like herding cats at times trying to get support and consensus, but there are distinct and identifiable components to the process of organisational change and if you know what they are and how they work together, life becomes a whole lot easier.

The implementation of change in well established organisations and clubs, even “at risk” clubs is a seemingly impossible task. Well meaning members might start a project only to be shot down in flames at every step along the way. Who can blame someone for giving up when faced with this kind of inactivity?

However, if you arm yourself with a bit of insider knowledge about the change process, it’s amazing what can be achieved. Simply by understanding a little more about what’s going on beneath the surface you can adapt your project to suit the requirements of your own situation.

There are 3 main factors at play in my experience and I have a formula I use for managing the process of change as follows:

D (Dissatisfaction) x V (Vision) x P (Plan) = Change potential

In this respect Dissatisfaction is actually a positive force; i.e. the more dissatisfied the staff, management and members are with the current situation, the better- This is the ‘Why’ or the motivational factor in our formula. Few people like change, but we fear and dislike change that is imposed on us more than any other kind of change. In most cases the level of dissatisfaction needed to support significant change efforts must be quite high. Clubs do not take on change unless there is a very strong reason to do so. That reason may be competitors becoming threats to your club, member levels dropping or any number of painful issues.

If there are only a few people feeling the pain (e.g. committee or management), the change will be difficult to implement unless the people (e.g. staff, members) who actually have to make the change feel the discomfort strongly. In this case it may be necessary to raise the level of discomfort by explaining the harsh business realities to these people before they see the need and choose to support the change process.

If the ‘Dissatisfaction’ in the formula is missing or insufficient it doesn’t matter how excellent the ‘Vision’ or ‘Plan’ are; the project will fail.

Vision – The ‘Dissatisfaction’ above pushes the individuals to change but does not provide a direction. They know that they are not happy but don’t know how to make it better. The ‘Vision’ pulls the individuals towards change by providing a direction for change. The Vision is the ‘What’ factor of the formula. This vision is how you would like the club to be in the future. It should represent something that people really would like to be a part of and want to make happen. The contrast between the way things are now and the way they could be after the change is in place can generate enthusiasm to replace the fear and dissatisfaction. Without this clear sense of direction and an attractive future to begin working towards, any change effort will be greatly hampered. People who do not know where they are going, in their confusion will become another resistive force that must be dealt with.

Club alignment to a common purpose and vision is a very powerful force. Misalignment is a sure-fire way to fail. The investment of time and effort in developing a clear and comprehensive vision will certainly pay off. If the vision is not clear, situations will occur where people will have different understandings of the goals and aspirations that will clash or compete destructively, wasting precious resources, time and energy.

Plan – This is the ‘How’ factor of the formula. A high level project plan with the major activities, actions and benefits can help increase the motivation to change. People often underestimate what it will take to bring the club from its current state to the desired future state. It is common to misjudge the amount of time, barriers, money, effort, training, communication and planning needed.

The three variables above must form a believable package that is supported by credible leadership. A vision and a plan without resources is just a fantasy. If the change formula stalls, the chances are one or more of the variables in this formula is the problem: its either D, V or P.

It would be good to hear of your experiences with this, please comment below.

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