The Recipe for Results-Driven Restructuring

Donna Dunn

Change. Do you ever get tired of hearing about and talking about change? There are all the cliché comments – you know the ones: Change is inevitable. Change is difficult. Change is happening faster than ever. Be the change you want to see in the world.

A client recently presented a typical situation for me to chew on. In response to the unending conversations about changes facing her organization, the board decided that a new structure was needed in order to be more responsive and nimble in decision-making and action. A fairly common response at many organizations. If we have the right structure we can respond faster.

We talked about how a restructure of the organization might propagate a culture of change. Committee structure, the size of the board, how staff is organized all were mentioned as contributing to a potential solution. Typical ingredients present in a restructuring conversation.

Later that day, I was mixing up a cake to share at a family event. And I was reviewing the conversation in my mind as I worked. Something connected in me as I poured the cake batter into the cupcake pan on my kitchen counter; a click of connection between our restructuring conversation and the form the family dessert was taking.

Shape changing doesn’t change the cake – the cake batter for cupcakes wasn’t going to be any different than if I’d made a layer cake or put it in a sheet pan. The same was true for my client’s organization. No matter the form we deliberated and ultimately developed, the ingredients were exactly as they started.

What can we learn from the kitchen epiphany?

Restructuring efforts succeed when all the elements (or ingredients) are evaluated and adapted for change (the new form) so that the new form creates the actual change it is intended to create. Those ingredients include leadership capacity, redefining roles and reporting, having clarity about what constitutes success.

Unlike my revelatory cupcake experience, when we’re restructuring an association to achieve a goal, we are losing valuable effort if we don’t go through the all the ingredients that makes an organization better at anticipating and responding to change. Responsiveness and nimble decision-making requires much more than changing the shape of the organization (or cake pan). All the ingredients need to be adjusted and modified to best influence substantive change.

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About the Author

Donna Dunn

Donna Dunn, CAE has more than 25 years of association leadership experience, including her role as CEO of the Association of YMCA Professionals. Donna's personal mission is to make sure people have what they need to be the best they can be.