by Mary Peterson, Heartbeat Housing Specialist
When studying organizational development, you learn that the shift between stages is a very challenging season. Moving from founding and early decision making into a stage of sustaining and stability demands different skills and leadership strategies. Below are a few thoughts on things you can do to help ease that transition.
- Get things written down.
Capture big decisions on paper—board policies, staff approaches, programmatic structures. Even if it is as simple as having a place to capture notes, when it is time to draft something like a board orientation or staff handbook, starting with a bunch of notes is a much easier starting place than a blank sheet of paper.
- Create systems.
You may know how to generate payroll or the staffing schedule or handle an intake interview. But, often that is all "in your head." Think of forms, checklists, habits, communication tools, and things like them as ways to build a training program that can transfer knowledge and responsibility to other people.
- Take time for the big picture.
Trainings, retreats, and other opportunities allow you to step back from the day-to-day tasks and think about your work in a new way. It also gives you an opportunity to re-engerize during challenging seasons.
- Make room for planning work.
When it feels like you are just putting out fires all the time, taking time to think about the long-term can feel like a huge burden. But, having segments of time to think deeply allows you do infrastructure building work and create strong foundations.
- Invest in staff.
Cross-train your staff. Send staff to trainings. Take time for supervision meetings. Delegate to them. By developing leadership in your staff members, you help secure the stability of the organization and can spark an impact that reaches far beyond your organization.
- Put some money into savings.
During difficult seasons, having a small savings account might be necessary to weather the storm. Make a habit of saving, even if it is a small amount.
- Stay nimble.
Predictability, structures, and plans are great for sustainability. But, change happens all the time—staff members change, laws change, financial realities change. Create an organizational culture that doesn't panic when it has to adapt.
- Build traditions and tell your story.
Organizations can create a rich identity by taking time to celebrate key moments via traditions. Create opportunities to reflect on organizational experiences and memories.
- Talk and pray about the future.
The future includes the staff who will follow, programs that will change, and volunteers and donors who will be called to the work. Set a tone and expectation that a bright future exists that involves new people and new ideas.
- Build an organizational identity that isn't dependent on one person.
Anchor people to the mission of the organization, not to a charismatic personality. Having key supporters in relationship with multiple people eases the burden on the leader and maintains continuity when transitions happen.