Monday, November 10, 2008

Transition Matters

For most of the week, since the election of Barack Obama, I have heard some stating that they do not view the world the same way anymore or that America will instantly be viewed by the world in a different light. While I do not subscribe to this point so quickly, I do see some correlations to how this relates to the addition of a new leader of an organization. I remember my stints in leading organizations and how individuals would come up to me and say, "You are going to bring great change to our organization" or I would get several needs for sit down visits for people to discuss their immediate challenges and how I could solve them with a snap of my fingers. I, for a time, was the bright, shiny coin.

Because part of what I do professionally is help organizations in time of transition and change, I can say that I have seen various angles of the shiny stage. Sometimes that time is short and sometimes it is very short. In each case, the more effective the transition the longer my shine stayed. For instance, if my introduction to staff was the only transition point, then I may only have until the end of the week until the natives started to grumble. If I met with a formal transition team and they led me through a mapped out transition, I may have had a couple of months. In all, there was a direct relation between the organization of the transition and the ease for which I was able to relate to internal and external stakeholders.

In looking at the Obama transition (all one week of it), it is apparent that there has been a very organized and thoughtful process regarding transition. A committee has been working on the effort for several months and concrete action steps are being orchestrated to a very tight tune. While it is too early to see how the effects of this effort will play out, it is easier to believe that the transition and early days of Obama's presidency will be positive because of this work. The opposite to this could be seen with some New York City agencies at the time of mayoral transition, where the interruption has caused severe mismanagement of essential city services.

While I try to stay away from telling the nonprofit sector from looking at government and business examples as best practices (some of my colleagues do too much of this), I do think that it would be an interesting exercise for us practitioners to be watching the Obama transition for clues and tools on executive transition. Now all we need is a new puppy.... hypo-allergenic of course.

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