Freeman Blog

Don't Be A Boiling Frog!

Posted by Mark Freeman
Mark Freeman
Mark Freeman & Associates was established by Mark Freeman to bring together a number of trusted associates who...
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on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 in Freeman Blog

If you put a frog in boiling water it will jump out pretty fast, however if you put a frog into cold water which slowly comes to the boil he remains in the pot, oblivious to the fact he is coming to an end!

How often have you heard the expression "People don't like change"?  Too many times? It seems to be the mantra in the charity sector. Many charities remain firmly rooted in the past, proud of their heritage and way of doing things.

However, making change isn’t about removing the good elements of an organisation; it’s about improving it and moving the organisation forward to meet the challenges of the changing environment we find ourselves in. Link Change & Interim Management

If you read last week’s blog you will have noted Mark Freeman throwing rather a lot of numbers around (well he is an accountant, he likes numbers!).  Government or organisations sometimes feel they need to throw money at something because it needs to change - and change in a big way.

The reason that charities, and indeed in my experience private companies, get to the point where they need external help is usually rooted in complacency – which, in a constantly changing social, political, economical and technical world is a recipe for trouble!

Complacency can turn good organisations into bad ones. Business schools often cite the example of Marks & Spencer - the dominant high street - retailer losing market share because their senior executives and board felt they were doing everything right. No need to change. But, the customers’ attitudes and preferences were changing, and M&S remained in the pot slowly coming to the boil. 

Strategies, technology, policies and procedures that worked well during one period do not necessarily remain the correct route map forever. More staggeringly these organisations often do see trouble brewing and don’t act until things are desperate.

One of my theories is that lack of action (when clearly action is needed) stems from fear - fear of the risks associated with change, the hard work, and the tough decisions that accompany a change programme. 

It is not for the faint hearted, particularly when things have been left to fester for too long. A lot then needs to be changed and if you have read John Kotter, a change management and leadership guru, the first principle is that you have to “establish a sense of urgency” into the process otherwise it is doomed to fail.

Another theory is that people are too lazy. Yes, any change programme involves a lot of hard work, particularly if no change or improvement has been made over a considerable amount of time.  It requires energy, engagement and a willingness to dive in and get on with the job.

So, here are two final thoughts:

Firstly, if your organisation is in desperate need of change, throwing money at it is not necessarily the answer. Stand back, assess your situation, revise your vision and build a plan to start removing what does not work. Introduce innovation and quick-wins to help others see that the change is positive.

Secondly, once you have completed your change programme, remember that if you build change into your organisation in an evolutionary way, you won’t find yourself in a pot of slowly boiling water!

Article by Valerie Austin MBA


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Mark Freeman & Associates was established by Mark Freeman to bring together a number of trusted associates who could offer charities sound professional and practical advice for trustees and senior management.

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