How to change your Club, Centre or Department...
8 April 2015

How to change your Club, Centre or Department...

"The only person who likes change is baby with a wet nappy"

"The only person who likes change is baby with a wet nappy"

The following article is from the Sports Marketing Network which is currently working with a number of organisations in the sport and active leisure sector, helping them change and respond to constantly evolving environment.
If you want to learn more about how they can support you, get in touch for an informal chat with Svend Elkjaer on 01423 326 660 or email [email protected].

Change ain't easy. Whether you're considering a small change to one or two processes, or a change across your club, centre or department, it's common to feel uneasy and intimidated by the scale of the challenge.

You know that the change needs to happen, but you don't really know how to go about delivering it. Where do you start? Whom do you involve? How do you see it through to the end? How do you overcome the resistance from those vociferous proponents of 'the way we do things around here'? A couple of brief stories:

  • Last night I was going through the last three years accounts of a multi-sports club. The steady decline was obvious. Bar takings down by 11%, profit margin down from 52% to 48%, collection of fees and subs becoming haphazard, etc. Just one small new initiative over three years. This club is now beginning to struggle, as a place for sport and for social activities and as an enterprise. Somehow, the decline seems terminal. How did that happen?

  • I was talking to the manager of a struggling local authority leisure centre. He has worked there for 20+ years and somehow managed to get to the top. Anybody who comes into that centre can tell in a second that it is under performing (and the numbers confirm that). It is unwelcoming, the staff is de-motivated and there certainly is no vibrancy. I asked the manager: "if you could make any changes you wanted what he would change at the centre?" He looked around, thought for a second and answered: "Nothing." How did that happen?

Here are some steps that might be useful for you when want to start making changes:

Step One: Create urgency

For change to happen, it helps if the whole club, centre or department wants it. Develop a sense of urgency around the need for change. This may help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving. This isn't simply a matter of showing people membership statistics or talking about increased competition. Open an honest and convincing dialogue about what's happening in your community and within your club/centre. If many people start talking about the change you propose, the urgency can build and feed on itself. You really need to work hard on Step One, and spend significant time and energy building urgency, before moving onto the next steps. Don't panic and jump in too fast because you don't want to risk further short-term losses.

Step Two: Form a powerful group

Convince people that change is necessary. This often takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organisation. Managing change isn't enough - you have to lead it. You can find effective change leaders throughout your club/centre - they don't necessarily follow the traditional hierarchy. To lead change, you need to bring together a team of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources. Once formed, your "change coalition" needs to work as a team, continuing to build urgency and momentum around the need for change.

  • Identify the true leaders in your club/centre

  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these key people

  • Work on team building within your change coalition

  • Check your team for weak areas, and ensure that you have a good mix of people from across the club/centre

Step Three: Create a vision for change

When you first start thinking about change, there will probably be many great ideas and solutions floating around. Link these concepts to an overall vision that people can grasp easily and remember. A clear vision can help everyone understand why you're asking them to do something. When people see for themselves what you're trying to achieve, then the directives they're given tend to make more sense.

  • Determine the values that are central to the change

  • Develop a summary (one or two sentences) that captures what you "see" as the future of your organization

  • Create a strategy to execute that vision

  • Ensure that your change coalition can describe the vision in five minutes or less

Step Four: Communicate the Vision

What you do with your vision after you create it will determine your success. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the club/centre, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do. Don't just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. Use the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. When you keep it fresh on everyone's minds, they'll remember it and respond to it. It's also important to "walk the talk." What you do is far more important - and believable - than what you say.

  • Talk often about your change vision

  • Openly and honestly address peoples' concerns and anxieties Apply your vision to all aspects of operations - from training to performance reviews

Step Five: Remove obstacles

If you follow these steps and reach this point in the change process, you've been talking about your vision and building buy-in from all across. Hopefully, your colleagues want to get busy and achieve the benefits that you've been promoting. Put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.

Dealing with the Victor Meldrews

There will always be people who will resist change. Do what you can to convince them why change is needed, but you withe I also have to be realistic and accept that the people who "have been here for 28 years and see no reason for all this new stuff," will have to be side-lined, sad as that may be. You can't win them all.

Step Six: Create short-term wins

Nothing motivates more than success. Give your club/centre a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short time frame, you'll want to have results that your colleagues can see. Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress. Create short-term targets - not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each "win" that you produce can further motivate the entire staff.

  • Look for sure-fire projects that you can implement without help from any strong critics of the change

  • Don't choose early targets that are expensive. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project

  • Reward the people who help you meet the targets

Key Points:

You have to work hard to change your club/centre successfully. When you plan carefully and build the proper foundation, implementing change can be much easier, and you'll improve the chances of success. If you're too impatient, and if you expect too many results too soon, your plans for change are more likely to fail.

Create a sense of urgency, bring on board powerful change leaders, build a vision and effectively communicate it, remove obstacles, create quick wins, and build on your momentum. If you do these things, you can help make the change part of your organisational culture. That's when you can declare a true victory; then sit back and enjoy the change that you envisioned so long ago.

"Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right" Henry Ford