Pace of change: how far, how fast?

Pressures for change abound in the association landscape – technology, social innovation, business models, and relationships with members are all in flux. But how do we approach change within our own organizations?

When is it time for a patient, slow approach to change within your association – and when do you have to move at breakneck speed? Can you sequence changes, or do you have to move on multiple fronts at once?

How will you know? What are the risks?

And what situation are you personally best matched with, as a leader? Can you really handle this? (Do you have a choice?)

Here are some questions to ask to understand how to pace change – and yourself. (See below for details about a session to talk about this with others who’ve been there…)

To ask about the situation…

  • Can you really make the case for change – is the platform really burning? (Ablaze, or slowly smoldering?) Does everyone know about the issue?
  • How do you know if big fast change is the right way to go – or not? Is there a slower, more conservative alternative – or will choosing that option create other problems?
  • Do the changes have to happen in a particular sequence? Are there dependencies? Where are the big bangs going to happen? (Organize your timeline around those.)
  • Can you bring the right people on board?  If you can’t do that, can you work around them? Do you need new people – or alliances?
  • What are the risks of change? Can you minimize any of them? What will you do if they come true? Is there a Plan B?

To ask about yourself…

  • Do you have the capabilities to do this? (If not, what should you do about that?)
  • What support will you need, and where will you get it?
  • Do you want to sign up for this? Is this how you want to spend the next few years of your career? (And if not, again, what should you do about that?)

If you’d like to talk more about this, please consider attending the Engaging Associations Forum in Ottawa, July 23-24. Click here for information and registration. There will be a panel discussion on this very topic – the panelists are Mary Ann Rangam, the Executive Director of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, and Alison Dantas, the CEO of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, and I’ll be moderating.

And if you’d like to talk about how we can help you with your own strategic change efforts, please get in touch.

Photo of Tara Simoncic conducting. Photograph: The Patriot-News, Public domain.

Contact us at or call 416-737-3935 to discuss how we might be able to help.


We offer resources to help leaders of associations and other not-for-profits think about their approach to strategy and governance, from various perspectives.