On Transparency and Change

In Cool Ideas, Facilitating Business on May 16, 2011 at 12:23 am

Over the past two years I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the re-formation of a district in Toastmasters International. Last year I served as the district governor for District 27.  This year as the Immediate Past District Governor I chaired the Alignment and Re-formation Team (ART) charged with reviewing all clubs, areas, and divisions and organize them in a way to best serve our members while forming the organizational structure of two districts.

District 27's logo during our transition year illustrated our desire to create two new districts.

District 27 had grown over the past 22 years to a point where it just made sense to divide it into two newly formed districts — a new District 27 and a brand new District 29.  Most organizations — governed by corporate by-laws  — have policies and guidelines for such restructuring.  No two organizations share the same culture or the same set of by-laws or rules.  That said, I do believe that when you discuss your plans in public and share your thoughts in multiple open forums, you’re likely to succeed and also achieve ‘buy in’ from those affected by the proposed change.

Transparency is an enabler.  When you share your intentions and include others in your plans, you’re likely to arrive at the best solution possible.  Yes, you need to have faith in the wisdom of groups.  Yes, you have to trust that most folks wake up in the morning and want to do good versus ill.  Yes, you have to do your homework and then explain your plan to all who are affected by the change. Some say that sunshine is the best disinfectant.  I say why wouldn’t you wish to act is a way that sets the example for all — particularly in an all-volunteer organization that places the member at the top of the organizational pyramid?

There are other lessons to be learned or re-learned when you’re asked to lead a change initiative.  You’ll find many books, articles, and theories on organizational change in the literature.  Should you be asked to facilitate such a re-organization, I suggest you think long and hard about transparency.  For those who believe in Kantian logic, it’s a no-brainer.  You do the right thing for the right reasons.   You allow for all points-of-view to be heard.  You post your preliminary findings and meeting minutes where all can see.  In short, you act in a way that would make your parents (and children) proud.

PS: KUDOS to all who contributed to this ART-ful work.  This was truly a team effort and you’ve passed the torch to our next generation of district leaders.


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