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How to Recover & Accomplish a Turnaround

Your organization is really in trouble, and the usual planning processes aren’t enough. It happens. Maybe the mission and strategy no longer fulfill expectations, your cash is running out, leadership can’t agree on what to do, or some combination of these. One thing is for sure: you literally need to turn things around.

Turnarounds reverse downward spirals. These projects are complex and data-driven, and call for difficult decisions. They may require restructuring, finding a stronger competitive position, a change in leadership or program and/or budget cuts. A turnaround requires strong individual leadership as well as a leadership team that can function well together, and fast.

Seek an Experienced Turnaround Leader

The significance of experience in a turnaround leader cannot be overstated. Whether you opt for an interim executive director, a consultant, or a new permanent executive director, it's crucial to recognize that expertise in turnarounds can be the determining factor between a seamlessly successful process and outcomes that fall disappointingly short. In the dire, albeit common, scenario where someone lacking turnaround experience takes charge, there's a risk of repeating ineffective strategies employed by the person being replaced.

In this context, transparency about the depth of the crisis becomes paramount. You must be willing to reveal the extent of the challenges faced by your organization in order to attract individuals with the relevant expertise. Without this openness, finding the right candidates becomes significantly more challenging. Experience in navigating turnarounds isn't just a valuable asset; it's the linchpin that ensures your organization's recovery and future success.

When you have an interim or newly appointed permanent executive director leading your organization, engaging a turnaround consultant becomes a powerhouse strategy. This expert can collaborate with and revamp the board of directors concurrently while the executive director focuses on repairing operational issues. The synergy between these roles creates a dynamic force, ensuring that both strategic and operational aspects of your organization are fortified for a successful turnaround.

Furthermore, if you require additional expertise, such as financial or fundraising consultancy, 501 Commons stands ready to provide comprehensive support. Our organization offers a diverse range of services to empower your nonprofit, ensuring that every facet of your operations is optimized for maximum impact and sustainable growth. Don't just seek assistance; harness the collective strength of seasoned professionals to propel your organization toward unparalleled success.

In your quest for turnaround leadership, prioritize candidates with substantial expertise in organizational change, particularly in areas like restructuring, cost reduction, and overhauling internal systems. It is vital to be transparent about your organization's existing challenges with the finalists. This openness allows for candid discussions about the candidate's suitability and interest, whether you're considering them for a permanent or interim executive position. By fostering this level of transparency and dialogue, you pave the way for a more informed and strategic hiring decision, ensuring that the chosen leader is not just qualified on paper but genuinely aligned with your organization's unique needs and aspirations.

What to Expect

With board support, the first step is to form a transitional leadership team. This transition team will partner with the turnaround consultant(s) to lead the organization through the project. The next step is a deep assessment of the situation and fundamentals of the organization. If the organization is still deemed viable, then an action plan will be put in place to address pain points. This plan will go beyond rearranging the deck chairs, so expect changes to staffing and the board. However, if the challenges are too widespread, it may be more practical to merge or shut the doors. Your turnaround consultant will walk you through it.

Engaging turnaround consultants may seem like a big expense, especially at a time when the organization is strapped for cash. But keep in mind that this is an investment to getting back on track—well worth the value in the long run.

Contributed by Jan Glick, Jan Glick & Associates

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