As Damar celebrates its 50th year, we look back on a lot of changes. It only makes sense: Simply surviving for a half century requires an organization to adapt, but an organization like Damar, which strives continually to innovate and improve, must do more than adapt. It must embrace change as a part of its mission.

Think about it: Improvement requires change. Innovation builds from a foundation of change. Growth is impossible without change. And meeting the increasingly complicated needs of the people we serve demands daily – sometimes hourly – change.

So, to say Damar has experience with change would be an understatement. Damar lives in a constant state of change, and has learned a number of lasting lessons as a result.

Our experience has taught us that change comes either as a reaction to external forces or as a product of initiatives emanating from within an organization. While one certainly prefers to drive change from within – that allows you to control the pace and depth of change –an organization must be prepared to embrace all change as a growth experience.

In our case, we are sometimes forced to react to external forces such as new government funding approaches, shifting regulations and fresh developments in the marketplace. In each case, we respond as efficiently and effectively as possible, working to grow as a result of needed adaptions, even if they were forced upon us.

On the other hand, we also have driven change – even across our industry – by advancing our own initiatives. We created new programs, such as Damar DNA, which trains businesses, attractions and other public organizations how to welcome people with developmental disabilities. We pioneered treatment methods such as the BASE program, which helps children who have been affected by abuse and neglect. We restructured our organization to increase efficiencies. We did all this and more not because we were forced to, but because we recognized need.

Regardless of the impetus, we’ve learned to seize control of change through four steps:

  1. Define the change as an opportunity.
  2. Set tangible goals.
  3. Forge a clear process for moving forward.
  4. Engage your team in the process.

While all of those steps are important, for the purposes of this post, I want to focus on the last one, offering a few quick approaches to team engagement that we have found to be effective.

    • Assert that the status quo is unacceptable. In order to get team members to embrace change, you must first help them understand why change is necessary. Show them why they must leave the past behind, and give them a taste of how the future will be better.</>
    • Let the team help to define objectives. Work with team members to define clear objectives. This will help them embrace the objectives more enthusiastically and give them more ownership in the overall change process.
    • Achieve the quick win. Identify some early and tangible successes that can help the team see progress. These wins must be practical and easily connected to the overall goal, and they must be celebrated and promoted in order to instill confidence and enthusiasm for change.
    • Train your champions. Give the most energetic and motivated members of your team the training needed to succeed in the new reality even before the new reality is in place. This will help them become champions of change and the best evangelists possible for the new reality.
    • Make communication a part of the process. Nothing succeeds without clear communication, including change. Still, too many organizations assumethat ͞everyone knows͟ what’s going on, what progress is being made, and what milestones have been achieved. Be conscious and intentional about communication. Celebrate progress in clear and definitive ways. Acknowledge setbacks along with plans for overcoming them. And engage your champions in the ongoing communication process.

By embracing these steps, we have not only managed our way through change processes, we have achieved transformational growth, even in times when change was driven by outside forces.

Many organizations struggle with change not because they have a bad change process, but, rather, because they don’t support that process with team engagement. Support your change initiatives with conscious engagement and your organization will not simply survive for 50 or more years; it will thrive and grow along the way.

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Jim Dalton

About the Author

Jim Dalton

Psy.D., HSPP, CSAYC
President and Chief Executive Officer

President and CEO Jim Dalton has long made an impact on the developmental disabilities industry. A licensed child psychologist, Dr. Dalton is highly regarded for his innovation in child behavioral health care. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Anderson University, a master’s from Spalding University and graduated first in his doctoral class in child psychology. He completed his residency at the Ohio State University.