I love the saying, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” These days, it seems like the opportunities to “grow” are endless.
Over the past eighteen months, Community Connections has been embarking on a major transition. In 2023, we significantly expanded our case management services to children and adults with disabilities or developmental delays. In 2024, we are divesting our direct services for people with intellectual disabilities to a new nonprofit, Our Own Lives.
These changes, like many changes in life, are born of necessity. In our case, the necessity is a change in federal regulations. But also like many changes, there are great benefits. Each organization will be able to focus on specific disability programs, increasing the service to our customers. The team of Our Own Lives is particularly excited about the chance to create a new way of providing intellectual disability services, centering the voices of people with disabilities and ensuring representation of people with lived experience at all levels of the organization.
Yet change isn’t just inevitable – it’s hard. While we’ve made good progress on the project thus far, we’ve had our share of confusion, missed deadlines, unexpected tasks and communication complexities. As we build two teams from one, we face the challenge of finding the right leadership and talent to carry forth the vision we have been building and ensure that both organizations are fiscally sound.
Along the way, we’ve learned important lessons about change. Many you probably already know and practice: communicate often, leverage your change champions, create a flexible plan, gather input from a variety of stakeholders, and recognize that everyone has their own pace for accepting and acclimating to change.
A tool we’ve used frequently is accessing outside experts to help manage the project and workload. We have some incredible talent in Southwest Colorado, and the consultants we’ve used for meeting facilitation, strategic planning, communications and marketing, and organizational restructuring have been a huge blessing and support.
We’re also trying to limit the amount of change that happens at once. If there’s something that doesn’t have to happen now, it isn’t. We can limp along with the current imperfect payroll system. Our training platform is fine for now. Though it might seem easier to rip off the Band-Aid and start afresh with everything, too much change becomes unmanageable, strategically and emotionally.
Another lesson is how essential it is to work together as a team. During times of stress and change, it is even more crucial than ever that we forgive imperfections and be gracious with each other. When a team is all working hard toward the same goal, there’s no room for petty differences.
And perhaps most importantly, we keep the mission, vision and values as our guiding star. Even the smallest detail or most tedious task is a step toward our ultimate goal: improved disability services and inclusion for the people of Southwest Colorado.
I’m confident that we’ll reach the finish line with much to celebrate. Hopefully we’ve shared some tips that can help the opportunities for “growth” you face in life.
Tara Kiene is president/CEO of Community Connections Inc.