Arthritis Foundation

The Problem

The National Arthritis Foundation is an organization that offers a great example of how to initiate change that will ultimately lead to major transformation.  Through a well-conceived, and executed process the organization's leadership launched a complete reorganization of its governance structure in 2005. 
The National Arthritis Foundation Change Management Case StudyThe Foundation initiated the change process by convening a Blue Ribbon Taskforce which first assessed the current organization, defined the desired vision and outcomes for a new structure and engaged in research regarding best practices from respected not for profit organizations in the voluntary health sector. Based on this research, the Board next convened a team of approximately 100 respected leaders, representing every chapter across the country, to help define and design the new governance structure. 
The Foundation invited Ki ThoughtBridge to facilitate training and coaching for this national design team to equip the team with the skills necessary to lead large-scale change.  Our work focused on providing tools and processes to help the design team negotiate and reach consensus regarding the intricate details of the proposed reorganization.

The Process 

As a first step in working with the design team, Ki ThoughtBridge conducted diagnostic interviews with team leaders to better understand their history with the organization, the challenges or barriers they anticipated to the success of their individual teams and the challenges of coordinating efforts across teams. We also assisted the team leaders to define their vision of success for the overall reorganization.  
With this data we worked with the national leadership team to develop a two-day training for all of the design team leaders and members which focused on developing skills and enhancing capacities in the following areas:  

  • Building common understanding of the challenges and opportunities 
  • Joint problem solving, constructing critical conversations 
  • Conflict resolution 
  • Building trust  

Ki ThoughtBridge then followed-up by providing individual support for key committee leaders, facilitation of successive large team meetings, and coaching the national leaders as the reorganization unfolded over the next 14 months.
The Foundation has described our work as pivotal in the progress they have made to date. With a common set of tools and language operating across the national organization, the Foundation has been able to direct its leadership toward joint problem solving and elegant negotiations on critical issues.   As with any major change initiative there have been multiple critical negotiations to reach a new consensus regarding structure.

The Results

The national board unanimously adopted the recommendations of the design team.  With the tools provided by Ki ThoughtBridge the design team was able to complete its work and helped define a new culture for implementing the reorganization.  
Most importantly, the critical ongoing work of serving the Arthritis Foundation's constituents—46 million Americans who suffer from arthritis-- has not been overshadowed by the reorganization efforts. Research, programs and fundraising have stayed on track as the leadership teams have defined the best course for the long-term viability of the organization.
In a recent conversation with Ki ThoughtBridge, Roberta Byrum, Chief Operating Officer of the Foundation reported that:

“The work that Ki ThoughtBridge did with us has had a lasting impact on our organization. As we move forward in 2008 with organizational transformation, the 100+ leaders who served on Design Teams continue to refer to the negotiation and conflict resolution tools that were introduced by Ki ThoughtBridge."   
We believe The Arthritis Foundation has model beautifully the formula for cultural transformation, which Edgar Schein, of MIT has defined as a result of his important research:

  • First, create a clear vision of the culture you want to evoke and a process for communicating this vision across the organization; 
  • Develop a clear strategy and plan for achieving the vision and define who will do what, by when, for how long and for what results; 
  • Equip leaders, managers and staff with the skills and tools needed to implement the strategy; 
  • Provide support and reinforcement for new behaviors and hold leaders and staff accountable for results; and 
  • When the good results of the new behaviors are experienced, reinforce those outcomes to support the evolution of the new culture.

At the conclusion of his book Leading Change, author John Kotter states that “…those people at the top of enterprises today who encourage others to leap into the future, who help them overcome natural fears and who thus expand the leadership capacity in their organizations – these people provide a profoundly important service for the entire human community."  Indeed, the efforts the Arthritis Foundation has enabled them to leap into the future.