Managing corporate citizenship through organizational change

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All corporate citizenship work is change management; citizenship programs are designed with the express intent of creating meaningful, positive change in our companies and communities. Citizenship professionals are adept at building the case, marshalling (sometimes scarce) resources, and imagining that there could be better education, safer neighborhoods, and a healthier environment than there is now.

So when it comes to managing through an organizational change, corporate citizenship professionals are perhaps better equipped to weather the turbulence that can accompany mergers, acquisitions, leadership changes, or other big corporate shifts than even they recognize. They’re used to adapting to new realities and have likely established a broad network in the company and the community. According to the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s State of Corporate Citizenship 2017 report, corporate citizenship is vital to the success of corporate business goals like improving risk management, developing innovative new products and services, and attracting new investors (see Figure A), so it’s crucial that citizenship professionals are involved in shaping the new business landscape.

Figure9-A (1).jpg

At the same time, organizational change introduces a level of uncertainty and anxiety that citizenship professionals must confront. Whether you’re working at the strategy level to integrate engagement philosophies or navigating more practical program logistics, such changes present challenges to even the most seasoned citizenship experts.

In their book 21st Century Corporate Citizenship: A Practical Guide to Delivering Value to Society and Your Business Center Executive Director Katherine V. Smith and Campbell Chief Sustainability Officer Dave Stangis offer tips to navigate these types of challenges—whether presented by organizational change or any other aspect of business. They advise that corporate citizenship professionals think about them in a networked way, a practice commonly referred to as “systems thinking.” There are five points you’ll need to touch, all of which link to each other:

  • Strategy: your company’s plan for competing. Make sure you can—and do regularly—communicate how corporate citizenship activity supports the goals and strategy of the company, in particular as it evolves.
  • People: getting the right group together to do the work. Do you have strong relationships that will be helpful as the company adjusts? Are there employee stories or significant impacts that demonstrate the company’s new mission or vision?
  • Structure: organizing the team. Make sure to represent all of the key groups who can contribute to your company’s success. Try to get not only those who have power, but also those who have influence to the table.
  • Processes: communicating, making decisions, accomplishing the tasks, measuring progress. Have you made clear to those you are getting involved why success is important to them?
  • Metrics and incentives: keeping people motivated to produce results. Make sure you are creating measures that support what you intend to accomplish.

These areas are visualized well in Jay R. Galbraith’s Star Model(TM) (Figure B). This illustration highlights the multiple dimensions of successful strategy implementation, and reminds us that achieving any goal—such as successfully managing organizational change—is not only about formal structures. It is about getting the right people involved, with the right incentives and processes to support the desired outcome.


Companies are constantly changing—growing, improving, changing direction, coming together, and breaking apart. If you’re already used to an environment of change, you’re in a better position to respond and thrive in the event of an organizational change. For more advice from citizenship practitioners who have gone through an organizational change, join us for our July 12 webinar to hear from Linn Parish, head of responsibility communications & public affairs at Shire and Nicole Stein, vice president of corporate responsibility and corporate communications at Umpqua Bank.

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