Success Story: Minnesota JCCs Combine with Support from TCP

By Michael Waldman

THE CLIENT’S PERSPECTIVE:

When we started working with The Consolution Project, we were “working on combining two organizations with almost identical missions and operating models, but significantly different organizational cultures.

Consolution gave us a toolbox and process to help our executive leadership come together as a team, recognize one another’s strengths and assets, and have meaningful conversations about challenges and issues.

In the middle of this process, the C-19 pandemic emerged. The established Consolution process was instrumental in helping our team move through the rapidly changing landscape with a seismic impact on both organizations. Using our method and tools helped us quickly find short-cuts and solutions to massive issues that could have been debilitating and potentially catastrophic to the combined effort and the organization’s long-term sustainability. Consolution gave us common language to talk about really difficult decisions in a way that de-escalated emotional reactions and pushed forward the best ideas.”

Michael Waldman, Chief Executive Officer, St. Paul and Sabes JCCs

THE COACH’S PERSPECTIVE:

Two Jewish Community Centers—the St. Paul JCC (established in 1930) and the Sabes JCC in Minneapolis (established in 1959)—have served Minnesota for most of the 20th century. Both organizations exist to strengthen Jewish values and culture within their communities.

But what would happen if these two independent organizations combined? At some point, wise board members and community leaders explored the potential of a single JCC that could grow alongside the needs of an ever-evolving community. While combining the two JCCs offers significant community benefits, the standard merger risks still apply.

Both organizations’ leadership teams had to be mindful not to overestimate synergies, underestimate integration efforts, or ignore different cultural dynamics.

Enter The Consolution Project. Steve Lear, TCP’s visionary and founder, recognized that the JCC leadership teams would benefit from additional tools and support as they combined into a single organization. TCP helped them to develop a thoughtful and strategic plan to ensure the JCC is still flourishing a century from now.

CHALLENGES:

  • Build a healthy, cohesive leadership team

  • Design a new organizational structure for the combined JCC

  • Develop communication and integration plans to provide an inclusive experience for employees, community members, and stakeholders

SOLUTION:

We designed a series of team offsite meetings, discussions, and work plans to address each known challenge.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Team Health. We purposely started our work focused on team health. As Patrick Lencioni says in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, “It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” We knew the JCC leadership had to be rock solid. We had to transform a group of highly competent leaders into a leadership team. Ensuring a foundation of trust was mission-critical.
  • Tools. Another governing principle is using simple—yet powerful—tools that provide structure for leadership teams. There is no magic bullet to successfully combining organizations—it takes commitment to consistently using a set of tools. These tools provide a repeatable process to clearly define priorities, accomplish key milestones, and communicate intentionally.
  • Structure. The JCC leadership team invested a significant amount of time working with a tool called the Accountability Chart. The team asked, “what is the right organizational structure for the new JCC to fulfill our mission and purpose?” This question sounds easy, but it’s one of the most difficult challenges a leadership team confronts. Why? Because it involves employees and their livelihood. Designing for the greater good of the organization impacts real people. It means facing short-term pain for long-term gain. In the end, the JCC leadership team did the hard work needed to make sure the organization can serve employees, the community, and stakeholders for years to come.

RESULTS

The Boards of Directors unanimously voted to combine the two JCCs effective January 1, 2021.

The JCC leadership team enters this new chapter equipped with a system and tools to handle emerging needs and priorities.

NEXT STEPS

In 2021, the JCC leadership team and TCP plan to:

  • Meet quarterly, allowing the leadership team time to work on the organization vs. in the organization
  • Embed more tools into JCC operations, so the entire organization is running on the same operating system
  • Craft a new vision and mission statement for the combined JCC. We’ll look into the future (perhaps ten years from now) and set key goals and milestones to guide priorities in 2021 and beyond.

Kim Vappie, Consolution Coach and Certified EOS Implementer