Transformational Leadership for Transformational Change

by Camille Cyprian

As the communities they served were experiencing disruptive changes, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation took steps to transform their organization so they could be a more effective partner. Dr. Alandra Washington, the foundation’s Vice President of Quality and Organizational Effectiveness, played a key role facilitating organizational change. Changing governance, leadership, business practices and structures, and working toward racial equity were key steps in their process. Dr. Washington was a keynote presenter at MCF’s 2019 annual conference.

1 | 
Effective Board Governance
W.K. Kellogg approached this as shifting the way the board engages with staff, building stronger relationships by being proactive, and spending a majority of the board’s convening time having strategic conversations. Dr. Washington mentioned that the board agreed to adopt the Carver Policy Governance Model. According to the model, it enables the board to focus on the larger issues, to delegate with clarity, to control management's job without meddling, and to rigorously evaluate the accomplishment of the organization; to truly lead its organization.

2 |
Building a “Daring” Executive Leadership Team
“Leadership isn’t a position, it’s a practice.” W.K. Kellogg leveraged the principles of courageous leadership, by utilizing Brene Brown’s text Dare to Lead, to articulate the type of leaders and leadership the executive team wanted to embody. They also leaned on the expertise of the Center for Creative Leadership, and as a team, completed several engagements exploring how they individually and collectively showed up as leaders. Finally, after doing the necessary work to transparently and authentically examine their own leadership, the executive team developed a shared model of leadership, described as:
1. Investing in and developing the potential of all staff;
2. Removing barriers that prevented staff from doing their best work;
3. Modeling the behavior and not being above reproach;
4. Encouraging risk taking and coaching through failure;
5. Accountability.

3 | 
Shift Business Practices and Internal Structure
Dr. Washington mentioned that during her 15-year tenure at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, there was a constant conversation regarding the breaking down of silos. She also acknowledged that until the foundation implemented an organizational model to help do that, they’d been unsuccessful. The model W.K. Kellogg used to address this organizational concern is called the Network-Based Team Model or Agile Workforce Model, which comes out of the technology and finance industries. By naming an executive leader as the Transformation Lead, and restructuring departments from job function to teams centered on projects and outcomes, they were able to reduce silos as well as provide additional level of development and leadership for staff.

4 |
Working toward Racial Equity/Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Dr. Washington cited that their work toward greater racial equity is necessary for maintaining authenticity and credibility in the communities served by the foundation. Even though the work of racial equity is ongoing, in order for this to have impact, the organization has got to do the internal work first! W.K. Kellogg looked at their internal policies, procedures, and structures that perpetuated racial inequities. They specifically looked at the community representation on the board and among staff.

This is how the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has been making transformational change. How has your foundation approached transformation?

Camille joined MCF in early 2018 as the Director of Program Strategy and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She was classically trained in ballet which serves to be useful as she balances many objectives in her role at MCF.