Annotated Bibliography

While this project was in large part created following extensive conversations with leaders in harm reduction we also use external publications. This annotated bibliography collects together the bulk of the resources the Ready4Change team used to inform the creation of this project.

On December 3rd and 4th, 2018 at the invitation of the Chicago Recovery Alliance (CRA) twenty-eight of the brightest lights in harm reduction came together for the Capacity Building Leadership Institutes (CBLI) for the harm reduction community. This two day meeting of harm reduction leaders provided invaluable insight on how to run harm reduction organizations. The final report summarizes these essential insights.


If you only have time to read one “listicle,” we recommend this one! In this piece, Sayana Izmailova shares the compilation of tips she created on the basis of couple years’ worth of succession planning conversations with board members across a wide range of organizational types. She very helpfully organizes the tips into a time-order, beginning with the things that you can do immediately to get your succession planning process started.

If you’re an organizational leader or manager, this article from HBR is one of the most important one you’ll read from this collection we’ve curated. The piece begins with a central finding from research on organizations: no matter how solid the strategy or excellent the structure, the culture of daily organizational life always supersedes. In the words of management guru Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Our own past 12 months’ of research on harm reduction organizational change is perfectly consistent with this proposition: even the best laid plans will be foiled, or spoiled, by flawed organizational culture. In this article, the authors review more than 100 different ways of modeling, assessing, and understanding organizational culture and its impact on operations and outcomes, whether products or services, profit or nonprofit. One unusual feature of this article is that the authors not only synthesize a massive volume of research and distill it into a comprehensive and comprehensible eight-cell typology, but they also step back and offer (a) concrete recommendations for evaluating your own organization’s culture and (b) specific steps you can take to change your culture for the better.

In this brief article, the folks at SpencerStuart argue that “an organization’s culture is defined by where it falls on two dimensions: how the organization responds to change and how it views people.” From this premise, which is backed by many different studies, they show how organizations can range from highly individualistic to highly interdependent, placing greater value either on autonomy and individual action or on collaboration.” From here, they enumerate and discuss some of the most common myths about the relationship between leadership and culture. Their framework is based on the eight cultural styles elucidated in the article from the HBR, and they use the framework to understand how an individual leader is likely to align with and shape the culture.

This is one of the many excellent succession planning resources whose development was funded in part by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In this article, the author first sets out fo “detoxify” the topic of succession planning in nonprofits so that board members, leaders, and staff can approach this vital process with less fear, concern, and anxiety. Then the author turns to the task of providing a framework for three different kinds of success planning: strategic leader development, departure-defined planning, and emergency planning. The article offers some really good tools and resources, including a readiness checklist, a step-by-step guide to departure-defined planning, and our favorite, a set of reflection questions for executive directors to consider.

In this concise and insightful article, the authors reflect on their own direct experiences of figuring out how to pass the leadership torch to a new executive director for their national children’s advocacy organization, after 22 years of stable leadership. Here they share several approaches that they believe were particularly helpful to them as they prepared the organization for transition while still running the organization day to day.

Avoid Transition Trauma with a CEO Succession Plan

Melanie Lockwood Herman and Erin Gloeckner
This article is targeted to Boards of Directors. The authors do a great job of helping BOD members integrate succession planning into their oversight of the organization’s executive director.

In this excellent and accessible article from Harvard Business Review Magazine, the author provides a thorough and carefully presented review of empirical (mostly social science) research on succession planning. The opening premise is plainly stated: Every executive director will eventually leave. The second premise, as true as the first, is that most organizations are not ready for their departure.

Informed by the existing literature on executive exit in the for-profit, public, and nonprofit sectors, this analysis identifies the key elements of succession planning with implications for nonprofit human service organizations. It focuses on self-leadership, executive-board relations, and comprehensive succession management, and concludes with the importance of aligning succession-based efforts and strategic planning.


In our view, this is one of the most comprehensive, accessible, and practical toolkits for Boards of Directors of nonprofit organizations. Although clearly targeted to BODs, this toolkit is well-suited as a resource for helping executive directors, managers, and other organizational leaders engage all staff in the process of succession planning. “Staying Engaged” provides excellent guides and tools for doing hands-on succession planning. Our strong recommendation for all harm reduction programs is to conduct the organizational self-assessment found in the first section. This will give you an idea of how prepared you are to face a transition. This assessment is accompanied by an actual action plan that lays out a full year’s worth of activities, broken into manageable pieces. Taken together, the assessment and action plan can serve as the foundation for embedding the topic of succession planning in the strategic, tactical, and ongoing everyday work of the Board of Directors.

This toolkit clearly discusses the basics of preparing for a leadership change, including advice on how to do the front-end work of planning well before a leader leaves. The case studies provided in the toolkit offer excellent insight into how successful transitions happen. Spoiler alert: Success is not about luck. The final reason we love and highly recommend this toolkit is that the author reflects, and engages in the reader in reflection, on critical issues that surround and infuse leadership work, from diversity and cultural competence to organizational size and life cycle.

This is one of the best succession planning toolkits we have found yet! It’s an easy-to-follow, practical, and comprehensive resource for board members and executive leaders alike. It’s also a terrific reference guide for staff and volunteers. This guide is intended for organizations that have no plan in place when a sudden departure happens as well as those that already have a plan but want to update it. The tools may be applied selectively and differently depending on the board’s and executive’s expertise, talent, resources and strategic plans. This toolkit includes an outline of key planning roles, readiness questions, overview of the succession-planning process, and templates for succession plans and complementary documents that organizations may tailor to fit their specific needs. It provides many links that easily direct users to related and pertinent templates and sections.

This brief yet powerful guide walks you and your organization through the process of responding to a sudden, unplanned transition in executive/leadership.

This tookit is extremely helpful for organizations that have at least a year in which to develop a plan for a leadership transition. The thoughtful, organized assessment questions will help you think through all the steps you need to take for an effective transition.

This one-page abbreviated timeline covers the most important activities for departure-defined succession planning.

This website presents the basics of succession planning, discusses different types of transitions an the consequences they have for planning, walks you through the process of laying the groundwork for your own organization’s succession plan, provides insight into best practices for building “leaderful” organizations, lays out the entire process in an easy-to-follow timeline, and offers guidance on how to make sure your succession plan does what it’s supposed to do! The site also provides templates for key leader job descriptions.

This simple organizational culture assessment questionnaire helps leadership teams assess culture. It helps them understand both what their current culture is like, and what they would like it to be like.

The Organizational Culture Assessment Questionnaire (OCAQ) is based on the work of Dr. Talcott Parsons, a sociologist at Harvard. Parsons developed a framework and theory of action in social systems. He argued that all organizations must carry out four crucial functions if they are to survive for any substantial length of time. The creators of this OCAQ have labeled these four functions (1) managing change, (2) achieving goals, (3) coordinating teamwork, and (4) building a strong culture. They have added their own fifth category: client orientation. The basic premise here is that each of the functions is supported (or, in some organizations, hampered) by the values and beliefs that are shared by the organization’s members, i.e., organizational culture. OC is a driving force behind organizational effectiveness and organizational failure. Based on the Parsons model and a vast body of prior empirical research, these scholars offer the OCAQ, a reliable and valid tool for assessing organizational culture. They even offer tips and insights into using the data about your organization to begin changing its culture for the better.

Additional Readings

When the Boss Bails—Surviving and Even Thriving after a Change in Leadership.

Adams, Tom. Stanford Social Innovation Review (Fall 2004): 54-56.

Finding Opportunity in Transition

Beilenson, John. Casey Connects (Fall 2004): 1, 4. Bridges, William. Managing Transitions. New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1991.

Daring to Lead 2006: A National Study of Nonprofit Executive Leadership

Bell, Jeanne, Richard Moyers, and Timothy Wolfred. San Francisco: CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, 2006.

Making a Leadership Change

Gilmore, Thomas North. New York: Authors Choice Press, 1988, 2003.

Planning Successful Transitions

Hall, Holly. The Chronicle of Philanthropy (January 12, 2006): 6-8, 10,13.

Generational Leadership Listening Sessions

Kunreuther, Frances, Ludovic Blain, and Kim Fellner. New York: The Building Movement Project, 2005.

Stepping Up: A Board’s Challenge in Leadership Transition

Wolfred, Timothy. Nonprofit Quarterly (Winter 2002)

For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. 

James Baldwin
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