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The Case For Change

Working every day with associations and professional societies as I do, the subject of change is a constant refrain and the focal point of almost every conversation, and it got me thinking. There are really four categories of organizations as it relates to change.

 

WINNING
These associations and societies have changed the key aspects of their organizations based on the most important internal and external factors impacting their industry. The results are deeper member engagement, increased event attendance and a higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) among other key success factors.

 

STRIVING
This group is in the process of change, making investments, implementing key strategic decisions and challenging the status quo. They are on their way to a new future. They are honest about where they are and they are shaping a new vision to navigate the uncharted waters ahead. They are working on a plan to close the gap between today and tomorrow.

 

DENYING
This cohort is aware of the forces and factors impacting their industry, members and organization but lack the will, resources or risk tolerance needed to chart a new course. They are hoping that they can survive without the disruption that comes from significant change. They are stuck and won’t change until the pressure is so intense that there is no other option—a very dangerous and risky strategy.

 

ADRIFT
Finally – and, unfortunately, the largest group – is suffering from a slow and steady decline in the key leading indicators such as membership growth, conference attendance, attracting a new generation of younger members and flat-to-declining top-line revenue. They haven’t felt the heat nor have they seen the light enough to know how suddenly the world around them will impact their future.

 

There are, of course, variations and shades for each of these four categories, as well as other ways to determine organizational progress, growth and success. But from my vantage point, this is how I’d describe the landscape.

 

So what? Well, there are four core characteristics and insights that we can learn from that are shared by each of the organizations in the winning category:

 

1. They are brutally honest and face the facts. They use data to convince the board, the team and the members that change is necessary, and that there is a fiduciary mandate and leadership obligation to take action. They are empirical and decisive.

 

2. They get to the root cause of the problems and are committed to solving the correct and most immediate issues. Most often, there are problems related to the relevance of the core value proposition, the image and positioning of the organization’s brand, and a lack of experience within the team to solve these new and complex issues.

 

3. The associations that are succeeding align investment, performance metrics, compensation and priorities, and create “stop-doing” lists. In a word, they focus. Often they focus on reinventing their annual conference as a Trojan Horse for overall organizational change.

 

4. They have strong, decisive leaders that don’t just change because they have to – they actually love change, they aren’t afraid, and they see every failure as a step closer to success.

 

If you are part of a winning or striving organization, congratulations. If you’re part of a denying or adrift organization, now’s a good time to decide if you’re going to make the effort to win or begin to strive this year. If not, the winners are always looking for the best people.

 

Disruption is what people call the unpleasant change that someone else imposed upon them. Better to be the disruptor and not the disrupted.

 

Or, said another way…be the change you wish to see in your organization (apologies to Gandhi).