Discontinuing is the flip side of innovating. To be able to innovate you need to know how to correctly stop doing something you’ve been doing. Do you need to discontinue an older benefit whose life-span has run the course? Or a non-dues revenue generator that never generated the revenue you hoped for? Or a project that is causes more trouble than it provides value? Gracefully deleting these items from the list will help you will free up resources to innovate.
One company I worked for called this practice SKU rationalization. Every 6 months I would sit down with a list of the hundreds of products in my line. If a product fell below a threshold revenue level, if point of sale purchase was soft, and if it wasn’t worth reviving I would slate it for discontinuation. This new list of discontinued products kicked nearly every department in the company into action. Sales was alerted to talk the matter over with retailers and to plan a run out strategy. Supply chain, purchasing and manufacturing got together to figure when and how much more to make. Knowing the 800-line would get calls I headed down there to explain what we were doing and why. Since we covered all the bases there was very little backlash from consumers or customers. We figured out how to stop making the products that didn’t matter any longer….
There are three things you can do to make discontinuing a benefit go smoothly.
Keep staff busy working on important new offerings. Some of your staff won’t agree that a benefit should be discontinued. Even though the benefit may be outdated or underperforming they consider it important, or it is their baby or they are not sure how important their job will be without it. How do you handle a loss like this? Give them something more important to develop and steward. Communicate clearly and often about the new changes and why the association needs to do them both for the members and for the staff. Try to help the staff get excited about the new opportunities ahead.
Communicate often and thoughtfully. Like staff some members won’t be happy about the change either. Before the benefit it gone communicate the upcoming changes. Give them a chance to use the benefit as much as they want. This gives you a chance to gauge how much interest there really is. If there is not much interest from members, continue with your plan to discontinue. If there is suddenly a huge amount of interest perhaps the benefit needs to be revised or updated in some way. Through the months, then weeks, then days leading up to the actual discontinuation keep communicating with members so no one is surprised. Tell members that in order to bring them benefits and programs that meet their current needs the association has to stop doing some of the things that are not as important anymore.
Be willing to make it up to your members. Even if the discontinuation of a member benefit doesn’t matter to most members there may be a handful of members that will be upset because the benefit was important to them. Before you start communicating the change think of all the possible ways you can build good will with these members. If it doesn’t cost the association anything can you extend the benefit to them for a limited time? Can you offer them something else or give them a discount to help make up for the loss? Find out what the problem is that they are trying to solve with that particular benefit and help them solve the problem another way.
In order to effectively take on new innovation projects your organization has to be able to free up resources. Low performing benefits, products and services can suck up staff time and money. Most times your members will be fine with you discontinuing these underperforming benefits but they will deeply care how you go about doing it.
- 5 Components of a culture of innovation
- Why innovation is a craft and what it means for associations
- 3 Myths of association innovation