We’ve learned from the failings of other industries like the music industry and from big name companies who have gone under like Kodak, Howard Johnson’s, Smith Corona and Blockbuster. We don’t ignore change anymore but change is still hard.
We understand the imperative for change.
We talk about the need for change.
But when it comes to actually changing, that’s where we get stuck.
This is a universal issue, not just confined to the association industry. I’ve heard statements like this, “we are good at talking about change but not good about actually doing it” from very diverse groups of professionals including financial software developers, university presidents, fundraisers and CFO’s.
But some do change. We see the outliers in our industry who experiment, try new things, reinvent their organizations, fail and finally innovate their way to success. What did they do to actually make action happen? How do you move from just talk to real live change?
This begs yet another question. Is the goal all-important or is the process nearly as important as the goal? Organizations and leaders who focus exclusively on the goal often leave a trail of dead bodies in their wake. We can get anything done with enough cajoling, threatening and firing but is this the kind of project we want to be involved with?
So let’s assume that the change process is nearly as important as the final outcome. We want to learn along the way. We want to do this again and again, getting better each time. If we outline this kind of project, a project where maybe the team is actually stronger in the end, the process looks something like this:
Discovery: Learn what members want, what the need and how they are going to thrive in the future.
Strategy: Use the member insights to create a mission and strategies that aligns with members’ needs.
On-board: Create stories and a clear vision that explain where our members are going, why we are the ones to take them there and how we are going to do it. Share these stories early and often with staff, the board and members. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath is a great read about this.
Support and Safety: Enable teams or individuals to carry out the mission in a environment where mistakes are inevitable and where it is okay to be wrong.
Celebration: Honor and amplify hard and brave work during milestones along the way and at the end.
We are in control of more than we think. Not only can we undertake a big change project we also determine the tone of it. Start talking of change and we remember other terrible projects where everyone ran around frantically afraid the next shoe would fall on them. Instead let’s intentionally practice change in a humane way where we learn and grow and perhaps have just a little bit of fun.
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