We Are STILL Doing It That Way

Or, to quote Marshall Goldsmith: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the long-term prospects of associations recently. Will we survive the changes – technologically driven, generationally driven, ecologically driven, socio-economically driven, etc. – occurring in our global society? If so, how?

Thus it seemed like a good time to take a second look at We Have Always Done It That Way For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, a group of “Five Independent Thinkers” (whose names you probably recognize) got together in 2007 to address the pressing need for change in associations.

The Thinkers address a total of 101 issues that need to change in the ways we:

  • Think
  • Lead
  • Manage
  • Execute
  • Work Together
  • Involve Others

Five years later, what has changed?

I would hope, for one, that you’re no longer storing information like social security and credit card numbers in your association management software. I think most associations are now involved in social media at least to some degree, even if not very effectively.

But I still see a world where strategic planning and strategic thinking are conflated, where we operate in silos fighting over turf and resources, where we do a poor job of reaching out to new audiences (including the elusive “younger members”), where it still takes us too long to make decisions, and once those decisions are made, too long to act, where we never kill hoary old programs (no matter how useless they’ve become), where new ideas (because that’s what “innovation” is) get routinely shot down, where we’re still doing form-based annual reviews, where we’re unable to have honest exchanges.

I don’t think it’s just associations. But I see it here because this is where I am and have been for 15 years.

How do we pick up our heads out of plodding along doing the same old thing and making the same old mistakes every day? How do we get to the place where we’re agile enough to respond to, and even anticipate, the changes in our professional/industry environments and the larger world in such a way that our audiences (which don’t have to be narrowly confined to “members”) literally can’t make it without us, not because we have some sort of Svengali-like golden handcuffs but because we’re so in tune with what they need to be successful and we provide it so quickly and well, our associations are vital partners in those audiences’ success?

I don’t have the answers. But I’m at least willing to engage in the conversation. Join me?