Teri Carden

You Make Change in Your Association More Often Than You Change Your Underwear

In Work and Play on April 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm

My head is just swimming with thoughts from my time spent at Fusion Productions Digital Now.  The lineup of speakers and list of attendees was phenomenal.  It was my third year attending and as always, I came away with fresh ideas.  This year was confirmation that our organization is headed in the right direction and for the right reasons. Although this year’s conference was about “mobile,” this post comes because I realized something about change/innovation and how associations are doing it.

It’s more obvious than ever that if an organization is to stay healthy and remain in the industry, change is inevitable.  We are changing faster than ever. One quote I heard was, “If you’re not the lead dog then the scenery never changes.”  As leaders of our industries, good associations stand by this philosophy and keep the scenery changing.  According to keynote speaker, Tom Stewart, 25% of organizations will not adapt fast enough to survive, however, what are the remaining 75% doing?  Changing fast enough… what’s that mean and how?  Taking the pulse on some of the attendees at Digital Now, it is very obvious that some staffs and boards might be getting close to a point in saying we are changing things more often than we are changing our underwear.  Everyday someone has a new idea, finds a new tool, or wants to partner with a new solution.  So, change– yeah, we’re gonna do it.  And change– yeah, we’re gonna embrace it.  But one thing we need to start asking ourselves is how are we going to strategize before we implement it?  Does your organization have a change management plan or an ideology department that fields the new ideas from boards, staff or members?  Are some of us over innovating?  Associations aren’t the only ones not handling change properly.

Human Capital League recently posted about a Booze & Company survey, a survey of about 1,800 executives from industries worldwide. It reveals a remarkable lack of strategic confidence and coherence: 49% said their company had no list of strategic priorities, 43% said their strategy isn’t fundamentally differentiated from others’, nearly 2 out of 3 say their companies have “too many conflicting priorities.”

Tom Hood participated in some of the final comments on the last day and presented some of the best advice of the whole conference. It’s great to get all pumped up about the new technologies that can impact the way we do business and interact with our members, but changes must be strategic.  The strategy must be visual and then easily accessible and understandable by those involved.

In terms of technology, over the last two years our association has implemented a new AMS, established an online learning community (LMS), continued building the ever-growing member community, launched a total revamp of a member-driven CMS, (all of which are operating via SSO, I might add), took the magazine to a digital version, used video at an unprecedented capacity, gained momentum with social media and is preparing to go mobile.  Needless to say… we’re change artists.  Admittingly though and much like most associations, our changes came with hefty pain points and uncertainty of some of the next steps. The vision is there, but the steps to get there are occasionally guesses.  Don’t misinterpret me when I talk about our changes.  For the most part they have been successful, make us look better, help our members and make us more efficient. You know how hindsight is 20×20?  If we had heard this year’s sessions on change management two years ago, we may have experienced fewer frustrations along the way.

So despite the witty title, it’s not really about the number of changes that the organization endures, it’s about the how the organization changes.  The strategy has to be formulated and involve the right people with the right resources at the right time in a structured, methodical and visual way.  Does this resonate with your organization?  How does your organization implement a new idea that’s been brought to the table?

A few ideas on how to make change/innovation strategic:

  • Make a line item on the budget called Opportunity Fund that will allow for a new idea to be added without waiting on the next year’s dollars.
  • Have an ideology department where ideas can be brought and ran through an established set of innovation stages.
  • Create a visual. Share it. Revisit it.

I don’t want any holey ones (ha!), but do you have any other ideas on how associations can better manage change/innovation?

  1. Wow, great post. You captured the essence of the whole conference – coherence, connection, community. It is really about “how” and “why” more than the “what”. Thanks for sharing!


    • Thanks, Tom. You helped with inspiration in some of your thoughts on the last day. Cheers to another amazing Digital Now under our belts.

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