Why Organization's Fail

Organization failure begins at the top. Rotary did not stop growing because people were not interested in joining local Rotary clubs. The number of people joining Rotary clubs proves that. It stopped growing because its leaders assumed it was in the business of supplying humanitarian services rather than in the business of creating Rotarians; they were product oriented instead of member oriented.

Red Text Note

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Rotary International - an Association Organized by and for People of Action?

Business Dictionary - Perception:  The process by which people translate sensory impressions into a coherent and unified view of the world around them.  Though necessarily based on incomplete and unverified (or unreliable) information, perception is equated with reality for most practical purposes and guides human behavior in general.

        Peter Drucker, in his book Managing in a Time of Great Change, said, "Today's perceptiveness is more important than analysis.  Organizations must be able to recognize patterns to see what is actually there rather that what they would rather see."   Rotary's brand perception is not owned by Rotary International (RI), The Rotary Foundation, the Polio Eradication initiative, or the general public.  It is owned by those who give RI revenue to operate - dues-paying Rotarians.  Rotary's brand is what local Rotarians throughout the world perceive it to be day in and day out.  In our information society, it is even more critical that RI senior and staff leaders understand why Rotarians are willing to pay the dues that enable the association to flourish. 
    Rotarians are normally people of action even before they join a club.  To help make their community better, they usually influence local conditions, practice sound leadership strategies, and/or write checks to support various initiatives.  RI's People of Action campaign signals that it realizes that the more Rotarians clubs develop, the better communities and the world will be.  This is a  positive, monumental change in philosophy and direction.  By far, its biggest challenge will be to overcome what is commonly called corporate ego; an ego that has been nurtured and passed down, particularly in legacy markets, for nearly three decades.  This will be a long process filled with obstacles.  RI and its administrative zones and districts, through their deeds, must demonstrate that attracting, developing, and supporting People of Action is its priority.  If such deeds do not happen, RI's long-term investment in People of Action videos, print advertisements, online and social media ads, radio and outdoor advertising will be wasted. 

 RI's zone and district leaders, through their newsletters, assemblies, awards, conferences, seminars, speeches, and other actions, are the prime influencers on the impressions clubs and Rotarians have of RI.  The words and deeds of these influencers must deliver the perception that they, too, are People of Action that ". . . exist solely to help clubs advance the Object of Rotary" (RI Code of Policies 17.010).  Their deeds will be more influential and lasting than thousands of words.  That is why RI must follow through with quality, professional education and support for staff, directors, coordinators, district governors, and clubs on how to manage and deliver the brand perception that Rotary International is THE Association Organized by and for People of Action.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Membership and Public Imaging are Interlocked

At the recent District 6960 Conference, past RI Vice President Mike McGovern said, quote, "Rotary - Evanston - doesn't decide what we do, you Rotarians do."  This is an excellent thought process, but not everyone in Rotary's leadership chain has it.  Not long ago, an email from Evanston announcing home page changes said, quote, "We believe these changes will more clearly show the world that Rotary is making the world a better place. . . "   So is it Rotary that is making the world a better place or is it Rotarians, utilizing attributes created and supported by Rotarians, that are making the world a better place?
    Many Rotarians may consider this nitpicking, but consistency in thought processes and communications is critical.  Without consistency, the Public Image (PI) dilemma is:  Should PI initiatives center on what Rotary (or Rotary clubs) are doing that are making the world a better place, or who the Rotarians are that are making the world a better place?
             Regardless of where RI's over 35,000 member clubs are located, existing and potential Rotarians are a niche* of the general population. Club PI initiatives, regardless of the media, should communicate to its niche* the image of who its members are - starting with its existing members. It is no secret that most people join Rotary clubs to network i.e. to meet the type of people with whom they want to associate.  Club members should have a complete understanding of how their club's culture differentiates it from other local organizations.  Then everything they do should center on projecting that image to the men and women in their communities who share similar characteristics.  Even the over 1.2 million existing Rotarians, compared to the over 7 billion people worldwide, is an extremely small niche*.  Rotary International (RI) must consistently tailor its PI messaging to the few men and women in the world who share characteristics similar to existing Rotarians.
            Creating Public Imaging that consistently appeals to and communicates, verbally and non-verbally, who Rotarians are is not an easy task and should not be undertaken by amateurs.  RI is apparently getting serious about supporting clubs in attracting and retaining members and creating productive PI initiatives.  If so, it must consider paying professionals to educate Membership and PI coordinators on how to project the images of who Rotarians are.  Amateurs can easily project "what Rotary does."  Understanding and projecting who it is that "does what Rotary does" in a quality manner that appeals to clubs' niche* markets is difficult.  RI should encourage, even subsidize the cost of, Directors and District Governors having PI professionals speak at Zone Institutes, District Governor, and President-Elect Training sessions.
            Many clubs have PI slogans that match their culture, but one that projects the culture of each of RI's over 35,000 member clubs is 






Reader, please think about how you, using your profession and/or skills in and out of the realm of Rotary, are helping to make your community better simply because you develop acquaintances and have adopted the ideal of service in your personal, business, and community life.  Then think about how each member in your club, utilizing their profession and/or skills, are also helping to make your community, and the world, better.

*In North America, Rotarians make up approximately 0.093% of the total population.  In the world, Rotarians make up approximately 0.000014% of the world's estimated population.  Even if the numbers were double, it is still a minuscule niche. To develop membership, whether by RI, districts, or individual clubs, PI must do its best to identify and penetrate the niche.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Is Rotary International's Future Bright or Dim?

Rotary International's future depends on chartered clubs successfully creating and retaining Rotarians. Some present and potential Rotary International (RI) leaders understand this reality.  Do they have the foresight and fortitude to weather necessary changes and overcome outdated corporate practices and mindsets?

If anyone studies available membership statistics, past RI presidential citations, educational materials, and public information, including the Rotarian magazine, they probably would notice something that may be more than a coincidence.  The drop in dues-paying Rotarians, particularly in mature legacy markets, appears to have begun near the time RI leaders started actively promoting diversity and prioritizing The Rotary Foundation (TRF) and polio eradication.
     So think about each element, starting with diversity. RI really should be more diverse. Diversity further advances the Object of Rotary. But RI began promoting diversity by pressuring clubs to go on amateurish recruiting binges. The result was Rotary's Recruiting Death Dance. In hindsight, RI should have, through its districts, identified and explored various ways to serve underserved genders, generations, ethnicities, and geographic areas.  But RI leaders self-imposed a major obstacle; they ignored RI's by-laws.  Back then RI By-laws stated, and Section 15.090 still states, that the first responsibility of district governors is organizing new clubs; the second is strengthening existing clubs; and the third is promoting membership growth. Instead, past RI leaders encouraged and educated zone and district leaders to prioritize TRF.  Promoting and supporting TRF and polio eradication, particularly in North America, quickly became the path to higher recognitions, accolades, and directorships.
     TRF is a wonderful organization.  The eradication of polio is a project of unimaginable value. Rotarians have supported both and continue to do so*. In the 1980s, many North American clubs even began spending resources to serve TRF by being local collection agencies. An unintended consequence evolved:  RI and its administrative district leaders began approaching this service as a obligation. Many districts resorted to pressuring clubs to meet targets.  Some have gone so far as to require clubs to meet annual fund donation quotas before they can even apply to use district designated funds.  Since most Rotarians are attracted to and remain in clubs because of the friendships they develop and good things they do locally, how do such actions help start new clubs, strengthen weak clubs, or promote membership growth?

     RI is making a sincere attempt to brighten its future.  It has established membership development as its priority and is reorganizing operations.  Necessary changes will be painful and will take time to implement. Some sacred cows, out-dated thought processes, and misdirected practices must drop by the wayside. New leaders are surfacing; leaders who realize that RI's future depends on having a worldwide network of successful clubs; leaders who know that RI must return to centering its resources on creating and supporting local clubs because 






*The author of this Rotatorial is a major donor and has administered the polio vaccine to Nigerian children.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rotary International should Influence What Should be Done, not What Can be Done

The most effective leadership tool Rotary International's (RI) arsenal is influence.  High levels of influence concentrate on outcomes.  Low levels of influence concentrate on what can be done, not what should be done.

    Rotary International's purpose is to create and support Rotary clubs as they create and support Rotarians.  The survival of both is dependent on dues-paying members.  In local communities throughout the world, the people Rotary clubs generally like to attract concentrate on local outcomes.  A popular concept used in attracting them is,    "We can do more together than you can do alone." Unfortunately, analyzing historical and current information, including presidential citations, Rotary Club Central (RCC), educational materials for seminars and assemblies (including the International Assembly), RI tends to focus more on lower levels of influence i.e. more on what can be done instead of what should be done.
    Membership is an excellent example. Focus should be on the outcome: creating Rotarians.  Instead past and current focus is generally on low level specific numbers of people, often targeting specific genders, generations, and/or ethnicities.
      In service, present RI focus is on low level influences like registering projects on RCC, keeping track of volunteer hours, and emphasizing dollars contributed. Imagine where polio eradication would be if Rotarians had focused on volunteer hours and dollars contributed instead of the outcome.  Of course, volunteer hours and contributed dollars are tools that can help achieve outcomes, but they are not the focal point; the outcome is! Concentrating on such low level influences probably generated steam as RI evolved into promoting itself and its member clubs as service organizations of choice.  This no doubt led many RI senior and staff leaders to consider Rotarians to be ordinary volunteers and sources for contributions instead of people who prefer to expend their time, treasure, and talent achieving local outcomes.
   For example, in Florida's Sarasota County, over 50% of its elementary (primary) students are under-privileged. They do not have access to the resources and experiences of the other students. These children are highly susceptible to dropping out of school because, as years pass, they fall farther and farther behind. Rotarians in the Rotary Club of Sarasota have been influential in expending their time, treasure, and talents helping these under-privileged kids achieve grade level expectations.  The club's foundation dedicated seed funds. Rotarians influenced other local organizations to match the funds. They financed school-based food pantries, reading labs, and dental sealant/exam programs, and staffed some of the pantries. The outcome is that student attendance rates are up and grade level math and reading skills have improved in some schools by 58% and 56% respectively.

Like polio eradication, the overall value of the Sarasota initiative cannot be determined, but isn't this type outcome more important and appealing to existing and future Rotarians than popularizing the number of volunteer hours or contributed dollars? RI, an organization that demonstrates high level influence with organizations like the United Nations and the Gates Foundation, should not be encouraging its member clubs to achieve what can be done.  It should concentrate on influencing the entire Rotary network to do what should be done because, as vividly demonstrated by Rotarians in Sarasota,