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

==============Red text has a link to a previous Rotatorial or referenced document.==============

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rotary's Strategic Plan - Achieve Outcomes or Feed the Elephant?

      Rotary International (RI) is developing its strategic plan. To continually be successful, RI and its administrative districts must remember that RI's sole purpose is to create and support Rotary clubs, and that Rotary clubs' sole purpose is to create and support Rotarians.  The common objective of the Rotary network is to advance the Object of Rotary.  With this firmly embedded in planners' thought processes, everyone involved should clearly understand that all plans and initiatives should target measurable outcomes, which should never, ever be confused with performance measurements.  
   Well-meaning managers' desires to track, record, and reward achievements based on performance measurements continually diverts organizations from achieving essential outcomes.  Meeting performance goals doesn't require the vision that achieving outcomes does.  A classic example of this is RI's now infamous recruiting death dance, an initiative that concentrated solely on the performance measurements of how many warm bodies clubs could bring during a specified time period. During the death dance, clubs expended resources and reputations to receive Governor and Presidential citations because they concentrated on this annual performance measurement.  People of Action often refer to such usually well-meaning but non-productive activities as "feeding the elephant" - a synonym for wasting talents that diverts visions and resources from achieving outcomes.
     Another example is asking People of Action to record and report volunteer hours and dollars contributed. From RI's viewpoint this no doubt appears to be a nice idea - as did its recruiting initiative.  RI apparently would like to use the information to illustrate how much the association, and each club, is serving the world - another nice idea.  But clubs are not service organizations; they are civic organizations attracting and retaining Rotarians from niche markets.  
   Rotary's projects and programs should be evaluated on being nice, important, or essential.  Nice projects, such as picking up trash, can generate hundreds of volunteer hours that have nice outcomes - trash-free areas.  Essential projects and programs, such as the eradication of polio, and projects and programs that fall within RI's Areas of Focus benefit greater numbers of people and social fabrics, but generate comparatively few volunteer hours.  Are the volunteer hours equal in value?  Hardly.  The same principle is applicable to contributed dollars.  A contribution to a single student's scholarship is nice and can have a wonderful outcome for the student and the future generations they spawn.  The same contribution to an essential project that results in access to safe water or improved education rates achieves greater outcomes for many and their future family generations.  Are the contributions equal in long-term desired outcomes?  Hardly.
     Note the comment in the text box from a previous Rotatorial. Rotarians are much more interested in achieving personal and local outcomes. Tracking and publicizing volunteer hours and/or dollars are performance measurements, and will be considered by most Rotarians to be "feeding the elephant."  Even trying to equate the impact volunteer hours and dollars contributed doing nice projects and programs with the impact Rotarian influences have on achieving essential outcomes will, in the long run, be counter-productive, as were RI's recruiting initiatives.  This elephant fodder will - not may - detract the network from chartering and supporting Rotary clubs as they develop and support Rotarians.

       
RI leaders should hesitate and consider the image they are projecting before asking clubs and Rotarians to do anything that could be perceived to be "feeding the elephant".  If RI wishes to show the impact outcomes of Rotarians' causes have on our communities, it should:

  • Create marketing initiatives that will help in chartering clubs and improving retention and attraction rates,
  • 'define the information needed to fulfill the initiative's purpose,
  • suggest how the information could be used to support the initiative,
  • receive estimates from professional firms on gathering and authenticating the information, and
  • how the information could or should be used to achieve the initiative's desired and measurable outcome.

     This, or a similar plan of action, would allow RI to do what sensible People of Action do; make a rational business decision by estimating the return on investment the initiative could bring to RI without jeopardizing the vision of attracting and developing Rotarians - People of Action.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rotary International, ORCA, and Warren Buffett's Three i's

    Rotary International (RI) appears to have survived the ORCA and Three i progressions, but it now faces a challenge common to all surviving institutions.  Before we discuss this common challenge, what are these progressions?   
    As research for this Rotatorial, I reviewed past Retention Central posts and read many articles on the natural progression of organizations.  As I made notes, I came up with my ORCA leadership progression - Originators create, Replicators improve, Copiers follow, and Airheads mess it up.  In a 2008 discussion with Charlie Rose, Mr. Buffett mentioned the Three i progression - innovators create, imitators enhance, and idiots screw it all up.  I was pleased with the similarities.  Unfortunately, that is where similarity between me and Mr. Buffett ceases.
     Back to the common challenge.  All institutions that survive these progressions must be innovative in continually creating ways and means to serve their stakeholders, innovations that often necessitate painful changes.  Leading such a recovery takes visionary, strong, consistent, and competent leadership.  Does RI have the fortitude and organizational structure to survive this painful process?  That is questionable because RI's present practices of selecting, educating, and supporting its leaders all too frequently generates people who are popular but ill-prepared or equipped to lead People of Action.  This is the ideal atmosphere for nurturing intellectual inbreeding, which again guides institutions into the last phase in both progressions, but at a more accelerated pace.  Ultimately, the institutions fail.
    Fortunately, RI presently has a group of imaginative, talented, and influential lions and lionesses that have been innovative in creating and leading change. These business minds recognized that RI's priority is to charter and support clubs as the clubs create and support Rotarians.  They have made major headway, but their road has been, and continues to be, blocked by sacred cows and mindsets, particularly in some legacy markets.  RI's present three-year Councils on Legislation and one and two-year officer terms can be serious roadblocks to progress and continuity in leadership.  Many senior leaders comprehend RI's basic task is to serve and support its two-tier network. Most appear to recognize that potential members, before they become Rotarians, are already People of Action Unfortunately these dedicated leaders continually bump headlong into practices, projects, and programs developed when the leaders at the ends of RI's ORCA and Three i progression cycles considered Rotarians to be ordinary volunteers and believed that the prime duty of clubs and those volunteers was to "feed the RI and TRF elephants".

      Senior Rotary and staff leaders must evaluate every practice, project, program, seminar, assembly, award and citation RI and TRF proposes, requires, and/or supports.  Each activity should deliver a value to People of Action commensurate with the time, talent and treasure they expend. If such values are not delivered, the actions should be changed or eliminated.  Otherwise RI will begin struggling through the ORCA and Three i progression cycles once the present modern thinkers and innovators serve out their terms.

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.