Rotary International's purpose is to sustain itself; to create Rotarians; to grow. Rotary International does not exist to reach a specific goal. The difference is subtle but significant. Organizations require growth. Projects require goals. Leaders reach for growth - individual and organizational - because growth stimulates and helps achieve goals. Managers reach for goals.
One of the most critical elements in delivering perception is for leaders to be consistent in measuring and recognizing important metrics. Starbucks' officers, for example, receive daily same store sales data (i.e. cups of coffee served, repeat customers, etc.) therefore every Starbucks employee perceives that these metrics are important and strives to produce favorable metrics.
Let's be honest. Rotary's most critical growth metrics were not even on senior leaders' radar until 2011-12 when RI Director John Smarge brought the number of people joining and leaving Rotary out into the open at an International Assembly. Prior to and after PRID Smarge's speech, senior leaders continued to transmit the perception to coordinators, district governors, and clubs that membership wasn't really very important. DON'T YELL AT THE SCREEN YET! Yes, Past RI presidents always had some membership time-related goal in their Presidential Citation criteria. BUT the perception was that it was not very important because membership was seldom treated seriously at institutes, assemblies, seminars, or conferences. Not only that, little attention was paid to the citation's goal because clubs and districts treated it as a foregone conclusion the goal would be achieved: clubs only had to wait until after the cutoff date to purge their rolls. This year President Ravi snapped the membership goal chain and targeted a growth metric - retention rate. Unfortunately it, too, has an arbitrary cutoff date which converts this critical growth metric back into an easily attainable goal: clubs can simply do what they have always done.
Rotary must be consistent in encouraging improving retention and growth rates - but they must be based on the membership information on semi-annual invoices - preferably the December 31 invoices. Only then will these critical rates become helpful growth metrics. Then, of course, to reach and sustain realistic rates, Rotary's leaders must continually deliver the perception that creating Rotarians is Rotary's priority. That is when Rotary will become an organization of leaders leading Rotary.