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.

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,

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Why Engage if Rotary Cannot Retain?

In membership metrics, retention rates rule the data set. 
           
     Without retaining Rotarians everything else is irrelevant, including attracting and engaging new Rotarians.  Engaging is a means to an end, and the only effective measure of engagement's success is how many become and remain Rotarians.
     Retained Rotarians, by word of mouth, usually attract and engage potential Rotarians.  But let's face it:  clubs can have high numbers of Rotarians and friends engaging in activities.  Does that mean that the Rotarians will remain; that friends will want to join a Rotary club?  Maybe.  It all depends on how the benefits of engagement relate to the engager's needs and priorities, including the cost in time, talent, and/or treasure. The same fundamental principle applies when groups consider engaging with Rotary International. Without question, retention rates rule when it comes to measuring clubs, districts, zones, and Rotary International's effectiveness at engaging Rotarians in advancing the Object of Rotary.

All interactions between Rotary International, Rotary clubs, Rotarians, and potential Rotarians should be based on the concept that   





Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Past Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee Gets and Demonstrates How to Communicate It!

Past RI President Kalyan Banerjee gets and communicates that Rotarians are the spark plugs driving the Rotary engine.  In his February, 2017 letter accompanying Rotary's Annual Report, his opening sentence says, ". . . . I am in awe of the efforts made by Rotarians from around the globe to do good in the world every day."  This verbally and non-verbally speaks volumes to Rotarians and non-Rotarians.  Verbally, it shows respect by emphasizing Rotarians instead of referring to them as 'our members'.  To Rotarians and non-Rotarians, it identifies, appreciates, and gives definition to Who Rotarians Are. Non-verbally, most Rotarians will get a warm emotional buzz because they are being identified and recognized for Who They Are - exceptional people trying to make the world a better place.

With over 35,000 chartered autonomous Rotary clubs around the world united in advancing the Object of Rotary, it is easy to understand why Past RI President Kalyan is awed by how, individually and collectively, over 1.2 million

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Innovation is a Key to Rotary International's Future


Creating Rotarians is the most important expression of the Object of Rotary, yet this detail is seldom discussed.  I wonder why, because if one critically analyzes successful organizations, it is obvious that they understand and deliver desired value to Them - supporters i.e. those who fund operations.  Supporters make it possible for Rotary clubs and Rotary International (RI) to thrive.  Both must continually be innovative.  Both must understand Rotary's value proposition and how it applies to Them in their realities.
     For example, when IBM decided it wanted to change direction, its president said it needed to get back in touch with Them - its supporters (customers).  The top 50 executives had to visit five customers a week and deliver a write-up to the president. This eyeball-to-eyeball action gave IBM insight into its customers' realities which helped IBM find innovative ways to deliver an enhanced value proposition.  Apple broke out of the mature desktop computer industry by listening to people express the desire to take their computers with them.  Apple found innovative ways to deliver this value and ultimately became the world's largest mobile devices company.
     On the other hand, Kodak, the company that invented cameras, including the digital camera, thought its business was producing and developing film because that is what generated most of its income.  What Kodak supporters were actually buying was the ability to preserve memories.  Not understanding why supporters were buying Kodak products resulted in it filing for bankruptcy.  RI, an association that grew in local Rotary clubs and membership because its objective was to help local business, professional, and community people improve their personal, business, and community lives, began thinking that its purpose was to be an association of charitable service organizations.  Membership began declining in mature major markets, a result of RI not understanding why its supporters joined and stayed in local Rotary clubs.  Many Rotary leaders have come to understand this reality, and that RI should be devoting more resources to delivering its original value proposition to clubs and Rotarians.

Advancing the Object of Rotary is the bedrock upon which RI's international network was founded and grew.  Many Rotary leaders have opened their minds to innovative ideas.  They should continue to do so with eyeball-to-eyeball conversations centering on the realities and needs of clubs and their members - Rotarians.  That is the only way RI will innovate new ways to deliver enhanced value propositions. Rotary clubs are not service organizations.  They are by definition civic welfare organizations. Rotary clubs create Rotarians who advance the Object of Rotary, beginning locally and spreading globally.  Charitable services are a result of Rotarians advancing the Object of Rotary. It begins with developing acquaintances - regardless of generations, genders, or ethnicities - and encouraging them become Rotarians.  Rotary's value proposition - The Object of Rotary - encourages Rotarians to better their personal, business, and community lives starting right where they live, work, and play.  And that is why . . .







Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Rotary Cannot Exist Without

Rotarians, pure and simple.  
  This is why membership committees/departments should be the most important and prestigious in Rotary clubs, Rotary districts, Rotary zones, and Rotary International (RI).  But are they? 
     Rotary's approach to membership development should come of age and set the worldwide standard for marketing membership.  Verbiage such as ". . your club's members should talk to business and community leaders, young professionals, recent retirees, and women . . . "[1] reflects a Jurassic-age membership development - public relations mentality, as does having membership and public relations in different silos.  Public relations (only one element of marketing) initiatives directly affect membership retention and attraction and should be an integral part of membership development.
     Past RI President Chris Dochterman's theme, "Real Happiness is Helping Others" is true.  Happiness benefits those who help others.  But the benefit of experiencing real happiness helping others can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere without paying dues to any organization.  Rotary's marketing task is to help Rotarians emotionally feel the benefit of being called, and referred to, as Rotarians. Referring to Rotarians as "our members" doesn't penetrate to the personal or emotional level. Marketing must continually communicate verbally, non-verbally, and subliminally why Rotarians are Rotarians; why Rotarians are members of Rotary clubs.  This would be membership development at its finest.
     Rotary has made significant headway prioritizing membership, and will continue to do so.  It is important that Rotary continues to break down mental and organization silos, including, but not limited to, selecting leaders. Clubs, districts, and zones must select leaders who understand and are committed to retaining, attracting, and developing Rotarians and clubs.  Every Rotary leader must demonstrate in words and deeds that creating Rotarians is their highest priority; that membership is their most important committee. That will take a continuous, monumental, coordinated, and professional internal education initiative.  Is that in RI's strategic plan, or will RI continue to reflect a Jurassic-age membership development and public relations mentality?


WHY am I a Rotarian?  Because, with the ideal of service embedded in our personal, business, and community lives,  we





[1] Rotary Manual 226b, Leading Your Club Membership Committee 2016-2019 Edition, page 5, "Attracting New Members"

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Being a Rotarian Means?

A recent Facebook public announcement, referencing a potential update in an organization's web page, said "We believe these changes will more clearly show that our organization is making the world a better place — and will persuade potential members and donors to support our work by joining a club, volunteering on a project, or donating to a cause."  (The organization's name has been deliberately omitted.) If the changes in the web page follow the philosophical concept of this public announcement, the web site will fail miserably.  This philosophical approach is clearly from the organization's point of view, and readers could receive the message that the organization is desperate for members and donors.  Suppose the announcement was from readers' points of view, and went something like this: "We believe these changes will clearly show potential members and donors how they can help make the world a better place." 
     The subject organization could have been Rotary several years ago. Thankfully many Rotary leaders now realize that Rotarians, using attributes created by Rotarians, are making the world a better place.  This is because being a Rotarian is more than just joining a club; is more than volunteering on projects; is more than donating to a cause.  Almost any human can do any or all of these things.  Being a Rotarian means networking with the few who, by advancing the Object of Rotary, are applying the Ideal of Service in their personal, business and community lives and are making the world better, one community at the time.  They are not just anybody. . . they are Rotarians, and