At this year’s ASAE Annual Conference, I moderated a session called, Walking the Talk of Change Leadership. At the beginning of the session, we asked audience members to write the questions they about the topic on index cards. We told one change leadership story then spent the rest of the session answering as many questions as we could. You can read an article about the session here. These were the questions we did not get to during the session.
1. Change in part takes a diverse board (gender, ethnicity, and age). How do you achieve that? “No more old white men boards.”
If you are not already doing so, implement and enforce term limits. Be proactive about publicizing the application and nominations process for your board. Get beyond current board members’ personal networks. Those networks will most likely be mirrors of who is already on your board. Create leadership development programs to train and prepare new leaders. Prioritize investing in emerging leaders who bring new perspectives to your board. And do not assume it’s only about emerging leaders – there may be leaders in your midst that you have simply looked past.
2. Why change? What we’re doing is working!
It is challenging to move any change forward if there is not any sense of urgency or recognition that issues exist. Consider helping those guarding the status quo to consider wider trends that could impact the organization. Or start elsewhere with a few allies. Start small and share successes.
3. How do you promote change and new ideas without current staff freaking out?
What are current staff freaking out about? What is it about the change that is upsetting them? Have you asked them? Is there something you can learn from their resistance? Can you iterate in way that addresses their concerns? Which ideas are low hanging fruit and could be implemented relatively easily? Share your early wins with those who are afraid of changes to demonstrate the benefits.
4. How to convince the board permanent staff is required versus volunteers?
Build the business case for the change. What is not currently getting done or done consistently with volunteers? What skills and knowledge are unique to your volunteer base? What would benefit from being professionalized? What will each group bring to the table to create a greater partnership? Who would benefit from making the change? What will the upsides be to making the shift? Also address the downsides so that those considering the change do not feel like they are being “sold.”
5. How do you manage the change as the change is happening?
Recognize and acknowledge to your staff that it may not feel like “management” while things are in flux. Even if things are moving fast, take a little time out to take stock and see where you are, where you have come from and what is coming next. Celebrate your small wins along the way.
6. How do you create energy for radical change when there is no crisis or chaos acting as a lever?
It is unlikely that you will be able to move quickly to radical change without a crisis. Consider where can you create energy for change, even if it is not yet radical. You might consider facilitating a conversation that helps the group consider the environmental trends that could spur a crisis if the organization is not paying attention.
I did a workshop recently on one of the most useful research tools in the design thinking tool kit – the customer journey map.
Mapping the Experience
Customer journey maps usually hone in on a specific interaction that a customer or member has with your organization. A variation on the journey map -- the experience map can zoom a little further out to see the flow of whole experience.
Capturing the ups and down
Regardless of the scale you decide to focus on, the journey map is essentially a blank flow chart that someone fills in detailing the steps they take to accomplish a specific task. Some examples include joining your organization or deciding to attend an event. The map typically include spaces for the person to note their actions, what were highlights and what are pain points.
Thinking, feeling, doing
Especially important is providing space for the person to note their emotions. You might ask the person who is filling out the map to name the experience stages the group the individual steps. Often it is important to capture the context for the interaction including the place, the environment and who is involved. Your goal is to capture what your customer is thinking, feeling and doing.
Be sure to allow customers to draw their own maps. You can then to look for insights from maps. Have your customers or members or participants tell you what theirexperience is rather than assuming you already know. At the same time, it is also useful for you to create a hypothesis journey map to note your thoughts about the experience you are investigating. You can then compare your version to the versions created by actual customers to see where you got it right and what differs.
Making the hidden visible
The journey map captures both the actions that the person takes as well as what is normally hidden. It prompts them to note what they were thinking at the time and what they were feeling. The emotional up and down of an experience will provide key insights into what aspects might need to be improved.
Case study: First timers
During the workshop, we worked on the experience of first timers at an event or conference and identified several pain points including:
What do you need to learn about your members?
You may choose to investigate other aspects of member engagement just as your members deciding to join, deciding to volunteer. What research questions do you have that could benefit from this tool? Download this template for your use.
Most associations rely on informal processes for moving innovation forward within their organizations finds a new study, Pathways to Innovation: Shifting from Informal to Intentional. The majority of new ideas and initiatives come from staff with the CEO and senior leadership leading most efforts. Many of these ideas are adapted from other organizations.
We are innovative
It was surprising that most of the association executives who were interviewed described their association as innovative. This runs counter to the prevalent narrative that associations struggle with innovation and change, Yet few organizations are taking a member-centric approach to creating new programs and services that meet their members’ unmet needs.
Informal market research processes
The majority of associations interviewed also rely on informal market research processes. As other studies have found, they have few formal mechanisms for regular review of their portfolio of offerings and find it challenging to sun set programs and initiatives.
Three primary foci of innovation projects
Current innovation projects of the associations interviewed clustered in three primary areas: upgrading internal technology systems, building online learning programs and shifting to shorter, more targeted events.
Download the full report, Pathways to Innovation: Shifting from Informal to Intentional.
I took a workshop once during which the trainer said that “take imperfect action” was her mantra. I have adopted it as one of my own since starting my consulting practice.
I talked to a lot of consultants before I got started to hear about their journeys. Many of them said, ‘they just fell into it.” I knew this was not going to be my path. I am too much of a planner. So I also read every book on being successful as a consultant that I could find.
Taking the plunge
But finally I had to take the plunge. All the reading and talking to people was not going to make it real. It got more real when I was taking care of my dad in his final months. Sitting next to him in his wheel chair, I thought – “what will I regret when I am in my 90s and sitting in my wheel chair if I have never done it?” One of the things that came to mind was never shifting from planning to action on creating my consulting business.
So start I did. Step by imperfect step.
Keeping ‘take imperfect action’ front and center helps me free myself when I get stuck in overwhelm or in analysis paralysis.
‘Take imperfect action’ frees me from worrying about whether I am working on the “right” thing.
It reminds me that there are lots of possibilities and many of them are likely to be “right.”
It helps remind me I am a flawed human and cannot know what the future holds, all grand plans aside.
Celebrating small wins
In a world that only wants you to ‘play big or go home’ I have been focusing on the small. Small steps, small wins. Part of this practice has been writing down my small wins at the end of every day.
‘Bird by bird’ as Annie Lamott says. Trusting that these small imperfect steps will add up to progress.
What imperfect action will you take today?
I was talking to a colleague recently who was leaving an organization after being there much of her career. While she was excited about her career’s next chapter, a part of her was grieving.
This made me think of some work I had done a few years ago working with a team that was ending its work together. In our death phobic culture, we Americans love to celebrate new beginnings, youth and vitality and ignore that everything ends eventually. Similarly, the vast majority of study of teams and their performance has focused on how to start out right with a team, build it and move it to high performance.
We Ignore that Teams End
My passion is helping nonprofit organizations and associations have a greater mission impact.