01 December 2011

"Done is the engine of more."

I love a good infographic, and Shelly Alcorn tweeted a link to a great one on the creative process yesterday.

All of the points are relevant for associations, I think, but the above one, which is listed last, seems to me to be the most important.

A few months ago, I was having a discussion with some smart association peeps, and we got talking about the fact that, in membership organizations, it's not so much that we fear failure for its own sake. What we really fear is criticism - from our colleagues and bosses, sure, but even more so from our members and boards.

Because of that, we're change-averse, decision-averse, and completion-averse. If I keep working on a project forever, and never roll it out, no one can ever find anything wrong with it, right?

The thing is, all those partially completed projects that should've been done in 6 weeks but drag on for 6 months weigh us down. If it's never finished, you never get to check that one off and move on to the next project or idea. You never even get to move on to the 1.2 version of the current project.

We get so caught up in the "everything has to be PERFECT" mindset that we shut out our members and their ideas and opinions, and make them passive consumers rather than active partners.

What if, rather than waiting until we had everything just so to roll out our new member service, we went to our members with: "This is a new service we're considering. We don't have all the kinks worked out yet, so we know some of you will want to wait to check it out until it's in a more completed form. And that's fine. But for those of you who are willing to try something that may not be 100% functioning yet, we'd love it if you could test it and give us your feedback so we can make sure that, once it is fully ready, it truly meets your needs and is easy for you to use."?

What would that world look like? How much more engaged would your members be? How would that change their perception of ownership in your association? How would that impact relationships between staff, members and board? How much faster could you move? How much more could you provide for your members?


7 comments:

Shelly Alcorn, CAE said...

Love this post Elizabeth! Run it in beta....

I liked that infographic too....it had some great things to say about the creative process....

Terry Coatta said...

This is the core idea behind "agile" software development: incremental change coupled with constant feedback. Agile has become very popular with software developers over the past few years because it tends to lead to products that are much more closely aligned with customer needs.

Its interesting that "agile" seems to have broad applicability beyond just the development of software. One of the reasons is that basing things on incremental change makes it much harder to get stuck in "analysis paralysis" mode, which strikes me as similar to the drive for perfection that you note in the posting.

Elizabeth Weaver Engel, CAE said...

@Terry - excellent connection to the idea of agile software development.

Wes Trochlil said...

I constantly preach to my clients, "Success, not perfection!"

Back when we actually PRINTED directories, there was an old saying: "A directory is out of date the minute it hits the street." The directory was never perfect, but you printed it anyway.

Wes Trochlil
Effective Database Management, LLC

Elizabeth Weaver Engel, CAE said...

@Wes - to digress, I was never so happy as when it became acceptable to dump the print directory in favor of online only (at my first association, that happened in 2000!).

Eric Lanke said...

Great post. Members have to create the value, leveraging the resources of the association to do it. If staff creates and delivers everything, they're not serving members. They're selling to customers.

Elizabeth Weaver Engel, CAE said...

@Eric - the whole member driven versus staff driven debate is a good one. In a lot of organizations, I think, the members CLAIM they want to be member driven. But when it actually comes down to putting in the effort, they may be less willing to put in the work than they thought they were. OTOH, in plenty of organizations, the staff members are completely unwilling to give up control.