Your case for change needs to be specific

Lots of associations may tout their “case for change” – but this is often described in exasperatingly vague terms.

The association need to change, we are told, because, – everyone is really busy these days, or there are cost pressures, or the workforce is aging, or technology is changing.

Therefore: change!

Here’s what bothers me about that:

Sure, everyone is busy – but…

…some organizations are getting higher and higher engagement rates (open rates, attendance, etc.).

What is it about how you operate that means you’re frustrated in trying to get people’s attention – rather than being seen as a resource that helps them cope with this onslaught?

Cost pressures were not invented in 2005…

…and people and organizations are spending on entire categories that didn’t exist then (apps! streaming video! cold-brew coffee!). What is it about the value you provide that means you’re losing out to other items when it comes time to set the budget? Or, what else are your members (or sponsors, or advertisers) spending their money on? What’s changed in your cost structure that makes this more of a problem?

Demographics are not destiny.

Saying a population is aging is not that interesting at this point. We’ve all heard it. There are other questions that will probably get you farther. What does the younger generation look like? How do they behave? What are they hungry for? Do any elements of your operations give you an opportunity to tap into a younger generation? What are the issues or solutions that span across generations? Have you actually checked to see whether your assumptions about the younger – and older – generations hold true?

And, most aggravatingly:

What exactly do you mean by “technology”?

If you have a technology problem, what exactly is the problem?

Do you have a website stuck in 2005? Is everything you send out a complete nightmare to read on mobile? Do you have a bunch of back-end systems that don’t talk to each other? Are you printing changes out from one system and then using those to manually enter them into another? Are you doing your accounting in Excel, or adding machines, or abaci? Do you need a new phone system because you’re dropping calls? Do you need to train your staff on the basics of email? Are your passwords all written down on the breakroom fridge?

“Technology” isn’t an umbrella term any more. You have to get specific about what technology matters to you, based on your strategy. What do you expect it to do for you, how far have you gone in implementing it, how competent are you in using it, what is the next step in its evolution?

Hopefully the analysis goes deeper than this…

So my question becomes, what’s really going on for you? Surely you spent more time around the board table discussing this (please tell me you did.).  So, what came up?

In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss the issues that lead to this kind of vagueness in a case for change, and how to overcome them.

The most important thing, though, is not to stay stuck here. Push the thinking – yours, mine, and everyone else’s – to get to the root cause, and then, the right answer.

If you’d like to discuss how to get clear on whether you need to change, why, and how, please get in touch.

Photo from Unsplash, used with permission.

Contact us at or call 416-737-3935 to discuss how we might be able to help.


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