Try Harder or Try Different: 2020 Resolution for Chapters

Is 2020 the year to try harder and finally “fix” your chapters? Before you put that new year’s resolution down on your list (again), ask a different question. Should we be fixing or experimenting? If we didn’t have chapters and were creating them, would we follow the playbook written in the 1960s or the playbook for the 2020s?

We do a lot work in the area of strengthening components aka chapters. We are asked to “help them (chapters) do their job better”. The greater success has been had in helping associations shift that request to “help them create the job they can do”.  Or in other words, evolve the way chapters operate. This is a tough shift – we know. And it’s an age-old challenge; consider the story about competitive swimming in the early 1800’s.

In 1844, at the “world” swimming championships in northern Europe two swimmers from Brazil (Wikipedia story cites Native Americans as in not British or European) snagged the winning prize by using not the traditional breast stroke but “a unrefined motion with the arms ‘like a windmill’ and the chaotic and unregulated kicking of the legs…barbaric”.  Physics being what it is, the freestyle is faster. The leaders of the swimming community in figuring out what to do made the decision to double down on efforts to swim the breast stroke faster – and they stuck with that until 1873.

These leaders said try harder or in association-speak help them do their job better. And that won’t work. Culture guru Jamie Notter captures the conundrum:

When performance slips, it is frequently because the existing culture has become out of alignment with what drives success. More effort will never make up that gap—you need to shift your culture to become realigned.

Read his entire post.

And then change the question.

What is the best job for our geographic groups? What does the member need that can best be provided at the local, geographic level? Take a look at how other associations are shifted the model to answer that question.  Here are some ideas:


Don’t try harder, try different.