I’ve written two posts about the struggles of Kodak and what it means to associations and nonprofit organizations.
In research for those posts, I uncovered writings of Professor John P. Kotter, the Chief Innovation Officer of Kotter International and the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School.
Kotter attributes much of Kodak’s problems to a culture of complacency that blocked innovation and quick responses to the changing markets.
And, Kotter writes about complacency’s impact on organizations:
- “Complacency almost always comes from a sense of success and lives long after the success that created it has disappeared. Organizations and individuals that are complacent do not look for new opportunities or hazards. They are almost always internally focused. The complacent work at a constant speed, even when circumstances call for fast action. They rarely initiate or lead. Mostly they do what has worked for them in the past.”
- “With complacency, no matter what people say, if you look at what they do it is clear that they are mostly content with the status quo. They pay insufficient attention to wonderful new opportunities and frightening new hazards. They continue with what has been the norm in the past. As an outsider, you may correctly see that internal complacency is dangerous, that past successes have created sluggishness or arrogance, but complacent insiders—even very smart people—just don’t have that perspective. They may admit there are difficult challenges, but the challenges are over there in that other person’s department. They think they know what to do and they do it.”
Do your own self analysis: Ask and answer these dozen questions:
- Are staff and board discussions focused inward and not about markets, emerging technology, competitors, etc.?
- When was the last time your association introduced a new product or service for its members? Or, for that matter, made significant changes to your major conference or your key publication?
- Is candor lacking in confronting bureaucracy and politics that are slowing things down?
- Do people regularly blame others for problems instead of taking responsibility?
- Are failures of the past discussed not to learn but to stall new initiatives?
- Are assignments around critical issues regularly not completed on time or with sufficient quality?
- Do cynical jokes undermine important discussions?
- Are highly selective facts used to shoot down data that suggests there is a big hazard or opportunity?
- Do meetings on key issues end with no decisions about what must happen immediately (except the scheduling of the next meeting)?
- Are critical issues delegated without the involvement of key people?
- Does passive aggression exist around big issues?
- Do people say, “we must act now,” but then don’t?