Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Can Your Association Avoid a Kodak Moment?

Back on April 4, I posted a story titled Will Your Association Face a Kodak Moment?  My point was that the phrase “Kodak moment” has changed from a rare moment captured in a gorgeous photo to the near death of a large (seemingly stable) American corporation at least partly because technology and its customers (members) passed it by.

I reflected on what happened at Kodak and whether associations are facing similar challenges.

I concluded with these questions:

So, as you think about your association, can you see a tidal wave headed your way?

  • Does your association culture help you adapt or does it have a Kodak culture of complacency?
  • Are you nimble and able to move quickly to meet the changes?
  • Is your volunteer board ready to meet the changes or is it mired in “returning to the glory days?” (Re-read Race for Relevancy.) 
  • Are you able to diversify or even totally change your mission? (Example: remember how the March of Dimes moved successfully from “eradicating polio” to helping achieve healthy childbirths.)
Now, in a Forbes column on Leadership, John Kotter has offered his thoughts on “the real reason behind the Kodak downfall.

Here are some key points from Kotter’s column:
  • Recent articles dig a bit more and find that there were people who saw the problem coming — people buried in the organization — but the firm did not act when it should have, which is decades ago.
  • The organization overflowed with complacency. I saw it, maybe in the late 1980s. Kodak was failing to keep up even before the digital revolution when Fuji started doing a better job with the old technology, the roll-film business. With the complacency so rock-solid, and no one at the top even devoting their priorities toward turning that problem into a huge urgency around a huge opportunity, of course, they went nowhere. 
  • All the people buried in the hierarchy who saw the oncoming problems and had ideas for solutions made no progress. Their bosses and peers ignored them.
  • Historically, Kodak was built on a culture of innovation and change. It’s the type of culture that’s full of passionate innovators, already naturally in tune to the urgency surrounding changes in the market and technology.
  • As Kodak became more successful, complacency grew, leaders listened less to these voices, which made complacency grow some more. It can be a vicious cycle. It certainly was at Kodak. And if you don’t address it first… good luck.
As I read the Forbes’ piece, I again reflected on what it means to our association profession.

After reading my original 4/4/12 post, Jeff De Cagna(@pinnovation) commented:
"The critical lesson of the Kodak and RIM situations is the same: organizations cannot afford an on-going systemic failure to identify and push back against disruption in their ecosystems, or they will be disrupted. If associations are going to avoid this same fate, they must start asking different questions:
  • What is it going to take for our association to thrive over the next decade and beyond? (You cannot begin to answer this question unless you develop both deep insight on the business and meaningful foresight around shifts in the environment.)
  • As disruption occurs in our strategic context, who are our future stakeholders and what outcomes will they want to achieve? (We need to invest a great deal more in building future market share, and less in protecting legacy market share that is already beginning to disappear.)
  • What organizational capabilities do we need to create and deliver new value in this context? (Associations must build more flexible business models that can adapt to new conditions.)
  • When we get it wrong, how will we use what we learn from failure to make better decisions going forward? (We must get really good at translating our inevitable mistakes into actionable learning.)
  • It's 2012 and time for association leaders to stop wondering whether the "tidal wave" is headed toward their organizations. It is already here. The challenge now is to stop thinking about how to tweak for relevance (see Kodak and RIM) and start thinking about how to disrupt the status quo before forces beyond our control completely disrupt our organizations.
Jeff is correct. The tidal wave is already here.

Will you as an association professional make sure you listen to those in your organization who see it and who have ideas to share? Will you help your volunteers overcome their “adventure window?” 

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