Applause, choices and cautionary tales

In earlier blog posts I have talked about the choices that organisations must make at the moment, examining their current structures to provide the best possible support to members.  Current discussions about how professional associations and membership organisations can survive in the current climate mean that there has been a slow realisation of the danger presented by several key factors.  The impact of current economic realities on members’ wallets;  the impact of new social media providing alternate communication routes which can bypass formal organisations; the negative impact of very public failures of professional standards; changing demographics; all of these are leaving some organisations exposed to falling membership numbers. 


The lesson is obvious - organisations must be relevant or else.  They also need to be vigilant about maintaining standards for members and offering guidance and professional development at a time when these are commodities which will ensure that members are ready to emerge into an improving economy ready, willing and able to perform.

There is one other key piece of the current jigsaw that is critical.  Members can choose – and their radar is set to recognise phoney when they see it.


There are  several current examples of organisations considering their futures, embarking on change programmes of all sizes, wanting to make a huge statement so that members will say OK – that’s my organisation working on my behalf, I will stick with them.  These organisations are certainly making noise and changes but are they doing the right thing?


Applause is definitely due to The Royal Pharmaceutical Society for its comprehensive vision for an inclusive and inspiring professional leadership body.  They are determined  to ensure that the structures they are now providing will ensure that the profession will ‘attain gold standard status’ both for their industry and in comparison with other sectors.  That determination means that they are already coming up against the arguments from the die-hards who don’t, won’t, can’t recognise the need for courage in the changes required to ensure excellence as their future position.  Stick with it guys, changes of this proportion are always painful but your commitment to individual and group benefit will be its own reward!


On the other hand we have all seen the organisations who think that creating a new website is the ultimate demonstration of how they are supporting their members.  I think not. This way is all about making the right noises, not doing the right thing.  They may get slicker but this is marketing not substance.  Where is the evidence of the organisation’s commitment to individual benefit? Where is the evidence that they have thought about the integration of support services for maximum benefit? (see The 5 Keys to Professionalism for reference).  Where is the demonstration of standards and ethical considerations?


So the way forward is never going to be simple and it is certainly never going to be easy but there is nothing to be gained from looking for shortcuts.  Members will vote with their feet if an organisation cannot say, hand on heart, everything we do is for your benefit.  Members should expect nothing less than an ambition for 'the gold standard' from their organisations, everything else is second best.

In the year which sees the 150th anniversary of the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’ I leave you with a thought worth considering from the great man himself, Charles Darwin:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.