We’ve started so we’ll finish

Far too many associations and membership organisations are still finding that they are short on resources, whether time, manpower, funds or volunteers.  So it is probably the right time to revisit a perennial problem which could be contributing to the drain on those precious resources and that is the question of what to do about dubious legacy projects.  You know the ones I mean, the nebulous and never-ending discussions which revolve around the ex-President’s pet idea which no longer has relevance or the branch initiative which seems to suck the life out of your budget without ever providing a return on the investment demanded.  I’m sure most organisations could supply many, many other examples.

These projects were likely to have been initiated in a time long ago, possibly to resolve a problem which no longer exists and most certainly in another economic climate.  So why are they still there driving you crazy and how do you go about eliminating them?  

All organisations evolve – or should if they wish to survive and to remain pertinent to their members – and the key process in achieving this is the regular construction of strategic and business plans. They provide a description of the impact for which the organisation will hold itself accountable over a specified period of time and explain how its work will lead to that impact.  They also determine what specific actions and activities must take place to achieve the intended impact, as well as providing an understanding of the resources - financial, human, and organisational - needed to pursue these priorities and then mapping out a plan to secure them.  All this is achieved by meeting quantitative and qualitative milestones.  So far, so good. 

We must then question how these outdated projects remain either within the strategy or quietly continue outside the main strategy? Is the initiator still on your board?  Is there a mistaken belief that it isn’t worth the argument that would be caused by trying to eliminate them?  Is there a mistaken belief that it won’t do any harm letting them hang about?  Why is there no appetite for making a stand and dealing with the problem in a robust and reasonable way?

As with any other segment of your future planning, you will need a business case for any project in order for it to retain its place within your programme of activities.  In order to attempt creating that business case and before you begin any process of attempting to eliminate it, task your staff with providing the answers to the following questions about the project:

  • ­Can they calculate the amount of resource that this initiative has taken up from  first discussions till now
  • Has it ever actually provided any benefits or services?
  • Has it contributed to the growth of the organisation or its membership levels?
  • Is it likely to in the foreseeable future?
  • Is it still relevant to the organisation and its membership?
  • Is it free-standing or does it interact with or have any dependencies with any other current initiatives?
  • Would it be missed or leave a gap in any way?
  • Would it make more sense to amend or change its scope to make it relevant or is that simply another waste of time?

You may believe that that the answers to any or all of the above are self-evident but there is nothing quite as useful as data to prove a point.  So when you come to the next round of discussions about short, medium and long-term planning you will be able to make the business case for continuing inclusion or total removal of these questionable projects.  There really should not be any room for anything that doesn’t provide benefits to the organisation and its members!