In the “New Order” 2 out of 4 is not good enough

by John Borst

Brian Solis in “The End of Business as Usual” describes 5 stages for a business to achieve “customer-centricity” Stage four is defined as “Adaptive” meaning “informed, agile, and able to rapidly switch direction, grow, and evolve”.

Rotary based on its recently announced “Social Business Strategy” (SBS) is just now attempting to move from the “Rigid” first stage to the “Collaborative” third stage as these slides from the Bangkok conference demonstrate.

Suffice it to say that Rotary as an organization is late to recognize the “disruptive” influences of social media and may as yet not fully comprehend its full meaning. As described in the SBS the focus is on how Rotarians across the world can communicate and share information regarding the many projects clubs and districts support.  In particular it wishes to put host and sponsoring clubs together more easily.

This is a laudable goal, however, as numerous commentators have pointed out the communications revolution we are currently going through caused by the new social media platforms, from blogs, onward not only extends to those outside the organization but to the management of the organization itself.

One recent example has been this blogs proposal that it was time to elect a woman as president in 2014-15. When the editorial was discussed at Linkedin what we all learned was that Rotary has in place a system of both written rules, and informal but what appears to be mandatory practices that potential candidates must work through which makes it impossible for a woman to be elected for that year. And when one realizes that the formal rules can’t even be considered until, at the earliest, the 2016 Council on Legislation, can one fully appreciate just how far Rotary is from being  in the” Adaptive” stage.

David Johnson, writing in Social Media Today (“Introducing the NO HITS Method for Building a Social Business”) calls this the “New Order” which contains four characteristics “Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Synergy.

Rotary has an abundance of the first two characteristics, which is likely what is most attractive about the organization to many of its members. On the other hand the issue of the process by which District Governors, Zone Coordinators, Directors and the President positions are attained, more by appointment than election, lacks considerable transparency. Although the process is well articulated in the Manual of Procedure the actual nominations and their vetting for most members remain shrouded in mystery.

Johnson defines synergy as the degree to which an organization has attained a high degree of collaboration. There are many facets of Rotary which work against collaboration; to name just three: the high degree of independence at the club level, the lack of continuity from year to year at all levels, and the practice of assigning only the most experienced past District Governors or Presidents to head up new initiatives.

Solis I think would go beyond just collaboration and define synergy as the point at which managerially the organization could respond to change with not only Level four agility but reach Level five “Predictability”.

Rotary has strength in abundance to meet this challenge of the “New Order”. The very fact that General Secretary, John Hewko has been able to convince the Board of Directors of the need for a collaborative social business strategy is evidence of that.  The challenges are huge however, not the least of which is how to inspire the clubs to voluntarily join in the process.

Space does not permit a full discussion of the changes which need to be considered for Rotary to thrive in the new age now under construction. No one really knows the full magnitude of what kind of a society we are creating but we as Rotarians do know that we want this association of ours to reach its bicentennial anniversary as a thriving and vibrant organization.

We also know that engagement is one of the key components of the social media universe. Rotary’s leadership, with the roll out of its Social Business Strategy, has begun the process but if we are to survive we also, especially at the club level, need every member to get “engaged” in the process.

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