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Rotary International, ORCA, and Warren Buffett's Three i's

1 Hopeful RotarianBy PDG Jim Henry

Retention Central

Rotary International (RI) appears to have survived the ORCA and Three i progressions, but it now faces a challenge common to all surviving institutions.  Before we discuss this common challenge, what are these progressions?   

Orca and the three IAs research for this Rotatorial, I reviewed past Retention Central posts and read many articles on the natural progression of organizations.  As I made notes, I came up with my ORCA leadership progression - Originators create, Replicators improve, Copiers follow, and Airheads mess it up.  In a 2008 discussion with Charlie Rose, Mr. Buffett mentioned the Three i progression - innovators create, imitators enhance, and idiots screw it all up.  I was pleased with the similarities.  Unfortunately, that is where similarity between me and Mr. Buffett ceases.

Back to the common challenge.  All institutions that survive these progressions must be innovative in continually creating ways and means to serve their stakeholders, innovations that often necessitate painful changes.  Leading such a recovery takes visionary, strong, consistent, and competent leadership.  Does RI have the fortitude and organizational structure to survive this painful process?  That is questionable because RI's present practices of selecting, educating, and supporting its leaders all too frequently generates people who are popular but ill-prepared or equipped to lead People of Action.  This is the ideal atmosphere for nurturing intellectual inbreeding, which again guides institutions into the last phase in both progressions, but at a more accelerated pace. Ultimately, the institutions fail.

Rotary People of ActionFortunately, RI presently has a group of imaginative, talented, and influential lions and lionesses that have been innovative in creating and leading change. These business minds recognized that RI's priority is to charter and support clubs as the clubs create and support Rotarians.  They have made major headway, but their road has been, and continues to be, blocked by sacred cows and mindsets, particularly in some legacy markets.  RI's present three-year Councils on Legislation and one and two-year officer terms can be serious roadblocks to progress and continuity in leadership.  Many senior leaders comprehend RI's basic task is to serve and support its two-tier network. Most appear to recognize that potential members, before they become Rotarians, are already People of Action.  Unfortunately these dedicated leaders continually bump headlong into practices, projects, and programs developed when the leaders at the ends of RI's ORCA and Three i progression cycles considered Rotarians to be ordinary volunteers and believed that the prime duty of clubs and those volunteers was to "feed the RI and TRF elephants".

Senior Rotary and staff leaders must evaluate every practice, project, program, seminar, assembly, award and citation RI and TRF proposes, requires, and/or supports.  Each activity should deliver a value to People of Action commensurate with the time, talent and treasure they expend. If such values are not delivered, the actions should be changed or eliminated.  Otherwise RI will begin struggling through the ORCA and Three i progression cycles once the present modern thinkers and innovators serve out their terms.

The State of Membership Development

In November, 2015, Retention Central published the first Membership Development Report Card.  Rotary International has achieved another major milestone -a standing membership committee.

Report Card 4 15 20161. ESTABLISH PRIORITIES - Grade:  100%.  See November, 2015 Rotatorial.  

2. CREATE A POWERFUL GUIDING COALITION.  Grade: 100%.  The 2016 Council on Legislation approved Enactment 16-90, creating an influential, standing membership development committee.  This committee should prevent future leaders from diverting resources from Rotary International's established priority - creating and strengthening clubs, encouraging and assisting them in creating Rotarians.
3.  ESTABLISH AN ATTAINABLE VISION.  Grade: 50%.
Thanks to President Ravi the importance of retaining members has been brought to the forefront; President-Elect Germ has eliminated interim cutoff dates.  Great actions, but until the standing membership committee comes up with an attainable vision that includes retention and growth elements, this grade remains the same.  In membership-based organizations, such indexes are the only measures that accurately appraise success that are fair to all concerned. 

4. CREATE A SYSTEMATIC STRATEGIC PLAN WITH SHORT-TERM, ATTAINABLE MILESTONES.  Grade: 30%.  No improvement.  A workable strategic plan can only be completed when the standing membership committee establishes an attainable vision and an easily understood means of measuring the plan's success is in operation.

5.  COMMUNICATE.  Grade:  20%. Please see the November, 2015 Rotatorial for a more detailed explanation on why this grade continues to be the lowest.  It has improved from 12% to 20% because some district governors are delivering the perception that membership is Rotary's internal priority.  Unfortunately leadership and support regarding starting clubs and assisting weak clubs is still lacking. Many leaders as well as regular Rotarians have embedded mentalities that continually surface. Internal Marketing is badly needed because these outdated mentalities will not be easy to eliminate and/or overcome.  RI must not trivialize the importance of the perceptions delivered by the non-verbal, verbal, and written communications of Rotary, TRF, and all officers and staff.

Rotary future is getting brighter.  The Rotary network has the underpinning in place that should enable it to create more Rotarians. IfTransitional Leadership continues, the Rotary network will be better able to create Rotarians who can utilize existing attributes like TRF and spawn new attributes to help them advance the Object of Rotary throughout the 21st century.

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