Does Your Association Need Ritalin For Organizational ADD?

Image by Chris Corwin.

A student said to Zen Master Ichu, “Please write something of great wisdom for me.”

Master Ichu picked up a brush and wrote one word: “Attention!” The student said, “Is that all?” The master wrote, “Attention. Attention.” The student became irritable. “That doesn’t seem profound or subtle to me.” In response Master Ichu wrote, “Attention. Attention. Attention.” In frustration the student demanded, “What does this word attention mean?” Zen Master Ichu replied, “Attention means attention.” (From an old Zen Story.)

Attention Is The Currency Of Today’s World

Attention is the currency of the world. It makes the economy hum. It is required to make important decisions.

Those that don’t have it want it. Those that have it want more. Some work to preserve the attention they already have.

Attention can be purchased and traded. It can be converted to other currencies like our time and virtual badges from online check-ins.

Yet, attention is a depleted resource for many associations. Ignored association members unite daily sharing complaints and concerns about the association’s lack of attention to them. Sometimes their complaints spill over onto the web. Frustration is posted in Facebook. Negative tweets are sent. Blog posts are written. Yet most associations are unaware of their customer dissatisfaction.

Just as attention deficit disorder (ADD) is diagnosed in individuals and Ritalin prescribed, associations can suffer from organizational ADD.  

A Checklist Of Organizational ADD Symptoms

1. Myopia reigns.

Staff is unable to see the big picture. The distant future is blurry. Their inability to see the future causes an increased likelihood of missing key information when making decisions.

2. Attention goes to the wrong issues.

Like Dorothy distracted by a chorus of munchkins chanting “Follow the yellow brick road,” the staff wastes time on checking off tasks from their to-do list. Self imposed threats of unfinished tasks trump customer needs.

3. Member requests are an invasion of association privacy.

Like flying monkeys and screams of “I’ll get you my pretty,” member emails and calls are seen as an imposition. The water cooler gossip is about which members called or emailed to complain.

4. Communicating with members is seen as a transaction.

Member communications occur when the association needs something from them. It is transactional. Trying to get members to purchase something, perform a task, or attend a meeting. Developing relationships with paying members is a foreign concept.

5. The reflection pool is something found in Washington D.C.

Staff has diminished time for reflection. Debriefing projects and programs is seen as a luxury they can’t afford.

6. The association has difficulty getting and holding members’ attention.

Mass emails and print pieces are used for communications. Customized communications that may gain attention and possibly a mouse click are seen as time wasters.

7. FAQs and automated answering systems serve as replacements for customer service.

Heaven forbid a member call with a desire to talk to a real person. One size fits all FAQs will not help build desired loyalty.

8. Leadership is unaware of society and business trends.

They claim that their attention has been laser-focused on the tasks at hand. They surround themselves with volunteer leaders that are out of touch with cultural shifts.

Associations that run an attention deficit for too long, eventually have serious organizational consequences. Successful associations recognize that to get attention you have to give it.

What are some of the risks of an association not managing its attention? What experiences do you have with organizational ADD or associations that understand that their members crave attention?

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Hurt, Dave Lutz. Dave Lutz said: Does UR Assoc suffer from Organizational ADD By @jeffhurt #assnchat #pcma #assocforum […]

  2. Margit Crane says:

    Good job getting the SEO spiders to pick up your post and send it to people who get Google alerts on Attention Deficit Disorder. It would have been nice, though, if you had apologized for taking a serious condition that can paralyze families and turning it into your own personal “riff”.

    There is no diagnosis of “Organizational ADD” and you may be misleading people with this post. Also, Ritalin is not always prescribed for ADD yet you state this as a fact, without qualifying your statement whatsoever.

    As an ADD Coach for families and someone who was diagnosed in 1980, I ask you to be sensitive to the serious challenges that families face with ADD/ADHD kids, especially in light of how glibly and easily others toss around the term “Attention Deficit Disorder”.

    Thank you.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Ouch, Margit. Did you mean for your comment to come across as harsh?

      I did not choose the title for SEO spiders at all. And as a matter of fact, there are a lot of authors who talk about organizational ADD and it is not diagnosed by the medical community. It is used here as allegory and describes how organizations are attention deficit. Many writers use medical symptoms and diseases as allegory to describe situations. Their use of those allegories never discount or demean the disease at all.

      By the way, I have a lot of experience with ADD and ADHD. I daily experience the challenges of living with and loving a bipolar person with ADD. And one of my nephews has severe ADD. So your accusation that I am insensitive to ADD is ill-founded.

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