Eight Terribly Common Association Breaches And Breakdowns


Sadly, and all too commonly, many associations appear to suffer from the equivalent of attention deficit disorder.

If you know someone with ADD, you know what happens when s/he exerts energy in the absence of focus, goals and vision. Many associations are like this as well. They suffer from Organizational-ADD.

It all starts with the executive brain—the association’s leadership. This includes volunteer leaders—advisors, board, committee chairs, committee members—and staff. What is required is leadership that pays attention to what is important, inhibiting things that will not help or hurt the organization, and staying current.

Note: Authors Dr. Henry Cloud, Karen Martin, Brad Powers, Daniel Goleman and others have written about O-ADD for years.

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.

Eight O-ADD Symptoms

Here are eight symptoms of O-ADD. How many does your association have?

1. Myopia reigns.

Staff doesn’t 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 at attention deficit for too long, eventually have serious organizational consequences. Successful associations recognize that to get attention you have to give it.

Repurposed from a VCC 2010 post.

What are some of the risks of an association not managing its attention? What experiences do you have with organizational ADD?

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