You’re Paying Too Much Interest On Your Conference Organizational Debt


Most organizations pay for it without knowing it.

What is it? Conference organizational debt.

Your conference organizational debt includes the static roles, traditional structures, outdated models, long-established practices, antiquated procedures and legacy policies that prevent your organization from adapting to evolving markets, technology and society. Your conference pays the interest on this debt in the form of reduced speed, lack of capacity, diminished engagement, rigidity and stagnate programming. In the long run, this interest undermines your company’s strategy and goals.

Read previous posts about conference organizational debt here and how to refactor organizational debt here.

Two Types Of Organizational Debt

Bloggers Aaron Dignan and Mauro Da Silva identified two types of organizational debt.

The first is obsolete organizational debt. These are practices and procedures that are often decades old. In today’s rapidly changing business climate these are now obsolete. Think of your conference speaker and content RFP process. Many speaker and topic RFP’s have long lists of unnecessary and obsolete requirements.

The second is accumulated organizational debt. This is when new steps are added on top of existing procedures. The old steps are rarely re-evaluated, refreshed or removed. Consider your organization’s conference site selection process. Many are a maze of steps with a plethora of people involved. Frequently, the site selection process resembles a complicated, convoluted Rube Goldberg contraption.

Every time your conference planning process utilizes one of these customary outdated practices, it creates more interest on that debt. Your conference planning and implementation process suffers from the accumulation of unconsolidated practices, high interest and ongoing organizational debt. Ultimately, your conference customers bear the biggest burden.

Leadership Practices That Create Organizational Debt

A common leadership practice—especially among volunteer leaders and committees—is to not make any changes to last year’s planning process. These leaders favor the comfort and familiarity of repeating the past. Their actions maintain the status quo.

Frequently, these leaders default to the path of least resistance. They don’t want to ruffle any feathers or create conflict. They shun forging new trails. Bureaucracy sets in.

Some leaders adopt an if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-fix-it-attitude. Consequently teams bypass any incremental improvement practices. Thus organizational debt accrues.

All of these lead to organizational debt. And that eventually leads to declines in profits and customers.

Companies that have a high amount of organizational debt do so because their culture has trouble distinguishing between value-adding activities and mere busywork says Scott Norberg, Manager, INSTEC.

As a result, whenever an organization tries to create or implement innovation, they do so by following all of the previous mandates and processes. This in itself is an example of an organizational debt harming a future customer innovation.

Addressing Organizational Debt

If you want to identify and minimize your conference organizational debt, start with these questions:

1. Why did we start this process or procedure? What’s its history?

2. Is this strategy beneficial to our current target market in the long term? How or why not?

3. What steps could we take instead of this one that would be better for our customers?

4. Why do we still do this process or procedure?

5. How can we avoid adding new practices on top of what we already have?

6. How can we do the opposite of practicing customary procedures that feel comfortable and safe and experiment with steps that may feel unfamiliar?

Read Steps To Minimize And Prevent Conference Organizational Debt for more info.

What are some conference organizational debts that your organization employs? Why do leaders opt to follow traditional practices instead of get out in front and lead?

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