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The Zig Zag Syndrome

by Harrison Coerver,
Lawrence-Leiter & Company

One president may determine that the emphasis should be on education; the next may feel their best contribution while in office would be for the organization to undertake a stronger legislative position, another volunteer leader's agenda might be to improve and expand the publications of the association.

This annual "agenda switching" causes the association to change directions without doing so in the context of an overall plan or strategy. The efforts may very well be necessary, urgent, or important, but they are often "flashes in the pan" that fade into obscurity once their champion has left office.

Some of the negative effects of this lurching and "zig zaging" from one course to another include:

1. Uneconomical use of resources. Not just funding, but volunteer and staff time that is devoted to these efforts without consistency or efficiency.

2. Depletes volunteer and staff enthusiasm and commitment. When these individuals see the organizations changing course constantly, they feel their time and efforts are wasted in a project that will not have continuity or lasting impact.

3. Makes the association vulnerable to competition. As your organization shifts from one purpose to another, the competition can more efficiently direct their energies to a single purpose, concentrate resources, and all march to the same drummer.

The Solution: A plan and strategy that maps out the road ahead, sets priorities, and keeps the organization on course. To insure its implementation year after year, involve the future leaders in the process. That way they are committed to and understand the plan, and when their turn at the helm comes, the objectives and goals are in place. The resulting ride is much smoother and the route more direct.