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10 Principles For Managing Change In An Organization: Stay Relevant To Your Association Members

Do you feel like your association welcomes change? Most associations are dangerously slow to adapt to change due to outdated traditions and poor volunteer management. The truth is, today’s association members aren’t looking for the same things that they were looking for 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

Do you feel like your association welcomes change?

Most associations are dangerously slow to adapt to change due to outdated traditions and poor volunteer management. The truth is, today’s association members aren’t looking for the same things that they were looking for 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

Today’s associations need to learn to adapt to the changing business environment if they want to continue to stay relevant–to focus on providing value to members and spend less time on the association’s operations. In doing so, association leaders will see your job satisfaction increase and the association start to thrive again.

This phenomena has lead to the phrase “Dynamic Association Leadership” which means that the organization is led by people who consistently evaluate their organization and steer the group’s collective activity toward creating more value for their members and their industry.

If you’re spending your entire leadership term or executive career focusing on organizational operations, PAUSE and take a look at this process.

I’ve identified 10 principles for managing change in an organization that provide the framework for steering your association through organizational change. And, as is custom of any good association leadership process, I’ve come up with an acronym to help you remember these 10 key factors.


  1. Why
  2. What
  3. How
  4. Inspire
  5. Evaluate
  6. Lead
  7. Board-Focus
  8. Adapt
  9. Recognize
  10. Consider

Let’s look at the first 3 factors:

1. WHY: Recognize the emotional belief that drives the existence of your organization.

Define your members’ “why.” Why are your members coming to your association? What is the feeling that your members get when your association fills their deepest professional needs? Clearly defining your member’s “why” will give you a clearer picture of what your organization should be doing.

Example: An association is struggling to add new and relevant value to their members. When asked “why do individuals join your association?” the conclusion was made that their members really wanted the association to fill three basic needs:

  1. Connection: To be able to connect with, and rely on, a community in their field. They wanted to feel like they had a place where they were understood and felt a sense of belonging.
  2. Protection: To have a voice in the legislature to protect their profession.
  3. Growth: To be successful and fulfilled in their career. To feel like they are making a difference.

Accordingly, this association’s new battle cry became “We believe in connection, protection, and growth for professionals in our industry.”

This “why” statement reminded volunteers and members of the big picture. It’s the reason for every board meeting, every strategic planning session, and every decision the association makes.

Action Step: A great video to solidify this concept is Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk “Start with the WHY”. It will help solidify the concept. Now, look at your mission statement and try to extract a few key concepts that might explain your members’ WHY.

2. WHAT: Identify mechanisms and create a system that addresses your members’ emotional belief.

Does your structure support the “why” defined above? Set up systems and processes that ensure that your members’ emotional beliefs are remembered and supported and that your activity aligns with those beliefs.

Example: A large and growing association was becoming less relevant because their traditional governance structure was not accepting of change. They had a 27-person board of directors, and regularly had over 28 tactical items on their board meeting agenda.

By re-imagining their organizational structure they shifted to a 7-person governing board that specifically focused on strategy. They also installed a larger Operational Committee that was specifically responsible for the tactical implementation of the strategy set forth by the governing board.

Action Step: Take a look at your organizations chart. Is there a clear hierarchy for focused strategy and a clear place for focused tactical work? What will happen within the structure when a change is proposed?

3. HOW: Use your system to produce products and services that align with your members’ emotional belief.

Now that you have a purpose and a structure to support it, it’s time to align your programs, written content, online activity and other initiatives with the emotional belief.

Example: ABC Association discovered through their data analysis that only 20% of their members are consistently reading their print newsletter. The majority of their membership still wants news about the industry, but was becoming accustomed to consuming content online. In addition, the members didn’t find the newsletter’s content to be valuable. To meet their member’s needs, the association reevaluated the value of their content. They restructured their publishing team and started interviewing members about how they run their businesses. They also started using blog posts, email campaigns, and social media to reach their members for effectively.

Action Step: Think about your programs, products, and service. What is your organization afraid to change about these things? Write them down and use your org structure to help you make these changes.

So there you have it; I’ve walked you through the first three factors in managing change in your association. What will you do to plan out the additional 7 steps? For help, check out the full 10-step process and download your free guide from IntrinXec, “The Secret to Staying Relevant.”

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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