September 2022: Effecting Change

Hello CMAA! A few weeks ago, I went to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)’s annual conference. I have belonged to ASAE for more than 30 years and rarely miss attending, except for other obligations--or more recently, COVID. It was the first time we have gathered in three years and a couple of things surprised me. First, there was a vaccine mandate for the event in addition to a requirement of a negative COVID test. As you know CMAA dropped policies like this in early spring, but it made me realize how some throughout America and beyond are still focused on this as a key measure for safety. I was also reminded once I saw the reduced attendance how so many organizations are still digging out of a financial hole created by the pandemic. While it may feel like the world has normalized and accepted COVID, we know that things haven’t yet found a calm as we now deal with employment challenges and higher prices! 

The theme of this conference was “disruption = opportunity” and all sessions leveraged that theme. As I listened to various sessions, I thought back to how much change you and your clubs experienced during the height of the pandemic to adapt and stay open. From my seat, you were impressive, and your members adjusted quickly to the changes you made. Indeed, COVID disruption brought about an opportunity for change. But now I wonder how much of that change stuck, or have you reverted back to pre-pandemic routines to serve your members. I suspect some things remain and some things have not. But more importantly what were the lessons learned about how to impact change in your club that you should be applying during all times – not just those disruptive ones. 

Speaking at the 2022 Leadership/Legislative Conference
September 2022
The Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC

Here are a couple key thoughts for you to ponder regarding change:

  • First, is acceptable failure part of your club culture when you are trying to change or evolve? Change experts tell us that failure is part of the opportunity for evolution and change. We are not perfect, and we should be celebrating those failures and the lessons learned. We want everyone to try new things but implementing change should not be haphazard – it should be grounded in research, understanding, a good hypothesis, a well-designed trial, excellent execution, and a process for learning how and what worked.

  • Another thought from change experts is to ensure you mix any team with the thinkers and the doers. We all bring different skills to a team. Some of us are great with abstract concepts and big picture, while others make things happen by implementing and focusing on the small details for success. We need to make sure we celebrate both types of people on our teams and all those in between who make change happen and carry it forward as that is what creates success.

  • Are you a big bold experimenter or one who likes to make incremental changes to reach success? I am sure there are times for both, but many change experts indicate that it is the smaller changes that build on the success of the last smaller change that are ultimately often most successful. As you would expect, the risk is also much greater with very large-scale change. While we may have been forced to make sweeping change during the early phases of the pandemic, that is usually not ideal. It likely worked due to the need for survival and to keep things going in an extreme situation.

  • One last thought from change experts is that often as you go about making changes, the team around you may suggest tweaks or offshoots to the change or brand-new concepts may come to light. Change experts want you to manage those ideas. Don’t stifle ideas but be careful how you include them. If we start making too many tweaks or chase other tangential ideas, we can fail from the weight of everything. Work through the tweaks and push those tangential ideas into new trials with the same pre-work as your original effort.


Speaking of change (as in loose change!), have you renewed your 2023 CMAA membership yet? If so, thank you very much! If you haven’t, please consider doing so by October 31.

Until next month,
Jeff Morgan, FASAE, CAE