Rotary International (RI) is developing its strategic plan. To continually be successful, RI and its administrative districts must remember that RI's sole purpose is to create and support Rotary clubs, and that Rotary clubs' sole purpose is to create and support
Rotarians. The common objective of the Rotary network is
to advance the Object of Rotary. With
this firmly embedded in planners' thought processes, everyone involved should clearly
understand that all plans and initiatives should target measurable outcomes,
which should never, ever be confused with performance measurements.
Well-meaning managers' desires to track, record, and reward achievements based on performance measurements continually diverts organizations from achieving essential outcomes. Meeting performance goals doesn't require the vision that achieving outcomes does. A classic example of this is RI's now infamous recruiting death dance, an initiative that concentrated solely on the performance measurements of how many warm bodies clubs could bring during a specified time period. During the death dance, clubs expended resources and reputations to receive Governor and Presidential citations because they concentrated on this annual performance measurement. People of Action often refer to such usually well-meaning but non-productive activities as "feeding the elephant" - a synonym for wasting talents that diverts visions and resources from achieving outcomes.
Another example is asking People of Action to record and report volunteer hours and dollars contributed. From RI's viewpoint this no doubt appears to be a nice idea - as did its recruiting initiative. RI apparently would like to use the information to illustrate how much the association, and each club, is serving the world - another nice idea. But clubs are not service organizations; they are civic organizations attracting and retaining Rotarians from niche markets. Rotary's projects and programs should be evaluated on being nice, important, or essential. Nice projects, such as picking up trash, can generate hundreds of volunteer hours that have nice outcomes - trash-free areas. Essential projects and programs, such as the eradication of polio, and projects and programs that fall within RI's Areas of Focus benefit greater numbers of people and social fabrics, but generate comparatively few volunteer hours. Are the volunteer hours equal in value? Hardly. The same principle is applicable to contributed dollars. A contribution to a single student's scholarship is nice and can have a wonderful outcome for the student and the future generations they spawn. The same contribution to an essential project that results in access to safe water or improved education rates achieves greater outcomes for many and their future family generations. Are the contributions equal in long-term desired outcomes? Hardly.
Note the comment in the text box from a previous Rotatorial. Rotarians are much more interested in achieving personal and local outcomes. Tracking and publicizing volunteer hours and/or dollars are performance measurements, and will be considered by most Rotarians to be "feeding the elephant." Even trying to equate the impact volunteer hours and dollars contributed doing nice projects and programs with the impact Rotarian influences have on achieving essential outcomes will, in the long run, be counter-productive, as were RI's recruiting initiatives. This elephant fodder will - not may - detract the network from chartering and supporting Rotary clubs as they develop and support Rotarians.
RI leaders should hesitate and consider the image they are projecting before asking clubs and Rotarians to do anything that could be perceived to be "feeding the elephant". If RI wishes to show the impact outcomes of Rotarians' causes have on our communities, it should:
- Create marketing initiatives that will help in chartering clubs and improving retention and attraction rates,
- 'define the information needed to fulfill the initiative's purpose,
- suggest how the information could be used to support the initiative,
- receive estimates from professional firms on gathering and authenticating the information, and
- how the information could or should be used to achieve the initiative's desired and measurable outcome.
This, or a similar plan of action, would allow RI to do what sensible People of Action do; make a rational business decision by estimating the return on investment the initiative could bring to RI without jeopardizing the vision of attracting and developing Rotarians - People of Action.