There’s really no better place to start thinking about the changes your organization needs to make than to contemplate your current and future identity.
Yet most organizations operate as if everyone understands and agrees on their current identity; it’s only the future vision and actions that are in question. I was so convinced that identity matters that it was one of the “i”s behind our company name along with issues, initiatives and innovation. We rarely sell identity as a discrete service, but we almost always probe it with questions like these:
- What do you tell others about your organization?
- What do others (members, customers, stakeholders) say about you?
- What future identity would enable you to make the greatest contribution to a preferred future?
Even the answers to the first question are instructive if your key leaders discover they are not telling the same story. Another wickedly fun exercise is to look at a few pieces of evidence like marketing messages on websites and in brochures or annual reports where you sum up what you have achieved.
What’s wicked about this? Identifying the gaps and contradictions. Your organization promises sustained relationships and a sense of community. BUT only a few inner circle people have that customer experience with most relationships transactional one and done. Your association says you are inclusive of your profession or industry. BUT in reality you are overinvested in one or two sectors. And the people who are already dominant in your association are making the plans and calling the shots that define your future identity.
The constants in your current and future identity, what should not change, are the intentions you set for your organization. How you manifest those intentions in the future may require new members and clients, programs and services and maybe even a new business model.
Sometimes the hardest change work is simply aligning your organization’s future identity with who you intended to be before life and events led everyone to compromise.