All associations, just like individuals and other organizations in the private and public sector have five stages in their life. Birth, a time of great excitement and high expectations. Teenage years, a time of growth and the establishment of one’s personality and a clearer understanding of key skills and capacities. Adulthood, a time of hitting your stride and making maximum contributions. Retirement or renewal, a time in which you become more self-aware and more reflective and where you often ponder “what’s next.” And finally, decline or death, a time that foretells the final chapter of life.
But unlike humans, associations and those individuals in leadership have the opportunity and responsibility to postpone or avoid death by making sure that the organization is constantly renewing itself.
So, how old is your organization? Does it have the energy that it had when it was originally created or has it become a mature adult where the organization is functioning at a high level, but you begin to see troubling signs of an organization more focused on protecting what it has and less willing to take risks or try new things? Perhaps some organizations have fully served their purpose and deserve to “pass away,” but leaders need to make sure that this is a conscious decision and not simply a result of the passing of time and the progression through the five stages of life.