What is Preventing Growth in your Organization?

In my May 6th post, I spoke about a recent workshop I ran with a group of non-profit religious organizations. My first point was to focus on the need for organizational growth and how marketing can be a tool that can help establish growth.

Our next area of discussion was how do we get an organization growing?

For one helpful perspective, we turned to Peter Senge. In his seminal book, The Fifth Discipline, one of his major themes is, “Don’t Push Growth; Remove the Factors Limiting Growth.”

I liken Senge’s concept to the garden with tomato and pepper plants I planted last week. My experience is that if I have properly prepared the soil and then water, weed, and fertilize the plants, then they will grow. However, if I neglect any of these, I will impede the growth or even kill my garden.

For my workshop audience I also shared a text from St. Paul which reads, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3: 6-7). In other words, we are responsible for tending the garden, but we cannot “make” it grow.

Here is a real life example of what it looks like to remove the impediments to growth.

I met with an association this week that is experiencing a decline in membership. One of the programs that we have helped them with is to reinstate departed members. When I went through the results with them, immediately the impediment to their growth jumped out to us. The mailings that we did to recently lapsed members were generating between a 3.8% and a 4.9% response rate. And the telemarketing was producing over 10% response rates in paid credit card orders.

This meant that somewhere between 10% and 15% of their lapsed members did not actually want to leave!

What do you think their impediment to membership growth is?

Clearly there is not a problem of member value (lot’s of members wanted to come back), nor is it a problem of new member input (they added 30,000 members this past year). Their impediment was not effectively asking members to renew. Their renewal system had a leak and was draining growth potential from the organization.

I have found a secondary benefit of enabling growth by removing impediments is the focus it creates. An individual or an organization which is focused on solving one problem can usually do this effectively. We get lost when we try to do too many things.

Do you have any comments on this concept of removing impediments to enable growth?


Don Metznik said...

I strongly believe in removing impediments to growth, and can share this experience.

Growth is, of course, the net result of gains and losses. My experience with a mature club organization where the objective was long-term, consistent growth (vs. explosive, periodic growth) is that retention efforts contributed more to net growth than acquisition efforts. For example, historical analysis showed that while the club acquired 10-15% new members annually, it often lost as many. Although our new acquisition program was robust, it built upon earlier efforts. In other words, we became more effective. On the other hand, retention was a new initiative that capitalized on a previously untapped strategy. By maintaining consistent acquisition, and by reducing controllable member resignations, we created a consistent trend of 3-4% net growth.

So, yes, removing impediments is a strong approach.

Tony Rossell said...

Dan -- Everyone benefits from real data and not just opinions. So thanks for sharing your results. Impediments to growth vary from one group to another. But one thing everyone has in common, they do exist. Tony