That’s the question that often comes up on the heels of an association accomplishing what it set out to do.
It’s not a unique problem. The March of Dimes was formed to stamp out polio. The advent of the Salk vaccine happily forced them to look at “now what?” And we’ve had a number of technical standards organizations that have done what they set out to do, then confronted the same question.
The fork in the road for “now what’ has three main branches.
The first is to shut down. Sometimes saying “mission accomplished” and folding up the tent is the best way to go. And it’s better to do this from a place of strength (money in the bank and members pleased with accomplishment) than weakness (dwindling membership and nearing bankruptcy). So if this is the decision, be sure to make a definitive decision when you still have the cash reserves to manage doing it right.
The second is to refocus. The March of Dimes refocused its mission from polio to the broader charge of “birth defects.” We’ve had one standards group that began to consider what other problems the set of members had to solve and shifted there. It’s worth looking at the business problems that your members face to see if refocusing is the answer.
The third is to partner. For a standards group that has developed a mature standard, it may makes sense to fold the work into another organization that can maintain the IP and provide some ongoing support of the standard, for example. And as with the first case, its critical to have these conversations from a place of strength, not weakness, because having a “fire sale” is no way to enter into a partnership.
Bottom line, it’s as important to plan for success as it is to stave off failure.
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