At one session I attended, an audience member asked the question quite plaintively: “How do we deal with the fear and pain of selecting a new association management system?”

First, you’re not going to eliminate the fear. People will be worried/concerned/scared. You can’t change that.

Second, there is going to be some “pain,” regardless of what you do. Even the very best projects have bumps and unexpected twists and turns. That can’t eliminated.

But you can minimize the amount of fear and pain by taking some very simple steps:

  1. Over-communicate. You can’t just tell staff what’s going to happen and then go away. You have to let them know what the plan is, and then keep them updated on the progress. And if things change, let them know that, too.
  2. Acknowledge that there will be problems. I always tell my clients, as we make decisions, we have to acknowledge that we’re making this decision with the best information we have now. That information may change later, and we may have to change our decision then. That’s not a failure; that’s adapting to change.
  3. Communicate clearly what success looks like. Too often success is implied by simply going live with the new system. But real success has to be measured concretely. For example, for one of my clients, one measure of success was that within 90 days of launching their new AMS, online renewals had gone from 0% of the members renewing online, to nearly 70% renewing online. That’s huge!
As consultant Alan Weiss points out, people don’t really fear change; after all we deal with change every day. What they fear is ambiguity. And communication is the key to clearing up ambiguity.