Distinguish between "can't" and "don't"

I often hear from my clients something along these lines: “We’d like that data but we don’t have it.”

I always respond with “Do you not have it because you’ve never collected it, or because you have no way to collect it and store it?” In other words, are you NOT doing something because you can’t do it, or because you don’t do it?

This is an important distinction, though often overlooked. And very often, when an association is not collecting certain data that staff thinks is valuable, the assumption often is that the data is not collected because the association is unable to collect it (can’t) rather than the data is not collected because no one is bothering to ask for the data (don’t).

“Can’t” means you need better technology. “Don’t” means you need different processes.

Understanding the difference between can’t and don’t will help determine how to address the issue.

About Wes Trochlil

For a quarter century, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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