Bill Troy’s October 2014 blog post offers up a topic that has been around since ASQ was originally formed: how do we grow the membership? In the almost 20 years I have been a member what Bill presents in his blog has been the same offered solutions. Yet, membership in ASQ has declined significantly since its highest level of 100,000+ members back in 2000. Do the currently offered strategies really address the issue if we want to grow membership?
I would offer a similar analogy faced by another institution: the church. There is a life cycle to churches, most often based on the vibrancy of the community that it supports. Churches, like professional organizations, offer value to people; note the current successful ministries of Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, or T.D. Jakes. You probably know of some very large “megachurches” in your area. They offer relevancy to their flock.
I would argue that churches have two sources that draw members, community vibrancy and the pastor’s personal magnetism. Churches that have been around for quite some time may have had a very dynamic minister as part of their history but what sustains the church in the community is the value that their programs continue to offer to the community. A “living” church maintains its orthodoxy and offers the community relevant programs. Without the programs, all you have left are religious tenets that can be assumed in other ways. It is sad when historical church congregations, pillars of the community, die. The church leadership failed to maintain their programs’ value to the community or the community found them in a better, more pleasing package elsewhere.
Bringing it back to ASQ, our job is to continue to make our programs relevant to the world. Although it is good to have a member model that makes it easy for people to join the greatest challenge that ASQ has faced is maintaining members. We often get new members from our certification programs. These programs are highly successful in that they offer huge value to members. Yet, retention falls off just after the certifications expire because we have not offered value for members or businesses to invest in maintaining certification.
Section and division membership levels are often susceptible to the “magnetic personality” complex. Usually there are about three dominant personalities that act as the “light” of the member unit and draw in membership. Once those lights are extinguished, membership dries up. The challenge is to acquire those “lights” out in the local work community because they can be sustained easier. The “light” is based on influence rather than personality. Ask yourself; is the quality director of your largest enterprise a member of your local section or division? If not, how hard is it to recruit new members from that business?
Where we all have failed, and it is a continuing lament of mine, is in making ASQ valued in our local communities. What have we done to show the local influencers that our member unit offers programs that enhance their workers, not just the quality ones, with skills deemed essential by them? With their corporate programs what has ASQ done to provide new avenues, new applications of core quality concepts that make them essential success factors?
Pope Francis has signaled to the Catholic Church that it must become more relevant in today’s world. I would argue that we need to do the same in ASQ. Rather than continuing to dole out the same tactics that address around the edges stuff we need to answer the basic question of “What value should ASQ provide to tomorrow’s working world?” and work towards fulfilling that value as our primary goal.