I spent a weekend last month in the Texas Hill Country as the Best Man for my brother. He was getting married, and everything went off fine! Back in the office, I was listening to a coworker talk about an AMS implementation she was working and it hit me—my speech was just as relevant to her and her client as it was to my brother and new sister-in-law. So I’m sharing with you four points from my wedding toast that will help you through the thick and thin when it comes to implementing new membership software.
1. Differing Expectations: Feature, Not Bug
Even with the best dating experience, engagement period, and near-constant communication, both spouses will have differing expectations for almost everything when the rubber meets the road. You can agree on the big stuff or plan out a lifetime (or just the next three years) and still find you envisioned daily life details differently. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert on a different subject, there’s “the unknown knowns.” (Those habits or mannerisms your new spouse never thought worth mentioning but now annoy you.) Don’t freak out—it’s not a sign you made a mistake, you’ve just realized the reality of all marriages.
No matter the number of demos, the length of your RFP, or the completeness of the functional requirement documents your subject matter experts compile with your consulting team, something will always come up. From a change in scope or your CFO dropping one of those “unknown knowns” on you at the last minute, even with the best communication, expectations are not 100 percent congruent.
That doesn’t mean everyone failed at project management, that’s just the reality of having multiple people involved. It provides the opportunity for point No. 2…
2. Conflict Is Good for Communication
Good communication doesn’t mean the absence of conflict. Actually, conflict is a necessary ingredient to good communication.
Six levels of communication exist:
- Elevator-talk: “Are you getting off here at 4? “
- Small-talk: “Will this be the year the Cubs finally win the World Series? Nah!”
- Functional: “You’ll need to pick up pasta on the way home if we want Italian.”
- Opinions: “Are you a dog or cat person?” “What do you think of Donald Trump?”
- Beliefs: The “whys” behind your opinions. “Dogs show emotion and are just more loveable.”
- Soul: The deepest conversation level, where you attempt to communicate the incommunicable part of you.
The potential for offense increases exponentially as you move toward deeper communication. Nobody gets mad if you press the Close button on an elevator; only Cubs fans hate me for that small-talk example. Yet, you could disagree with me on business processes—and if we ever discuss opinions and beliefs, conflict is inevitable. The deeper the relationship, the more conflict. In a successful marriage, deeper communication produces more conflict to solve, leading to closer intimacy and deeper communication…rinse and repeat.
In the implementation of membership software, we have functional communication ad infinitum. But implementing new software and reconsidering old business processes will always bump up against the opinions and beliefs of the stakeholders and in your association’s culture. The “new membership software project” will expose disagreements and deficiencies in how you operate. It’s part of the larger change management that should occur at every association. Conflicts will become apparent and will inevitably lead to greater understanding.
3. Avoid “Wedding Syndrome”
My new sister-in-law and her parents did a great job planning the wedding in Texas. I had a great time along with the other guests. But the new marriage is bigger than that one event on one evening. It’s a relationship for the long-haul. Spouses need an eye for the long-term, not just planning the details of a wedding.
This is what marketing guru Seth Godin calls wedding syndrome: “Our culture is organized around transitions, but they’re a distraction. What it says on your wedding invitation doesn’t matter a whole lot in the long run…a marriage is always more important than a wedding.” Successful businesses focus on consistent delivery of value as the goal, not the closest transition.
When your new membership software launches, your vendor will celebrate with you! But the point of your new system is daily use by your staff and members, not a launch party.
4. Long-term Change Happens
Think of the changes that happen between the ages of 25 and 50. A marriage has to navigate that change in each person over the years between two spouses. To succeed, you have to go back to what brought you together back in the first place.
The same is true for business relationships. Circumstances change. New technology and opportunities come up. Your association members have different needs. A relationship based on a firm foundation will flourish as change happens just like an implementation based on a reliable platform will succeed with configurations as they are needed.
What shouldn’t change are the core values and commitments you and your software vendor have made with one another. Given that, there’s nothing you two can’t accomplish. So raise a glass and toast to the future!