In my previous post, I laid the groundwork for my series on lodge improvement. I wrote about what continuous improvement is and why it’s important but I never got into the details of implementation. Let’s dive in, shall we?
A Person Without Direction Is Like A Ship Without A Rudder
I find success and leadership to be very fascinating and I’ve studied of these concepts on my own time recently. What I find interesting, and hopefully you will too, is that I have never found an example of a highly successful person who did not have a clear vision for themselves and a plan to obtain it.
There are countless books that focus on the importance of having goals and creating visions. The idea is that visions and goals are like a roadmap for your life. A vision is your destination and the goals are the path that will take you where you are going. Highly successful people excel at using their own personal roadmaps when they make decisions. When they are given an option they compare the opportunities that option provides with their goals and vision. If the opportunity will bring them closer to achieving a goal and take them closer to their vision then they are more likely to accept the opportunity. If on the other hand, they have a chance to do something but it will not help to achieve a goal or, even worse, it brings them further away from their goal, then they do not give it any further consideration.
What’s interesting is that these concepts apply to organizations as well. It’s a very safe bet that most, if not all, multi-million dollar cooperations have a vision, or a big picture, for the type of organization they want to be as well as a list of very defined goals that will help them achieve their vision. In reality, it’s what makes them so successful.
So, if visions and goals are so effective for people and organizations, doesn’t that mean it should work just as well for Masonic Lodges?
A Lodge Without A Paddle…
Does your lodge have a clearly defined vision which is shared on a regular basis with each of its members? Does your lodge also have clearly defined (and, preferably, quantifiable) goals which can be used to measure success and bring the lodge closer to its vision?
What about your Grand Lodge?
If your lodge or Grand Lodge already has these, then I give you my earnest congratulations because your lodge or Grand Lodge is truly exceptional. If your lodge or Grand Lodge does not have these, however, they are like a ship without a rudder.
The fact is that, much like a person, a lodge without a vision or goals is subject to the whims of whatever sounds like a good idea at the time. A lodge with no vision has no destination in mind and it will end up wherever it arrives at, which can easily be the loss of its charter.
Hopefully, by now you see the importance of developing a vision and goals for your lodge. Let’s look at the actual process:
Hold An Informal Meeting
If you’re the Worshipful Master, call an informal meeting. If you’re not the Worshipful Master, tell him your intentions and ask him to call a informal meeting. If this isn’t possible, for whatever reason, ask to be put on a committee created for this purpose. At least a committee can meet and follow these guidelines.
Typically, in most organizations, you’ll want as many stakeholders as you can get to attend this meeting. A stakeholder is a person who will be impacted by any decisions made by the organization, so if you have a lodge with 100 dues paying members then you should have 100 stakeholders. The reality of the matter is that the same handful of members who can be relied on for everything else in the lodge will be the members who show up for this meeting.
The reality of the matter is that the same handful of members who can be relied on for everything else in the lodge will be the members who show up for this meeting. These are your stakeholders. Don’t allow yourself to be too concerned with the remaining membership which doesn’t attend the meeting because chances are they won’t be too concerned with any changes you make unless it affects the dues they pay. I also feel it’s important to address this now: your plans to hold a meeting and what you intend to discuss should be shared with as many members as possible. This may or may not increase attendance but as masons, we should certain be open and honest with our brethren. You certainly don’t want to be accused of trying to change the lodge in secret.
Running The Meeting
Bring a dry-erase board to the meeting and be prepared to write a lot. Once everyone arrives, declare the purpose of the meeting. For many members, this will be the first time they’ve ever heard of anything like this being discussed in a masonic lodge and this is part of the problem (although it’s certainly not their fault!).
Many members are used to the Worshipful Master to simply decree what he believes is best for the lodge and the members are expected to follow through with it. This makes it difficult to create any sort of long-lasting consistency over the years because there is no ‘buy-in’ to any of the programs that the Worshipful Master pushes through during his year. Members will lose interest in the programs, assuming they had any at all, and the incoming Worshipful Master may or may not continue the program.
This means that creating a vision for the lodge and relevant goals can be a complete waste of time if there is no buy-in.
As the change agent in this situation, you need to understand one thing about this meeting: your role is that of a facilitator. You need to guide the members through this process without trying to influence the meeting with what you feel the lodges vision and goals should be. It’s important to set the ego aside for this and understand that you are one man and the long term success of this quest depends on the majority of the stakeholders to feel invested in their ideas, not yours.
Calling a meeting helps to get two birds with one stone. First, the meeting will put the lodge on track to creating a vision and goals to achieve that vision. Second, the members at this meeting are the people who get to decide what that vision will be and what goals are needed to reach the goal. People love their own ideas and they feel invested in seeing their ideas bear fruit.
I feel that it’s easier to agree on common goals and building a vision around those goals so this is where I start.
Ask the members present to brainstorm what they feel are the most important goals of the lodge. If clarification is needed then you may ask what the members feel the most important role of the lodge is. Remember that there are no dumb suggestions, write down each one on the dry erase board.
Once you have a nice list, go through the list with the brethren and ask them to raise their hands when you say what they feel is most important. Once you go through the entire list, look at the top three ideas with the most votes. Congratulations, you have just identified the top three goals your stakeholders feel are most important.
On To The Vision!
Once you have the top three goals of your lodge then it’s time to brainstorm about a vision. You’ll approach this much the same way, writing everything down and voting on it. Facilitation is very important here because it’s important that your vision and your goals align with one another if your goals are going to effectively bring you closer to your vision.
A lodge cannot be unsuccessful if it does not have a standard to compare itself with. This also means that a lodge cannot be successful if it does not have a standard to grade itself against.
By the time you have completed a vision and goals for your lodge you now have a standard to compare your lodge against. Throughout the year the decisions a lodge makes will with conflict or align with the vision and goals that were decided on and over time this will determine a lodges success.
Your goals won’t be perfect, they will need fine-tuning over time. The same may be true about your vision. This is normal and is an important factor in continuous improvement. Next time I’ll talk about how we will take these visions and goals and apply continuous improvement to them in order to let them further serve the lodge.