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GGA Insights exists to support you as a club leader, offering you solutions, tools, and tactics today that can help you improve your work life tomorrow. But putting change into practice can be a challenging endeavor. GGA Director, George Pinches, offers a road map for translating genuine insights and data into meaningful boardroom action.
Most private clubs are like cruise ships; they do change direction, but very slowly. They are often steeped in tradition, and while this is a powerful asset, it can also hold clubs back.
In reality, clubs need agility if they are to respond and adapt to the fast-evolving demands of changing markets, new technology and generations of new members.
But don’t lose hope; with more data available to us than ever, there is reason for optimism.
Data can clarify the changes that need to be made, shape the direction of travel, and safeguard clubs from the obstacles and pitfalls they may otherwise run into.
But the truth is, before data can be put into such effective practice, many clubs and boards require a cultural shift to recognize the value of it.
When my GGA colleague, Fred Laughlin, first introduced the Club Governance Model, he stressed the importance of obtaining a board commitment before undertaking transition.
This is because research demonstrates it usually takes three administrations for significant changes to be fully adopted by a club board.
In order to move away from what we typically see – decisions based on anecdotal evidence rather than genuine insights and hard facts – this is the process to follow: commitment first, then change follows.
For you, obtaining commitment from your board and committees means convincing them that the use of data-driven decision making is mutually beneficial.
Once your board members start asking “What are the facts? Do you have comparable data or industry benchmarks to support this recommendation?”, then your club will be on track to a brighter future based on genuine insights.
Shifting the dial
It’s clear that clubs can no longer rely on decisions based on institutional memory and personal opinion. But how do you (in practical terms) achieve such long-lasting change?
When it comes to shifting the culture, timing is key.
One of the best opportunities to start a culture shift is at the beginning of a new tenure. This tends to be a ‘honeymoon period’ for the new GM or COO, when support and expectations are running high.
Take the opportunity to assess the culture and seek ways to introduce change: commitment first, change to follow. If your board has an annual board retreat, this can be an opportune time to take action.
Beyond that, I’d recommend focusing on these three key areas to encourage a sustainable culture shift towards a data-driven future:
Board recruitment and development – The nominating committee can add “an aptitude or understanding of data-driven decision making” to the list of attributes when recruiting nominees for the board. The GM/COO can use the same criteria when filling senior management positions.
Board policy – Alterations to the Board Policy Manual (BPM) can ensure that the decision-making policy stipulates the required data, back-up information, and consultation necessary to support a recommendation. Proponents, be they committee or management, soon learn what is expected by the board before considering an initiative or making a decision.
Education – Club industry resources that extol the virtues of data-driven decision making can be shared during board and committee orientation to support the culture shift away from anecdotal to fact-based practices.
Finding ‘your’ way
Process and structure will help, but a true shift in culture can only be achieved through intelligent and thoughtful execution. In some cases, this means finding the unique tactics which work best for you and your Board.
‘Shifting culture’ will not appear in many job descriptions of club leaders. But, for a lot of clubs it should be at the very top. It holds the key to disrupting what can be a perennial cycle of decisions based on what those in power ‘think’ is right.
My advice: think long-term (beyond 5 years), actively gain the buy-in and commitment of board members, and put a structure and process in place to ensure data and intelligence are at the heart of how your Club operates.
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