On Change

December 13th, 2006 by bebersghost

People hate change. People love change.

Some people react to any change with fear and doubt – holding on to tradition with fists tight and minds closed. Some people react to change by enthusiastically adopting every new thing just because it’s new, without thought of consequence.

Both views are flawed.

Those who reject change blindly ultimately fail to adapt to the world. Like dinosaurs, their fate is to vanish into fossilized memory.

Those who accept change blindly strew havoc and destruction in their wake, not realizing that their new approach may be inferior to the tried and true.

Change is a partner, one who should be courted and examined thoughtfully before being invited to move in.

Change and BBYO

BBYO is currently facing change. You’ve heard the words:

Engagement – Updated Policies – Dashboard – B-Linked

These all represent significant changes for BBYO. Over the days to come, I will explore all of these in more depth.

But I’m going to give you a preview now.

Most of these changes are fundamentally good. Surprised? Some email comments I’ve received have suggested that I am generally critical of the direction that BBYO is taking. Nothing could be further from the truth. Oh, there are lots of implementation details that need to be addressed, but the fundamental direction that is being advocated by BBYO’s staff, adult commission, donors and youth leadership is sound.

So what’s the problem?

The Heart of the Problem

These are big changes. Communicating them effectively – selling them – throughout an organization with many different stakeholders was never going to be easy. Even so, from where I stand, if the people driving these changes were making a conscious effort to sabotage the changes and create resistance to these changes they couldn’t have done a more thorough job.

Allow me to point out a significant and telling example:

I was emailed a link earlier today of the conference call the staff and GAG held to field questions from members. I commend them for taking the time to do so, and commend the members who participated. The most important part of the conversation was not, however, in the questions or the answers. It was in the questions that were not asked.

Listen closely:

The staff commented that they had not heard anything to suggest a change was needed in policy. What you will not hear anywhere in the conference call was the staff or GAG asking the participants questions like:

“Could you clarify for us exactly why you believe this policy is going to harm your chapter?”

“What would change in your chapter if this policy was enforced?”

“How do you feel this policy should be changed and why? What could we change to minimize the impact and still maintain the same level of safety?”

Do you see what I mean?

They were explaining and defending their views, but they were NOT listening – not real listening where you make a serious effort to understand the other person’s point of view. This is what I was talking about in the post titled “Buy-in“.

The Missing Changes 

The funny thing about this whole situation is that the very people who are committed to bringing positive change to BBYO are so resistant of other changes. Specifically – I kept hearing comments suggesting that the right way for members to provide feedback about policy or other issues is through their elected representatives or through elections at IC when they choose their representatives. Sorry folks, the world has changed. Technology has broken down the barriers between people and the world moves way too fast. Democratic participation can be 365 days a year, not just at occasional conventions. Leaders, even the most responsible and conscientious ones, are watched closely and held accountable – not just at election time, but all the time (ask any chapter leader, corporate executive or congressman and they’ll tell you about it). BBYO can’t afford to be a GM in a Toyota world – not if it wants to succeed.

Personally, I want to see BBYO become the most significant Jewish youth group in the world (my priority remains as stated in my very first post. Why are we here“). It has the potential to do so. It is a cause that I’m confident everyone involved with BBYO would embrace – if only, if only, they had the opportunity to be part of defining what it was they were embracing.

2 Responses to “On Change”

  1. Samantha S Says:

    I am the shore BBG Advisor and this weekend am attending a training conference. From what I understand about the changes being made within the organization, I can’t do anything but applaude. Although it may cause some extra pain for us in the beginning, I have personally seen what a lack of parental involvement can do. As an advisor, I expect my girls to completely inform their parents about everything going on. However, my national has received nasty letters from parents because they werent aware of a certain program that (after the fact) offended them. Once they have access to b-linked, it will be their responsibility to know where their kids are and what they are doing.

    When I was in BBYO (it seems like forever), my parents didnt really ask questions- but my group of friends werent getting into trouble, having sex, doing drugs or drinking alcohol. We enjoyed BBYO for what it was, a great place to meet friends and socialize with the opposite sex.

    Parents these days lack the class to take responsibility for themselves and their children. There are too many lawsuits against BBYO because their children don’t listen, break the rules, or act stupid. Kid leaves event early, gets into a car accident- BBYO’s fault! Why? Because we should have tabs on all kids at all times and no one is supposed to leave unless they have written permission beforehand. Why can’t a parent get mad at their kid for leaving early. Take some responsibility mom and dad and there wont be such a need for all this change!

  2. bebersghost Says:

    Samantha:

    Great comments. Thanks for inspiring me to write further on the topic.

    Just a couple of additional notes:

    – Many/most chapters already have web sites where events are posted. So I don’t know that b-linked is actually going to help on that score. The problem isn’t availability of the information, it’s getting parents to look.

    – BBYO is definitely afraid of lawsuits, but I’ve heard nothing to suggest that they are actually being sued regularly. Does anyone actually know of a specific case?

    – I’m not really all that concerned about BBYO getting sued – I’m concerned about me getting sued. What scares me most is BBYO coming up with a bunch of regulations we’re supposed to enforce. Then, if we screw up or don’t follow them exactly and something happens, we get sued and BBYO just sort of shrugs and says “well, the advisor didn’t follow the rules, it’s not our fault.” Great for BBYO, but bad news for the advisor. I don’t mind extra pain – I mind extra liability. Did your staff address this issue at all?

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