Aiming for the wrong goals
Here's a list of words that sound great but are extraneous to your mission: first, most, fastest, tallest, biggest, loudest, easiest.
These words can be distracting. You see them often on trophies and blue ribbons and press releases. But they're superficial, especially for a mission-driven organization.
Thursday around 10 a.m. eastern time, major media outlets were reporting the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act. They all wanted to be first. They wanted it bad. So much so that some of them even got it dead wrong. And they even nitpicked over who was first by mere seconds.
Later in the day, American Journalism Review's Rem Rieder asked the right question: Who cares?
"[T]here's no doubt the scoop is a time-honored tradition in journalism. Breaking a big story is a big deal. … But worrying about being first on reporting something that is handed to you and everyone else? By 24 seconds? To borrow the Gail Collinsism, I think I speak for everyone when I say, it's really not important. Worse than that, it's dangerous."
This is a prime example of forgetting what matters most. Or not noticing when what matters most changes. For media in the age of Twitter, chasing breaking news is a fool's errand; it's harder than ever to do, and the returns for doing it are less than ever. Time does not honor traditions forever.
Associations can heed an important lesson here. Don't get lost in the traditional metrics: more members, more attendees, more web visits, more ads, and so on. These can all be indicators of success, but they're not goals on their own. If your mission is to advance your profession or effect some specific social change, you have to decide first whether more members will help you reach that goal. In some cases, it might not. A relentless focus on more members or more attendees could lead to results that undermine your mission. Do you have the resources to support more members? Do all those new attendees have interests and needs different from what you're able to provide?
Focus first on what matters most: your mission. Then act in alignment with those goals. Most, first, and fastest won't always be what gets you there.
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