HOA Leadership – Toward Organizational Health

This commentary’s desired outcome is to stimulate and encourage you to begin the journey to cure the Central Issue in HOA Land:

The woeful lack of leadership skills and the failure to achieve Organizational Health

How do I have the gall to dismiss all the hard working and talented volunteers and professionals who labor so hard to make things work? The evidence is compelling and overwhelming.

Despite all the improvement in the “Smart Skills”, the issue and challenge in HOA land today in my opinion is the same as it was 40 plus years ago – systemic organizational dysfunction. (Systemic does not mean universal and dysfunction has a spectrum ranging from chaos to relative calm.)

Yes. Over the last forty years progress has been made on the “Smart Skills.” Compliance technology, accounting systems, banking processes, member communication tools, and other service delivery tools have improved. All the service providers have deepened their body of knowledge and enhanced their
delivery techniques. On the other hand, if we are so smart, why does this organizational dysfunction persist?

I offer for your consideration that it persists for the following core reasons:

  1. The lack of a cohesive stable leadership team well trained in the decision sciences with agreed upon communication and problem resolution skills & protocols.
  2. The absence of clarity on what does success look like (the End in Mind), how will we know we got it, and what is the path to get there?
  3. The failure to constantly overcommunicate to all stakeholders about the EiM, the path and the progress.
  4. The inability of Association leaders to understand and confront their economic realities (who pays for what standard of care, when, and why).
  5. The wide performance and fee expectation gap between Associations and their service providers. (Associations want low cost perfection. Service providers want a fair exchange for perfection. Resentment builds over scope creep and lack of clarity and agreement on standards of care.)

Collectively, I call these five conditions the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) in the Common Interest Development world. Cure these performance and expectation gaps and Organizational Health becomes possible.

The first step in any problem-solving process is to define the problem. These five core reasons and CSFs are not the problem. They are treatable symptoms.

The problem is us – the professionals, the volunteers, the trade associations and all the other stakeholders. Up to now we have been focused on “Smart” important urgent stewardship issues. Not on the important not urgent “Organizational Health” leadership issues.

To me the smart stewardship skills and tools are prerequisite permission to play skills and tools. Leadership and Organizational Health skills and tools properly deployed can deliver an outcome that changes everything.

The industry has gone thru what I call the Discovery Era (What is this Common Interest Development thing?) and the Smart Era (What content knowledge and operational tools are required?). It is now time for the Organizational Health Era (How do we achieve functional and emotional satisfaction?).

Organizational Health requires different mindsets, toolsets, and skillsets. The path to get there requires a deep commitment to the desired outcome as well as the appropriate scarce resource allocation of time, talent, and treasure. How the industry adds organizational health to its agenda and desired outcome is a topic for another day.

I understand that Organizational Health as a concept (The Advantage. Patrick Lencioni) is somewhat of an eye of the beholder thing. I also know it is an idealistic never-ending quest. On the other hand, it is a worthy quest. Furthermore, dialogue, debate, commitment, and progress are better than no dialogue, debate, commitment, and progress.

One thing I have learned in my lifelong decision science and problem resolution journey is that it is one thing to identify and pontificate about a problem and quite another to:

  • Gain collective agreement that the problem exists, and that a solution is warranted and worthy.
  • Identify, acquire, and allocate the time, talent and treasure required to solve the problem
  • Create the framework and road map to solving the problem
  • Implement the solution
  • Sustain the solution.
  • Enhance the solution

I have also learned that people change strongly held beliefs and habits when one or both of two things

  1. Overwhelming evidence that the current belief or habit is wrong, dysfunctional, unhealthy or can be improved. (Maybe the earth is round. Maybe this smoking thing will kill me. Maybe there is climate change. Maybe I need to learn this technology stuff.)
  2. A significant emotional or tipping point event. (Pearl Harbor. A loved one’s death from lung cancer, record setting weather and fire events)

There is no King in HOA land that can decree the desired outcome, command the resources, and implement solutions. Therefore, we are left with the slow dance of starting the conversation, finding passionate champions, building agreement, proving the concept in test cases and environments, sending consistent persistent messages, and building momentum until the new way has supplanted the old way.

A deep dive into and a recipe to achieve the five CSFs discussed above are also topics for another day. However, here are a few questions you can ask and answer to start the Organizational Health quest with your clients and or your fellow board members:

  1. What does success look like in our community and how will we know we got it (The End in Mind. The Critical Success Factors (CSF’s). The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).)?
  2. What is the yellow brick road path to get there?
  3. What is the time, talent and treasure required to follow the path and arrive at the destination and is it worth it? (which is lower cost – legal fees to solve problems or consulting fees to prevent problems)
  4. What will it take to sustain Organizational Health given leadership, ownership and service provider turnover and standard of care issues?

Questions that are time consuming, emotionally hard to answer and even tougher to implement. Most have neither the will, the talent, or the way to achieve Organizational Health. Moreover, few will ask and pay for the guidance they need to achieve it. It is hard for Associations to fund “soft skill” training and processes. Yet, it is lowest cost option in the long run. What is functional and emotional satisfaction worth?

All the wisdom and guidance I have for you today…