"Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong."

—N. R. Narayana Murthy

After this lesson, you should be able to:

1. Explain how an association can sustain growth
2. Describe how associations can embrace change
3. Identify ways that an organization’s environment can impact culture
4. Explain how the mindset regarding output is changing

The task below will be automatically checked off once you complete taking the quiz.



There’s a lot that happens when you’re trying to inspire people while also crafting strategy and goals to drive your business forward. Ultimately, you can’t have one without the other — not for long anyway.

An inspired but directionless organization eventually dissolves itself just as surely as a methodical but uninspired one will. It’s an art to manage the balance that draws upon facilitation/influence skills, instructional design, and change management to both advance the organization’s growth and maintain the ground it has already gained. A vibrant Culture by Design feeds your strategy and vice-versa.

Many associations have historically been so fixated on maximizing the professional success of their members that they stop the wheels of innovation and progress once they feel they have fulfilled their role as a professional networking and development resource. They mostly don’t challenge themselves to go beyond that role and see what else the strength of their network could provide people both inside their association and the larger community around it.

But as a healthy culture begins to attract new and different people, associations must be prepared to handle a shifting landscape both internally and externally.


Good leaders know how to influence successful outcomes.


Maybe it’s intuitive, maybe it’s learned, but leaders at any level know how to inspire others to follow and support them once they do. They know stable growth depends upon their ability as a leader to match company goals and directives to the organization’s culture. Good leaders know how to inspire change and guide people through it once they do.


Click each tab to learn about hindrances to growth.



Mindset generates the behaviors that become the organization’s culture.


The values an organization possesses go into the policies it composes, which are ultimately dictated by the mindset of the leadership and the culture it wishes to create. Everything needs to be supported and expressed purposefully because people want to see verifiable proof the culture and mindset of the organization is alive and well.

Culture is like any living organism in that you must keep it nourished to sustain and grow over time. Just as well, culture is a habit that requires repetition and finding new ways to keep your values and purpose alive is a critical role for leaders.



The flexibility of the association’s internal and external structures is another important feature to include in your organizational mindset: the expression of cultural elements, depending on whatever type of culture you have, through policy. A stable, but flexible policy system needs to be thorough in trying to effectively execute upon the organization’s collective mindset and culture. Therefore, policies need to be simple and malleable and people need to be able to adapt within them.


The goal is to get people to think about how to serve by living the Core Values as their primary set of “policies,” and limit policies that direct specific behaviors wherever necessary.


The flexibility an organization can show outwardly helps convey respect and trust for the individual, even engendering a greater sense of responsibility and pride for the work they do. When policies can accommodate personal preferences and needs openly, it’s a gesture of recognition and concern for the people beholden to them that not only boosts individual performance, but also collective morale.

The mindset you set should be inclusive and adaptable to the organization’s environment and marketplace, but it should also treat people on an individual level in the very same manner. The outcome ultimately creates the most long-term benefit in the form of diversity of thought.

Structural flexibility focuses on understanding and accommodating people’s preferences to better engage them as the organization grows and adapts to external changes.

For workplace flexibility to be effective, it has to be implemented thoroughly, genuinely and followed up on consistently. Otherwise, you will not get the mutual benefit of engaging team members completely by helping them to feel respected, valued and trusted. It’s going to be an exercise in frustration on both sides, so the benefits and costs must be understood and explained at all levels.


Enriching the work environment is a multifaceted process tying together culture, structural flexibility, personalization, incentives and so many more elements in hopes of creating a healthier habitat in which an organization can grow stronger.

Knowing which elements of old to keep and which elements of new to adopt requires an abundance of research and trial-and-error before an organization gets the lush work environment and member engagement it may hope for.

Start by identifying what people want and don’t want from the association. For example, everyone wants to spend less time on rote/repetitive tasks.

Answer these questions:

  • Are there things an association can do to save members’ time?
  • How can we best know where opportunities lie?
  • Is it best to start by studying the actual lives of some customers to see how best to innovate existing products, or create entirely new ones to help the customer in their journey?

Visualize the customer’s viewpoint in every decision-making meeting.


Simple Principals for Improving Work Environment


Click each tab to learn more.


Output as a metric for success, a concept that has shaped much of the private sector’s current mindset and thus the environment, is being seriously reconsidered. This poses some enormous outcomes about which all organizations can only speculate at this point.

We are beginning to see a significant shift in mindset seemingly everywhere we look as people in nearly every field and industry increasingly ask, “Shouldn’t we consider our quality of life and environment, not just volume of output?”

As the mindset shifts, the policies we use to meet the need to be thought through carefully to realize their benefits and ensure they can be enforced. The quality of life and one’s work environment should be included in those discussions and tied into those policies.



Activities to apply this lesson’s concepts


Click each tab for the activity.


See if you understand the concepts by completing the quiz. Click Cultivating Sustainable Growth Quiz to begin.

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