ISM: Righting the Ship (and the Upcoming Membership Organization Tidal Wave)

Thomas Kase, Pierre Mitchell and I collectively descended on Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) annual event this week, formally known as the 98th Annual International Supply Management Conference & Educational Exhibit. In evolving its platform and mission under the new leadership of Tom Derry, ISM feels like it’s making early progress based on Pierre’s observations.

The opportunity that Tom Derry faces in evolving the vision and services for ISM may seem common to any national mission-driven organization. It goes without saying that an organization like ISM must strive to not only set educational, learning and credentialing standards for an industry, but to find new ways of becoming invaluable for members. This holds true for other organizations (both non-profits and for-profits) in identical and related markets such as The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS), Sourcing Interest Group (SIG), The Association for Operations Management (APICS) and the Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM), to name but a few membership and conference organizations serving the procurement, supply chain, and finance worlds.

Yet there is one school of thought – I subscribe to it, mind you – that the moves that Tom and his is team are making to evolve ISM aren’t just useful or helpful to members currently – they’re absolutely essential if the organization is to survive with any degree of influence or stature in serving its members in the coming decade. This holds true for all of the organizations mentioned above, many that I believe were (and are, in certain cases) equally as clueless as ISM was a couple of years ago about the coming comet that is about to hit the member organization planet sometime soon.

In a research brief yesterday on Spend Matters PRO, Scenarios for ISM/Member Organizations in 2020: Introduction and Context, I outlined the context driving what could be a period of punctuated equilibrium (i.e., massive change) about to hit these organizations as the market for learning, networking, certification, credentialing, knowledge management/access and related areas goes into upheaval thanks to new technologies and expectations for member groups. In this analysis, I suggest five, not necessarily mutually exclusive future scenarios in the year 2020 for organizations such as ISM. These include what I label (and define in our analysis in more detail) as:

  • Scenario A: Trusted Point of Reference and Industry Standards
  • Scenario B: Embedded Organizational Extensions
  • Scenario C: Custodians of Data and Knowledge
  • Scenario D: Activism and Influence
  • Scenario E:  Social Connectivity, Coaching and Networking

If any of these scenarios (or a combination) begin to emerge as the standard for what membership organizations deliver to their constituents in the next decade, then ISM and its peers will have to look very different from today Or they simply won’t exist without shriveling down to a very different size compared with today. Organizational inertia will be no match for the massively disruptive forces in the market that are coming together in the market to reshape how businesses, individuals and trading partners learn, connect, network and build trusted relationships and standing.

Perhaps we’ll look back – at least I sincerely hope! – on the changes ISM is making  as not just a turning of the supertanker toward smoother waters and seas, but rather bailing a ship that did not know it was taking on water. Regardless, if ISM and others are not ready for this coming wave, others that are better prepared will take over the member organization leadership mantle.

If you’re curious about what shape the future of member organizations wave could take based on the potential of these unpredictable tidal waves, see what we have to say on Spend Matters PRO this week as well as in our upcoming PRO analysis on the topic. While we can’t predict the future outright, at least we can prepare to take advantage of the twists and turns it will present along the way – and also to be one step ahead of the Black Swan events that change the course of organizations.

I’ll leave you with one last thought for today. To wit, it’s my personal view – and the reason for our detailed exploration into the topic – that executives within procurement organizations owe it to themselves to help shape the future that is unfolding for the groups that serve them, rather than simply going along for the ride.

Don’t just sit on the sidelines. Get involved.

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