Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mixxing Them Up: Growth, Community, Integration, and Goals

I'm drinking Jack Daniels. It's pretty spicy, but the Hobo will look sweet atop that mother ship.

I've been pondering this discussion since my first comment, and have been delightedly following the discussion and occasionally chirping in here and whence.

Several themes have arisen, but I'm deliberately only addressing a few. Not all would be appropriate for me to comment on. I'd encourage the people who brought up points not yet addressed to act on these within the LC - have a discussion, initiate some work, whatever. Just do it.

I haven't listened to Floyd in quite some time, but Terminal Frost is taking me somewhere deep. Here we go.


First off, I am not (and I don't believe anyone here is) advocating growth for growth's sake. I'm advocating a sizable recruitment to protect the LC from a major leadership gap in the future.

Let me illustrate with an example.

Just a few semesters before I joined, the LC was a very capable position, in its own eyes. The EB decided they didn't need to recruit anyone that semester, taking the opportunity to not get bogged down with added members and instead focus on execution.

Yadda yadda yadda, they ended up taking 1 newbie (for the record she was quite hot and bit my ear in a casual way once - jawesome).

A year later, shit hit the fan within the EB, and several of the power players - the pillars in the org - dropped out. Just up and left.

This left a huge void. Guess how many people were even remotely capable of filling these gaps?


Now I'm not saying that our EB is going to melt down, but hopefully this illustrates my point why you NEED an appropriately sized influx of new minds every single semester. You need to keep the pipeline full. It's not just for this semester, it's hedging for the future.

Look at the current LC. Take away 1 recruitment class. What sort of gaps now exist? Who IS NOT there? Would the LC be where it's at without those people? Are you willing to even make that bet?

If you take 0 members, you completely eliminate one inflow of the leadership pipeline, and it won't fuck you now, but it will fuck you later (see example above).
Plus, the larger the size of the LC, the larger the batch of people needed to fullfil the required roles.

If you take 0, 10, 20, or perhaps even 30 members, will you acquire enough people to fill the roles necessary in an LC of 100 people (let's use that as the current benchmark for now)?

And not just formal roles like VP of Doing Shit, but the other, informal (and just as critical) roles generally filled by unsung heroes. Anything under 30 and I say NO, but I'd still be more comfortable with at least 40. Could just be semantics at that point, but 1 great person could EASILY result in mental output that makes those additional 10 people seem trivial.

So, paradoxically, maintaining the current level requires a certain level of growth from Day 0 of the semester to 1st day of newbies. I think an LC should ideally be able to take on 50% more members with ease. Let's get there.

And lastly about growth, a little perspective. If you asked me 5 years ago if an LC of 80 was possible, I probably would have laughed. When we got up to 40 people, we nearly filled up a small room - filling up that huge lecture hall was pipe dreams!

That would take years, I surmised. Yet lo and behold, we got there before I had to leave.

There are 2 key reasons for this collective achievement, I think.

First, we finally set Fucking HUGE, Fucking SCARY goals. I remember the first time Trent said we could fill up that hall during a recruitment drive. "That many people interested in joining AIESEC?" I asked. I swear to god I straight up lied to Trent straight in the eyes when I eventually said I agreed.

Now we fill up that room with MEMBERS.

It took 3 years, but we got there. And it started with a fucking scary goal, and then came in increments.

Set huge goals, and get there incrementally. Measure your progress the entire time, but never lose sight of that finish line. And be ready to set a new dash for a new goal.

Second, we started growing very rapidly and with that, the very feeling of our LC was changing rapidly as well. Except, our new members had NO IDEA the scope of changes that were taking place.

Members in their 1st semester merely saw this as the Starting Block. 2nd Semester members were still maturing as members and were a bit oblivious to these rapid changes as well.

Only us old members new the changes that were happening. Everyone else saw it as Point A... so their perspectives were different than ours.

So when we visionized and talked about what was possible, if we old members kept our mouths shut to an extent and didn't down play ideas, an 80 member LC didn't sound that bad to a newbie coming into a 60 member LC.

And then there was me, over in the corner, shitting my pants.

McKim has no idea what it's like to be in a 20 person LC. Imagine that? How sweet is that? His base is 60 or so! That's a full THREE TIMES what my basic reference point started at.

And so the idea of what is possible changed as well, as the collective reference point of the LC caught up.

But, once you say its ok to take some small number, that becomes a point of reference for future generations and grounds their own ideals of what Could Be. Remember that.

FINALLY, the key here is to still build in a solid inflow of talent, and then use this time to figure out how to catch up the org structure (may need to read some OUTSIDE books, cause lord knows there ain't much besides our own brains to help us here. Books are the only other option).

I agree with re-assessing the structure of the LC, but don't let that need fully stunt your incremental growth, and always be sure to have that end vision in mind.

Make sure people know you are taking a moment to set things up and that "we only took 40 this semester so that next semester we can recruit 60 totally new people again."

Make this a goal: "recruit 75 more people in next Fall semester."


As I said, your perceptions of the LC get grounded in your own experience and can be a bit slow in adapting to the new realities of a quickly changing LC. It's a weird phenomenon in AIESEC, but as a member ages, they often get more conservative, not more aggressive in pushing the envelope.

This inability to mentally evolve quickly enough could be a cause of that. For the record, I myself probably fall into this category and I'm not saying it judgmentally, just observationally.

So as this conversation progresses to action steps, you may need to evolve YOUR idea of community (remember, it doesn't always adapt as quickly as required by the the LC evolution). Find a common idea of it that most people can mostly agree on and start moving towards it.

A new person may actually be better at "adapting" than you because they aren't carrying as much "baggage" of prior experiences. They're more open.

The exciting part here is that we COULD potentially create a "community" where you don't necessarily need to know everyone's name, but you WILL know that you are linked by your aspiration towards this common vision/mission (everyone gets integrated through giving them work). Out of this common thread a community could evolve.

What a great opportunity!

While you can't ever really be sure if someone is "integrated," you can usually tell if they aren't. Also, Just because you can't tell they aren't integrated, doesn't mean they ARE integrated.

** I think the key signal, which has been alluded to in some comments, is that if someone's executing on a good deal of valuable shit, they probably feel integrated.

Thus, by focusing on expanding the work the LC collectively does, you are inherently also working towards a better sense of community and probably better integrated members. This is the pillar I myself would probably use to approach the issue of integration. However, this is a discussion the LC itself must conclude and act on.

All my opining in the world won't do jack to better integrate Chris McKim. But if I give him a few worthwhile tasks, show them why they're valuable to our team, the LC as whole, as well as to his own development, then he'll probably feel pretty damn good about getting the tasks done well.

A celebratory drink at Echo Tap should probably seal the deal.

Give someone substantial tasks that matter. Follow up and assess afterwards.

How can you take those 2 basic interactions and scale them up to a 100 person group, then take it up another notch to 200? That's a question worth exploring.

A good first step would be making sure each person understands the value of those 2 basic interactions, how to do them as a manager/leader, and why you should teach it to other people (spread the word about the idea underlying these 2 interactions).


We didn't get to the moon by saying let's make a plane that can fly a bit higher than the current altitude leader.


Big ass goals matter, and inspire big ass results, so even if the goal isn't huge growth for this semester, make sure your B.A.G. is measurable and large. And make sure you are fitting this all into a grander vision, with concrete ideas for the following semester.

Remember Trent's idea of filling that lecture hall with recruits? It all started with an idea that seemed radically outlandish. And then we even overachieved.

One of the biggest and most important thing I've learned in my 4 months of working experience is that incremental tests can get you far, but they take a long time.

Radical Tests are what create breakthroughs.

Both are important. Don't put all your bets on one or the other, but also don't discredit one or the other. And as you discuss what to do, what things to test, and hypothesize, remember there is never reason to be sorry for suggesting something.

We never get hurt by having too many ideas, only by TOO FEW.

Suggest ideas with reckless abandon and when you've finally exhausted every single brain cell coming up with ideas, systematically go through them and toss out those not appropriate. Yes, some ideas are in fact better than others. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't list THEM ALL. Ideas breed other ideas. They mate. They make baby ideas.

And one of those babies could be a winner.

So let's find a baby, and make her a winner.

Mix Master

PS - this is EXACTLY the issue that I could see NFT's driving forward. Their leadership and experience would be very useful in facilitating the conversations, crystallizing the information, and getting others involved. Great way to informally assemble a team and Get Shit Done. Not necessary, but just a thought.

As our scope progresses, the necessity to increase the speed with which you get newbies up to speed increases, as does the Level you need to get them up to, which makes this even harder.

But it also signifies progress.

And that is a good thing.

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Blogger A King said...

I just want to echo the importance of considering the effect our recruitment has on the maintaining of our leadership pipeline, and throw in an additional perspective on this that is well worth considering.

Our LC has decided to only send members abroad on traineeships, because it gives people a deeper understanding of the mission and the organization and gives them a stake in its success before they go and represent us abroad.

Like basically everything though, this comes with a set of unforeseen consequences that don't necessarily merit a reversal of the decision but must considered regardless.

To state this consequence plainly, most of the up and coming leaders in the LC are planning on going abroad next year. One consequence of sending experienced AIESEC members on traineeships is that they aren't around to actually run your LC, and having an insufficient recruitment for just one semester can easily cause the whole thing to come crashing down for that very reason.

Again, this is not to suggest that this strategy needs to be rescinded. But the consequences it has for our leadership pipeline should be considered when we're talking about how many people we're going to recruit

12:39 PM  
Blogger Katy said...

"We didn't get to the moon by saying let's make a plane that can fly a bit higher than the current altitude leader.


me gusta.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

I agree with all of this. Also, Madison should stop recruiting seniors, if you haven't already. There are too many younger folk who are prepared to live the rep and maintain dream to make those nearing graduation worthy of consideration. I gave aiesec all I could during my short short membership and aiesec has been immeasurably good to me, but in the end I feel a bit of guilt for taking the spot of a freshman who couldve had his heart set on investing himself in the org for four solid years. I'm pretty sure the other senior who was recruited did next to nothing. Thats about all the input I am capable of giving.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

I liked your post.

I also liked your moon comment...but would just have to say that I think everyone has different "moons," everyone's moon doesn't mean a 1,000 person LC.

Another thing: I know you chose Chris McKim randomly, but I think that's very interesting that you would pick him.

I absolutely LOVE Chris, but let's be honest, when does he need to be integrated ANYWHERE? We walk into a bar where he doesn't know anyone over 1,000 miles from our homeland, and within no more than 5 minutes, he has made friends with all 40 people there.

This is obviously referring to the social aspect, but when people feel comfortable in a group of people, then they also feel comfortable doing work with them.

Last semester Chris had integrated himself by the end of the first newbie GMM at Brats. I spent well beyond RoKS (where I was in a room with NO room mates, and the only people that talked to me the entire weekend, for longer than 1 minute, were other newbies) feeling completely not a part of the community, like my ideas didn't matter, and not knowing what I could do if I would even want to get involved.

It took until some of the very last weeks of the semester when Ariane asked me to work on a project, to even begin to feel like what I thought or could contribute to AIESEC mattered.

It took until the VERY END of one semester. I could have very well made it out without ever feeling truly engaged...and this is in an environment of 100 people. So in 500 people I probably could get legitimately trampled, and no one would notice.

I would argue that I had ideas I could have been contributing the entire semester. We have people sitting around with a gold mine of ideas, who don't feel like they can speak up.

So, clearly this is a personal interest...I just fear that in a 500 person LC, the Chris Mckims of the world will be high-flying, and the Molly Reddys will surely be drowning.

Let's start recruiting ONLY the offspring of Chris McKim.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Jenna V said...

The Jenna Vs would have dropped out after the first semester.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Woah. Molly, your last comment is a bit startling because it sounds quite personal and directly related to SOCIAL inclusion and not at all related to integration into AIESEC through its mission and the work that we do. This has manifested itself into a direct comparison between you and Chris' social skills, which I find a bit inappropriate, to say the least. Let's remember that AIESEC is about working towards our mission, and not about feeling socially included at brats. I for one may not have been close to many AIESEC members my first semester, but I did a shit ton of work towards AIESEC's mission.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Katy said...

Wow- Molly, I think you're crossing the line. My first semester in AIESEC I did not go to brats once. Why am I still here, becuase i know for sure I was integrated. You said it yourself- you first felt integrated when work was given to you by Ariane. This is exactly the key, if a new member is not given work and they dont' feel like they are contributing they will drop out. I've made connections with people in the org becuase I've worked with them and/or we've shared similar experiences.

I'm almost positve a social butterfly who goes to brats every week, but who does no work on teams and feels detached in conversation in coach groups, would not form a connection with the mission, and would likely drop out of aiesec- but may very well keep his drinking buddies. Even if that member felt integrated socially, I think that member would not be experiencing the positive things aiesec has to offer such as leadership development. They wouldn't, because leadership development- what we want right? to develop leaders?- comes from taking on work, such as OCPing a Roks, leading an effort on the marketing team, or challenging a buddy to take on a small project and following up on it.

Inevitably our social lives may stem from the work we do in aiesec, but that shouldn't be our end goal, or end goal should be our mission.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

the point I was making was that I didn't feel integrated because:

I did not feel a part of the community, I felt like my ideas didn't matter, and I didn't know what I could do if I would even want to get involved.--all things related to taking on a piece of @ work, not related to the social aspect.

The reason I brought up the social aspect, and maybe I took it too far by even saying the word Brat's, it can just mean forming a personal connection with the people sitting next to you at GMM. You need a personal connection to the organization, even if that personal connection is just someone telling you to do a piece of work. I don't think that anyone can deny that personal connections imply sociability, even if you form your personal connections in different atmospheres, and they don't require Brats. To be effective I think an organization's members have to have personal connections to it...for the same reason that solidarity movements through out history have been less successful.

and I shouldn't have thrown out names, but I gave the ultimate (what turned out to be, I guess) a backhanded compliment to Chris. He is such a fantastic individual, that his dynamic personality and amazing ideas are evident within the first 5 seconds of shaking his hand.

And everyone's right, this is personal, but it was not meant to be an attack. It's personal in that I believe it, but I'm also not the only one...Jenna V said she would drop out too.

3:50 PM  
Blogger A King said...

Its interesting how this chapter of the conversation leads my back to a question I posed as a comment on Mix's last entry.

What is the relationship between the size of the LC and one's ability to integrate into it? Is it really easier for new members to integrate into a smaller LC?

If we had an LC of 20 people who were all super close best friends, who were able to work and play together with the greatest of ease, and then we recruited 4 new members (I'm using 4 because its 20% of 20 - 15 is 20% of 85) would it really be easier for them to feel a part of AIESEC??

One comment from over the weekend that speaks volumes towards answering this question, and has been over looked in my opinion, is that it was easier for new members to feel integrated because there were a large number of individuals going through the exact same experience that they were. So instead of requiring someone to find their place within an existing group of people, we're empowering them to find, even create, their own place within the LC.

One additional piece of information that is worth noting, again, is that in a 100+ member LC only 4 new members dropped out.

another way of framing the conversation (which is probably biased): If we could have an LC that was able to support every single person on campus who was passionate about our mission, able to make the time commitment, and willing to put in work towards furthering the mission of AIESEC, would we want that LC?

I think it might be a bias question because the answer (most likely) is yes for everyone.

but, THERE IS NO REASON TO ACT LIKE THIS KIND OF LC IS NOT POSSIBLE. As AIESECers, we are by definition the most inspired, passionate and capable agents of change on the face of the planet.

We're a group of people who want to build international cultural understanding. A quick look at the headlines points to the overwhelming enormity of our mission. If we all believe in our ability to accomplish our mission, then I don't see any reason why we can't believe in our ability to create the type of LC I described above.

5:32 PM  
Blogger mp said...

I know some of these points have been stated earlier, but I wanted to share my opinion.

As Adam mentioned, why must ‘strides forward’ be inextricably tied to higher numbers? We can get higher numbers. We all know that. From my experience primarily as a coach and non-leadership observer this semester, it seems as though our issues are deeper than numbers and in my opinion our priorities should be aligned as such.

To say that not wanting higher numbers equals not being dedicated to AIESEC Madison, as many before have implicitly said, is the same thing as calling someone unpatriotic for not desiring war. Such a notion is detrimental to conversation and progress since certain people are being written off, excluded. This is unnecessary and unfair. Unfair to one another and to the organization which we all care about in our own, but equally important, ways. These same attacks echo our fateful meeting in Ogg Hall this fall.

@Katy: I wanted to comment on your statement, “Why aren't the frustrated people get together on create an action plan on how to organize themselves better?”
From my conversations with a couple “frustrated” people in my coach group a reoccurring theme came up. They feel their “time is not respected.” This is not good at all that some, including myself, have felt this way. I think we sometimes forget that our members are not solely AIESEC Madison members, but highly involved elsewhere. This is completely fine as long as they keep up their commitment to AIESEC. But we must not make them feel guilty. In my opinion, Katy’s comment is illustrative of this. Either we must demand more of incoming members in that they are not to be involved elsewhere or we stop pointing fingers. This is more a critique on current leadership, which has been made aware to them in other relevant venues. (Please note: guilt and condescension are pretty much synonymous in my book)

Lastly, I have faith in our LC’s current, chosen leaders. They are in it for the same reasons as the older members are/were. To generalize otherwise is immature bullying and stifling of AIESEC’s idea of “empowering [new] leaders.”

Like I said before, there is no ill-intent on their part and the condescension from some older members (IMO: Katy, Williams, and Sara) is frustrating and detrimental. The current leaders should be given constructive and empowering, advice from older members. That is how a legacy is created.


5:58 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

well thought out well said sir williams

6:01 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

I'd like to know why me expressing my vision is condescending. I've told Adam this before, and I will tell you this now MP. Framing the conversation in a way where a)you create an "us verses them" mentality and b)you are in some way victimized by another viewpoint, is not at all conducive to reaching a common ground in these conversations.

I have actually until this point been very pleased with the dialogue and progress everyone has made in these conversations, and have felt that many of the key contributers still within the LC are at a place where they are working towards reach a common ground.

MP, the past comment you made feels like a few steps backwards, towards polarization, and not towards a common ground.

Lastly, if you have feedback regarding anyone's leadership, it would be more constructive if you addressed them directly, and not backhandedly via blog comments.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Hero of the Light said...

I sincerely hesitate to use history because I've been lambasted for it in the past, but I found Mix's explanation extremely useful and insightful. And this does get personal, because we are all basing our views and opinions off of our own personal experiences.

The first time we went to a 75 person LC (since I've been around) was in the fall of 2005 (the King's virgin run). We were just implementing common induction so things were really f-ed up (like waking up next to two dudes on a couch in Colorado f-ed up) and we had a significant breakdown. Luckily, we had the core leadership in place to make the changes, shrug off all the people that we lost (who either quit or couldn't make the adjusted time commitment).

Thus I respect the leadership pipeline. But again, I do not believe that this requires an increase in membership every single semester when the LC is getting to reach over 100 people. In '05, we improved dramatically because we significantly ratcheted up the requirements and the time commitment, and shrugged off those who deeply believed in our mission and loved the org, but could not make the commitment. No hard feelings. SOME of these people were extremely "social" and came to Brats and all that jazz, but did little to no work or could not commit.

Now, when I interviewed way back in the day to get into the org I was explicitly asked if I could spend at least 10-12 hours per week on AIESEC work. At the first OGX meeting Bruni told us to plan to spend 5-10 hours training on the system and matching SNs. You can imagine how scary this was coming from the oracle.

We do ask for a significant time commitment from the current membership, and we must be realistic i.e.: we're all college students. But there are people in the LC who do not do substantive work--and not just newbies trying to work their way in. We all know about this fluff. And to again hammer on the "social aspect"--some of these people are great, a lot of fun, and extremely social. They would probably consider themselves integrated.

So if we're going to grow on a work-based level, can we cut out the fluff? Can we be honest and say "we don't need 5 people to run this event"? (Regardless of whether their lax work is a result of their own failure to take the plunge or whether the structure is not giving them opportunities) Or is that too judgmental and unfair, and do we envision maintaining and/or enhancing impact by keeping these people around even if the work they do is minimal? This is meant as an honest question.

6:56 PM  
Blogger Hero of the Light said...

And this is noting that some people blossom at different times. And some never do.

6:58 PM  
Blogger cmckim said...

You rascals make me blush. Can a different name please be used?

Howbout... Suhkmani.

Suhkmani was a sophomore that joined this past fall and someone who everyone took an immediate liking towards. She was incredibly funny (cracking jokes and pulling legs from the moment she opened her mouth at her first GMM). She was a regular at Brats and loved to have fun and socialize at our other LC bonding events.

But she wasn't at the retreat. In fact, she dropped out of AIESEC sometime in December.

I was shocked. I had envisioned her sticking around for the long haul and really "getting into it".

So, here we have an example of someone who had found there niche socially and was friends/friendly with basically everyone in the LC, but STILL dropped out.

Did Suhkmani ever get integrated into the work? Was she ever really given a challenge of completing a difficult or meaningful piece of work? I don't think she was. Was it because of this that after a semester of having fun with some people, she opted not to return? Maybe. I have no idea. It's just a thought to throw out and allow to be pondered.

All I really know, for certain FACT, is that I'm late for GMM. Shit.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Katy said...

@MP: I am an older member and a leader at the same time, not one or the other. I believe I have a crucial role in the what is happening right now, and I'm going to voice my opinion.

1:45 AM  
Blogger mp said...

@Katy: I do not think the two are mutually exclusive. Regardless, I definitely agree that you have a crucial role right now and I respect someone who vigorously jumps right back into things.

@Sara: From my experience this semester and from the person who made me aware of this conversation, I felt it warranted my input. I have now said my bit, that is all. To even feel like I have to defend this makes me question where the polarity is coming from. (if you want to take this up more, lets do so privately) Also, I said I have faith in the powers that be to take this collective dialogue and do as they please with it.

I am not creating drama nor do I in any way feel victimized. My comments about condescension should not be seen as me stifling your vision, but merely something to raise awareness on the rhetoric being used (came to this independently of hero). Again, I am adding in the same way you are. Everyone should be entitled to that. It upsets me my words were taken as such.

What you said about me 'backhandedly...' was inaccurate. I said my critique of leadership was made in 'more relevant venues.' And I think AK can vouch for that.

I am done. It seems so is this thread. Thank you.

1:02 AM  

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