When I was an artillery officer on the staff of XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, NC, in the latter 1980s, it fell to me to be assigned as the escort officer for Miss North Carolina to the anniversary dinner of the Fayetteville chapter of the Association of the US Army, or AUSA. It was a community-relations gig.
Tough duty, I know, but it had to be done so I just rubbed my artillery insignia, tossed down a cup of coffee and headed off to the trenches.
I'll say not a word about the truly stunning woman at my arm as we entered and dined (for I was and still am married to one) but will relate what led me in the next few days to develop my theory or Organizational Maturity.
After the meal came the business part of the dinner meeting. Then as now, AUSA says it's purpose is "to support all aspects of national security while advancing the interests of America's Army and
the men and women who serve. AUSA is a private, non-profit educational organization that supports America's Army - Active, National Guard, Reserve, Civilians, Retirees, Government Civilians, Wounded Warriors, Veterans, and family members."
Um, not that night.
The entire discussion of the post-prandial meeting was taken up by devoted talk that chapter was threatened with losing its status as the largest chapter of AUSA in membership numbers.
"How to get more members? What do we do with members who are enrolled but don't pay their dues? How do we replace lapsed or deceased members? How do we reach the young people?"
Etc, etc, etc.
Not one word about the troops. Not. One. Word.
And so here is Don's Theorem of Organizational Maturity:
Every organization that does not directly depend on profit-loss models to stay operating eventually abandons its founding purposes and focuses inward, concerned first with keeping itself going and then with sustaining its membership's comfortableness.
This is the special threat to volunteer organizations. It is always a sign of the organization's decline.
It works like this: