Not planning to do it the "way it's always been done"
Morning-only annual meeting in 2022
As many of you may know, I have a fondness for reading about successful business and leadership strategies. I’m a sucker for the quotable quote that distills knowledge into memorable nuggets.
However, I have learned over the years that one of the most dangerous quotable quotes in business is, “We’ve always done it this way.”
I’m sure most of us have heard, or maybe even used, that sentence. Here’s a short story that some say is the origin of the phrase.
A mom was getting ready to bake a ham; she cut off both ends before putting it in the oven. The daughter asked mom why she cut off both ends. The little girl’s mom replied, “That’s the way my mother always did it.” Daughter hopped on the phone to ask her grandma the reason for cutting off the ends of the ham. Grandma replied, “That’s the way my mother did it.” Curious daughter then reached out to her great-grandma for the wisdom of this cooking method. Great-grandma’s reply: “I had to cut the ends off to make it fit in my pan!”
The truth to this story is that we sometimes simply do the same thing over and over again and never ask why. It’s also true that we do the best we can with what we have, just like the great-grandma in the story.
This is on my mind because we’re in full swing preparing for our 82nd annual meeting of members. All of you know that we haven’t been able to do anything the “way we’ve always done it” for the past two years. We’ve had no choice but to do the best we could with what we had. This has been especially true of our annual meeting.
The way we always did it was an all-day affair drawing hundreds and hundreds of members. Why? Because the only time, place, and manner to vote for anything was on-site during the annual meeting using paper ballots. The event was structured to keep the polls open for as long as possible. The entertainment and prize drawings were meant to ensure we had the required attendance to conduct business. They also were used to entertain the crowd until polls closed and the ballots could be counted by hand.
Today, members have many more ways to vote and a much longer opportunity to do so. Our early voting period runs for a full month before the meeting! Members can choose to mail in a paper ballot, or they can vote via modern, secure electronic means. All early voters also have the chance to win prizes, up to a $500 electric credit grand prize. The independent contractor draws the random winners and handles the vote tallying.
The long, on-site meeting included lots of speeches and presentations because it was practically the only way to update members about their cooperative. We’ve recognized that members today have many more ways to stay informed. We learned during the pandemic that the required business of the meeting takes only about 30 minutes.
That’s why the 2022 annual meeting will be a morning-only event, which we plan will conclude by 11:30 a.m. at the latest. We’ll be serving a boxed breakfast-sandwich meal from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., while registration and voting are open. Polls will close at 10 a.m., with the brief business session to follow.
We’ll still have prizes and entertainment, but it all will happen in the morning, 8-10 a.m. Watch for the Official Notice of Meeting in next month’s Rural Missouri magazine for all the details.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve learned a lot. Our challenge going forward is to not slip back into mindlessly carrying on as we have. Rather, we want to always build on our accomplishments. Last year, we had the highest voter participation in more than 25 years!
I hope you’ll participate in the director election in whatever way suits you. And I encourage members to attend our annual meeting on Sept. 14. I’m looking forward to seeing you.