June 26, 2019

Editorial: no reaction is inaction

A month has passed since Scott Currie’s courageous and outspokenly constructive criticism of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association. His two-part article was unprecedented, and, rather than stopping at his critical analysis, he offered potential solutions. We didn’t necessarily agree or disagree with all of it, but we read it with great interest and were happy to publish it for you to do the same.

In the meantime, what has happened?

Sources from within the RSPBA confirm willful ignorance, association leaders contending that they haven’t bothered to read Currie’s well-considered and fair thoughts. We know that these claims are not true. The articles have been read and circulated widely by this and other associations around the world. They were two of the most-read articles in the 35-year history of the publication. Each article so far has been accessed more than 25,000 times.

Those facts notwithstanding, what action has been taken?

In a word: none.

None, that is, that we know of, and what is not known for all purposes does not exist.

The only possible public item that we have seen is an ill-advised attempt by an RSPBA representative to blow back systemic problems at the members themselves. Such a tack is incredibly tone deaf and, sadly, unsurprising.

An organization that reacts to fair criticism by turning its back on its members or customers is in deep trouble. We see this ill-conceived strategy backfiring all the time. Knee-jerk defensively accusing the criticizer as the cause of the problem will never, ever work.

Just try doing that with your boss or your spouse when they sit you down for a reasonable and rationale talk.

If a company faces repeated complaints about customer service, only to tell its customers that they’re wrong and somehow to blame for the rudeness of its staff, only makes the matter worse.

What they should do is, as quickly as possible, show that they are taking the complaints seriously, investigating specific examples, and working to correct the problems. Most importantly, they need to show that they are paying attention, that they are listening, and that their customers are more important than anything.

With a nonprofit member-driven organization, this approach is crucial. In the above, replace “customers” with “members.”

The very worst thing to do is nothing, and doing nothing is, unfortunately, the go-to strategy of most piping and drumming associations worldwide. Sweep it under the rug, pretend it doesn’t exist, hope it goes away.

The problem – real or perceived – will not go away. It will fester and multiply. If left untreated, the wound will become infected and eventually require amputation, either in the form of severing ties with problematic leaders, or the outright creation of an alternative organization.

That might sound drastic, but, again, we see it all the time in the “real” world. A mass of unhappy customers doesn’t mean that the product or service is not needed. It means that the company must change if they are going to stay in business. Otherwise, a competitor organization will be started by others who demand a solution or see the business opportunity.

Doing nothing, saying nothing, pretending that you are ignorant of constructive criticism or hoping that it will simply go away are essential ingredients for a recipe for disaster.

The first step is to acknowledge the real or perceived problem. Denial is futile. Willful ignorance is disastrous.

All competing pipers and drummers want their association to succeed. Exposing problems – perceived or real – to the sunlight should not be seen as a threat. Customer feedback is always the best gauge of success and failure.

Associations ignore their members at their peril.



Clean Break – a call for change – Part 1
May 28, 2019


Clean Break – a call for change – Part 2
May 29, 2019






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