Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dissertation Chronicles: The First Step Of A Thousand Miles

For the past few days, I have been talking about my doctoral dissertation. In the most recent article entitled, "Completing The Dissertation Via The Blog (Redux)," I shared how I intend to write the dissertation one blog post at a time. Well, today is my first step toward a thousand miles.

As with any story, there has to be a beginning. Let me introduce you to my tale.

My Dissertation Back Story
In the Spring of 1998, I joined the college fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi. From my vantage point, the members appeared to think like me. They were business-minded, well dressed, and sought to achieve in whatever field they entered. I liked that.

However, once I gained full access to the brotherhood, I noticed that the fraternity functioned very similar to many other organizations. There were some members who worked and there were others that did not. Early on, I recognized that the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle) was in effect. That is 80% of the work is carried out by only 20% of the membership.

Over the years, I took an increasing interest in the leadership of the organization. My first year in, I secured the Vice Polemarch (Vice President) position in the undergraduate chapter. After graduation, I was appointed the undergraduate advisor for my chapter. In subsequent years, I was voted Polemarch (President) of two different alumni chapters and was eventually elected on the Province Board of Directors. That is the governing body for chapters located in North Carolina and southern West Virginia.

In the past 13 years, I continue to see dedicated members working for the fraternity. Regardless of the situation, some individuals are committed to the organization. At the same time, there are other members whose commitment appears to waver over time.

As Polemarch of a small chapter, my interest was in finding individuals who would remain committed to the fraternity well after their acceptance into the organization. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to predict which candidates will commit to the fraternity and which ones will not.

Using the term commitment, I mean to express one's financial support to the fraternity on all three levels (National, Province, and local chapter). In addition, commitment includes being actively involved in a leadership role, committee, or chapter event.

What Is The Question?
Based upon this humble beginning, I wanted to know why some people are committed to the organization and others are not. Is it a question of personality? Can we identify some personal trait that all committed people have and non-committed people lack?

Is it a question of indoctrination? Can we identify a certain intake process that renders committed members over non-committed members?

If we, as leaders, could identify the reason individuals are dedicated to the organization, then we can select those types of people from a pool of applicants or insure all members receive the same training. Armed with this knowledge, we could potentially build an organization filled with committed members.

Take Away The Money
In for-profit organizations, people are paid in exchange for their time and effort. Unfortunately, fraternity members are not compensated with money for their community service, involvement in leadership, or committee work. So, if committed members are not paid, what keeps them active and engaged?

Boy Scouts vs. The Kappas
At some point during my proposal process, a facilitator advised that I leave the fraternity alone and focus instead on a more recognized organization. In this case, it was the Boy Scouts and, instead of fraternity members, adult volunteers.

Putting It All Together
So, there you have it. My dissertation question is focused on understanding the indoctrination process of volunteers (members) and their subsequent commitment to a non-profit organization (Boy Scouts of America or Kappa Alpha Psi).

What do you think? Is this a good question? Is it dissertation worthy? I'd love to get your thoughts on this topic? Let's discuss in the comment section below.

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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