My Perspective

by Kyle Hickman

Correct me if I am wrong, but when one thinks of the adage, "One Size Fits All," they usually are referring to some kind of clothing or apparel. For example, this baseball hat fits the common description (pardon the failed pursuit of the Detroit Tigers for the 2012 World Series):

Like most fitted hats, it is designed to fit many different shapes or "noggins" as my dad might call it. Despite the fact that every customer/consumer has a unique physical makeup, these hats are engineered to accommodate most of those differences. If many things in life worked like that, my, how much easier life would be? However, let's not overlook one simple fact: the complexity of life in so many different ways makes applying this notion of "One Size Fits All" virtually impossible. Yet, whether it is due to apathy, naivety, or lack of resources (among other reasons), we tend to apply "One Size Fits All" solutions to many aspects of our lives when it is not warranted or it doesn't necessarily induce any positive change. 
To explain this topic in more depth, let me go back to my days as an educational consultant for the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. In two years of service to the organization, I learned many transformational truths about my life, about leadership, and how organizations function. More than anything else, I learned how much the idea of "One Size Fits All" is not at all applicable to college fraternities/sororities. Although this is a small sample of the complexity of this type of organization with individual "franchises" or satellite chapters, it is an example worth dissecting. As you can imagine, the national organization has a set of guidelines and best practices for each individual chapter to utilize. These were created for a specific purpose: they exist as the foundation for each local chapter to build a successful organization upon. Each recommendation has some merit. If we want to get specific, we are referring to the list of recommended committees to utilize, risk management policies, organizational leadership structure, best ways to communicate internally/externally, etc. In most cases, these basic outlines provided a great starting point for each chapter.

But wait...

Any effective consultant knows that applying those basic guidelines to every chapter is completely unfeasible. Why? Because every chapter is from a different campus, has its own unique culture, and has completely different members. Therefore, applying basic expectations without considering the context of each situation becomes a dangerous proposition. In fact, even attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole can create a great deal of conflict between the consultant and the members of the organization, causing more harm than good. Just like in any case where you are trying to assist an outside group with their problems, you HAVE to account for the specific differences of the culture(s) involved. Sometimes, you might have to abandon the original plan and adapt to the situation as needed. 
You can extrapolate this idea to any company, business, or organization that has a similar structure of individual franchises that deliver their brand. A corporate entity might have a collection of best practices, but they may not be reasonable at a specific location and they may, in fact, be detrimental in some cases. Those practices might have a wealth of evidence behind their implementation, but given a specific environment, it may not be the best fit.

So What? How Does This Apply to Me?

If you are someone who works with student organizations that are part of a larger umbrella organization or you work/volunteer for a company that has a similar structure, this blogpost is for you. No matter the organization we discuss, there is probably a good reason their guidelines and expectations exist in the first place. It is a safe bet to assume that most of the time, any practice passed down or recommended from a member of the National/Corporate organization is valuable. But as an employee, member, or advisor, you have a responsibility to take the "best practice" and adjust it as necessary (if you are capable of making those decisions). I am not saying that this blogpost applies to every organizational environment... however, it would be considered naive to think that most of the time, "One Size Fits All." Better yet, perhaps it is time to embrace the idea that companies make different size hats because every person is built differently; just like every organization, culture, and community those people are a part of.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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