Saturday, 14 May 2016

Friendship Lodge No.691 receives an Official Visit

D.D.G.M. R.W. Bro. Clive D. Stephenson paid an Official Visit to Friendship Lodge No.691 on 
May 11, 2016.
While visiting he also observed an Entered Apprentice Degree. Also attached is a copy of the speech given during the evening by the D.D.G.M.

May 11, 2016


Over the past months I have been talking about lodge membership and its various related facet they apply to the well being of our lodges and to Masonry in general.

Tonight I want to backtrack a little and focus on a related subject I first brought up during my official visit to Algonquin Lodge in January.  I want to focus and expand on the subject of Succession Planning; that is planning for the future leadership of the lodge.

I want to be clear here, this does not just refer to being the Master of the lodge; this being the most obvious and perhaps most important facet of leadership, but I want to stress that leadership takes many forms and all have importance to the well being of the lodge.

In my previous talk I focused predominantly on officer progression… that being the journey from Junior Steward through to being Worshipful Master and what prepares the Mason for this journey.  But tonight in addition to touching on this aspect again, I want to also talk about aspects of succession planning that trend along a slightly different path.

One definition for Succession Planning is….

a process for identifying and developing people within the organisation with the potential to fill key leadership positions.

So to put it in the words that I want to focus on……the things that are being done correctly today, who will do them correctly tomorrow?

Brethren, every lodge has stalwarts that do the good deed, they do ritual to a high level, they lead committees, and they do the unsung and sometimes underappreciated duties that make the lodge “work” and thrive.

We can all instantly think of someone, who if we lost them, the lodge would have difficulty in replacing, but I want to stress that there are others, “less famous” if you will, whose participation is also fundamental to the successful operation of the lodge.

We have to plan for the future to replace all of these brethren because the need for the things they do does not simply vanish when they are no longer able to deliver.

One of the more obvious situations is planning for the position of Lodge Secretary.  In this lodge, a dedicated, long-time Secretary just “retired” from the position.  This lodge is lucky to have a competent replacement on hand.  I cannot comment on the level of planning involved here as I simply do not know the details, but the replacement of an important position such as Secretary in some lodges in not planned for in any way whatever, and where it is, it is done to a level that does not really PLAN for the future.

Some lodges have the position of Assistant Secretary and they fill it as the junior officer position, with I guess the idea to increase the knowledge of the new officer.  I believe this position should be filled at the least, by a person either capable of taking over as Secretary of the lodge now or in the not too distant future.  If the Secretary is expected to be in the position for a number of years there is more time to train the replacement; but if the transition is to be much sooner, the replacement must be much closer to being able to take over.   I believe the new officer is not the best possible replacement, lacking the necessary knowledge and Masonic maturity.

The position of Lodge Secretary is fundamental to the success of the lodge; the person must be competent and support the Master and his Wardens in the running of the lodge.   In the many positions I have held in the East, I am grateful that on all occasions I had an experienced, competent Secretary….without him the journey would have been much less enjoyable.

If you ask some lodges if they plan for the future, they will give a resounding yes.  So why is it some find it so hard to secure a new Secretary, and when one is in place, the next one is nowhere to be seen.  I realise it is not quite as simple as I am portraying it, but the IMPORTANT message here is that we have to PLAN for the future officer, we cannot just go along without the necessary plan.  Succession planning for every position in the lodge must be initiated …and that plan has to be acted upon.   The PLAN must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, tangible and timely.

I believe that whether we are talking about a piece of significant ritual, a position in the lodge, a chairman of a committee….we see that in many lodges that the role is done by the same person; …..either by choice or not, they “own” the position.  This is not healthy, we NEED to plan for a wider exposure and to plan for the future, we need to mentor, and we need to make sure we extend the participation; we need to have someone to take over.  If we have a plan, if we mentor, this leads to increased participation, which in turn potentially leads to increased membership or at the very least, an increase in ACTIVE membership.

Previously I used the position of Lodge Secretary, this being one of the more obvious examples, as would be the position of Treasurer.  But I want to touch on those positions/roles that are not as obvious, such as the chairmen of the various lodge committees.  Not all lodges plan for these positions in the way they should.  They tend to fill the chairman positions with those that they feel “would be good for the job”…..what I mean by this is that the position is often filled by a Mason who, while he has talent, has little or no experience in the subject matter.    There is little or no PLANNING in filling the position.  I believe that to do it right, every committee should have a chairman that is talented and experienced in the subject matter and that the committee members should have talent and be in the process of learning the subject matter.  Succession Planning applies in that it is the committee members that are being groomed to take over the chairmanship of the committee; he becoming the leader of the committee and the champion of the subject matter.

Drawing from my own experience, I have chaired many committees at the lodge and district level, and initially I was learning on the job and thus my ability to lead the committee was diminished.  The committee chair should be knowledgeable on the subject matter…yes I got there but it took time.  I believe that before you become the chair of a committee, you should first be a member of that committee and learn the ropes first…..this is in part, Succession Planning.

Bottom line my brethren is that we all tend too often to attempt to fill the position when it becomes open, we fail to look to the future, to plan and to put actions in place that drive us towards fulfilling the plan. 

One of the questions Grand Lodge asks of the lodge, is whether a long range plan is in place?  The answer is not always yes!  I believe that any long range plan should include succession planning in all aspects of the lodge.  Too often we plan on a single-year basis, we meet most of the short term goals this way, but we tend to lack cohesion in planning from a multi-year perspective.

Earlier I spoke about any plan being specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.  This is a pretty basic theory of management, but if your plan does not have these elements, it is incomplete.

Specific, means it must have a specific goal.  This specific goal has a much greater chance of success than a general goal…..a general goal would be I want to learn larger pieces of ritual…..the specific would be I will start learning the ABC lecture and allocate X hours to learning it………to set the specific goal we need to ask, the “ six W” questions.  

1.   Who is involved?
2.   What do we want to accomplish?
3.   Where is this to be done?
4.   When is this to be done by (a time frame)?
5.   Which requirements are needed?
6.   Why are we doing it? (purpose)

The progress of the Plan must be measurable.  How else will you know if you are behind schedule, if you are succeeding or failing?

The Plan needs to be attainable and realistic.   You have to be able to attain the target.  It cannot be something that is unrealistic.  Increasing the lodge membership by 100% in 5 years may be attainable but not really realistic.

Any goal must have a time frame to achieve it.  With no time frame how do you measure progress, there is no sense of urgency…..tomorrow will do. 

A goal should be tangible, that is to say it should be real, to see it, to experience it.  Non-tangible tend to be goals such as “making us a premier lodge”…..the tangible elements must be measurable and specific, increasing membership by 10%, increasing attendance at each lodge meeting by 10%.

Planning within the lodge does exist, to varying degrees for each lodge and to varying extents to each element that needs planning.  What I am saying is that we do not do this enough and we do not do it in enough of a cohesive way.  We talk about 5 year plans, but the elements tend to be more macro in extent and lack the smaller details that are oh so very important.

Planning is not something we naturally adhere to…. it is a skill / concept / action that needs to be developed and practiced to become good at it.  What I am hoping for here is that my talk will get us THINKING MORE about succession planning and will serve to focus on the need to plan ahead on all aspects of member progression to positions of greater responsibility.   

As the old saying goes, if we fail to plan, we plan to fail. 

Worshipful Master....I thank you for your indulgencies this evening and my Brethren I thank each and every one of you for your kind attention. 

R.W. Bro. Clive D. Stephenson
District Deputy Grand Master
Sudbury-Manitoulin District
Wednesday May 11, 2016

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