Collaboration is the path to a bright future
| July 28, 2011
“… everything is working just fine in our organization … why do we need to change? why do we need to participate in someone else’s project if it means we may have to change the way we do things? … our members are happy … they can do what they want but we don’t need to be part of that exercise …”
Notes on Terminology:
For the purposes of this blog, the term “real estate professionals” means individual practitioners (real estate brokers, property managers, mortgage brokers and real estate appraisers). “Industry” describes the day to day practice of real estate professionals, and the business of brokerages, that provide real estate services to consumers. The term “industry organizations” describes all the associated non-profit industry organizations that regulate, provide services or support real estate professionals (e.g. regulatory bodies, industry associations, boards etc.). The term “industry structure” refers to the totality of these organizations and the system they have created in which individuals conduct business.
I have seen the sentiments above (in italics) communicated often and in a variety of ways: outright statements to this effect, body language that essentially says “NO,” or, through actions designed to undermine the very best efforts of others who want to move forward for the greater good of the industry.
More now than at any time I can remember, a consensus is emerging that change is upon us. Collaboration is imperative if we wish to shape that change or at least have some influence in the change process. As history has shown, if we do not shape our future, there is a good chance someone else will and we may not like that new reality.
As a result, there is an increasing willingness for industry organizations to be open with each other, discuss issues, seek the advice of others, “think outside the box.“ There is a consensus emerging that industry organizations need to support and participate in collaborative efforts that work toward a common goal and for the greater good of the industry. Those with foresight understand what is sought for the greater good will ultimately be of benefit to the individual members of their own organizations and consumers.
Interestingly, the response to our changing environment and willingness to support collaborative projects varies dramatically at the individual and organizational levels. Of critical importance is the extent to which leaders within industry organizations are prepared to cooperate and support collaborative projects that have impact beyond the immediate interest of their own organization.
While industry organizations have specific mandates, they operate within a regional, national and international context. Any action taken by one organization impacts others; however, failing to take action also impacts others. In other words, industry organizations directly and indirectly impact each other to various degrees whether they act or not. Perhaps more importantly, the extent to which organizations adapt to change and maximize their value to their stakeholders, can have an immediate or long term impact for their members.
Industry organizations across Canada and within each province collect hundreds of millions in fees from their members every year. Each organization invests those funds to support their mandates, programs and services. However, it is the individual real estate professional that bears the financial burden of supporting this infrastructure. Ultimately, this cost is passed on to consumers.
Given this ongoing financial cost, a number of questions come to mind. Are real estate professionals receiving good value in return for their investment in the current industry structure? Are there ways services to real estate professionals can be improved to increase value or be streamlined to reduce costs? Are there conflicts, overlaps or duplications of mandates, services or purposes? Are industry organizations unnecessarily competing against each other at the expense of their members and consumers?
In my view, collaboration on projects whose purposes are to advance the professionalism of the industry, harmonize standards, increase efficiency, reduce costs, eliminate duplication or improve the way industry organizations provide services needs to occur to a greater extent. While each industry organization should strive for excellence in the way it achieves its mandate, there is a larger responsibility to look for ways to collectively improve the way we do things and collaborate on projects that seek the greater good.
It is clear that now is the time for leaders within all industry organizations to “see the big picture,” collaborate and build an industry structure that serves the needs of real estate professionals and the consumers they serve. This is the only path that will lead to the sustainable and bright future everyone seeks to achieve.
Executive Director, Real Estate Council of Alberta