- MLSs can best regionalize by engaging in a well-structured, facilitated process.
- The most difficult impediments should be addressed first.
- Once MLSs are engaged in the process, resolutions can be developed to address stakeholder concerns.
In part one of this series, Clareity outlined the criteria for determining the future end game for MLS consolidation. This article will describe Clareity’s process for MLS regionalization and how we overcome some of the common objections to regionalization during that process.
A good process for MLS regionalization has four parts: planning, decisions, formalizing decisions and actualization:
In the first part, planning and organizational leaders meet with a facilitator who can drive consensus on the hard issues, including goals, ownership and governance, money flow, leadership, staffing and the product and service offerings.
The facilitator provides examples of how decisions in these areas have worked in other organizations and captures the group’s consensus in a document that all participants approve of, so there is no backtracking later.
The leaders might consult with their boards of directors during this phase and work to sell the consensus plan. There are other decisions that need to be made along the way, such as specific technologies, but the above decisions are the ones that will set the framework for the long term while technologies come and go.
Some groups want to focus on cost right away, but how can cost be discussed when no decisions have been made yet about the factors that drive it — leadership, staffing, products and services? And how can one make decisions about those things until a decision-making structure has been put into place? A successful planning process is all about asking the right questions at the right time.
In the decision-making phase, the leadership of all stakeholder organizations meet to discuss areas still lacking consensus. Having group meetings is an important part of the process because it is an opportunity to address many remaining fears and ensure all valid issues are on the table.
The facilitator provides perspective and knows how to address common objections. The group must have trust in the process that they are all working toward a common goal: a better MLS that serves all of the subscribers in the region well.
In this phase, the group can make more definitive decisions based on the initial planning, which the facilitator captures.
3. Formalizing decisions
Next, the facilitator will use the documentation created in the previous step as the basis of a business plan. All of the planning and decisions will be incorporated into this document. A draft budget, a plan for the next steps and a timeline for regionalization will be developed and included as well.
The final step, actualization, involves creating the company, addressing all of the legal issues, commencing initial and ongoing communications, selecting technology and contracting (or re-negotiating) as needed and implementing MLS system changes as needed. Having top-notch legal counsel is critical in this phase.
There are usually many questions and fears about MLS regionalization that must be addressed along the way. Sometimes agents worry that competitors from the adjoining MLS will sell out of their traditional area and create problems, and they need to be reassured that this has not been a serious issue in regional MLSs that have formed in the past.
Other times, MLS executives and staff fear for their jobs, or board members worry about the continuation of their leadership roles — worries that can be addressed by discussing the role of service centers in the new organization and creating a plan for merging leadership.
Some will worry about strife between associations in a regional MLS, but having strong bylaws and intellectual property agreements can minimize that risk. Revenue traditionally shared with the association can also be a concern that can be addressed in a variety of ways and Clareity’s CEO, Gregg Larson, described one such approach at the MLS Executive Workshop.
The point is that common concerns about MLS regionalization can be addressed as a part of the process, and such concerns shouldn’t stop the process from happening.
With a sound process and proper facilitation, organizations working together can demystify and accomplish MLS regionalization. Once fears are put aside and the MLSs commit to engaging in the process, it is possible to address stakeholder issues and concerns and achieve the goal of having a single MLS with strong capabilities that covers an appropriate geographic area.
Matt Cohen is the chief technologist for Clareity Consulting. Follow Matt on Twitter or Facebook.