An Executive Director's point of view
September 17, 2013: Drama queens
"Innovate or Die," and "The End of Membership As We Know It," are two phrases that have been used in association dialog to try to force people to recognize the need to change some of the ways they've been doing things.
While the dire prospects advanced by advocates of these slogans may not always be on the horizon, ringing the alarm bells may get some of our colleagues to realize they need to think about things differently than they've thought about them before.
September 09, 2013: Know your adversary
Well that was definitely not a surprise. Pre-election polls consistently reported that Obama was in the lead. And polls in so-called close states accurately predicted the results. There was no surprise.
The advice given to associations should have been to know your adversary.
Whether contesting an election, negotiating a contract, recruiting a member, applying for a grant, or engaging in any activity in which somebody else's decision will affect your association, you should know how the other side thinks, even if you don't think that way.
Many opponents of President Obama simply could not understand how a majority of Americans could vote for him. Those people failed to know their adversary.
July 26, 2013: Think first
We all thought he was nuts. We were sure we needed the entire 40 minutes to write our test answers.
Well, he told us that people who wrote for the entire 40 minutes wrote junk. And most of it he said, was not worth reading.
He advised us to spend more time thinking and less time writing. The results, he said, would be much, much better.
He was right (but I didn't realize that until many years later).
So, before you write a report, a memo, a funding proposal, or anything else, spend more time thinking about it than writing about it.
Stare out the window while you think, pace in the hallways, toss a smurf ball into a basket - do whatever will get your brain humming and be better able to produce a quality product.
Think first. Then write.
April 07, 2013: Ask the right people
Just because somebody is a particular age, gender, or race, hails from a specific geographic area, or practices a particular discipline within an industry or profession, doesn't mean they speak for all people of that segment.
- A sponsor wanted to know how to improve an athletic event, so it sought the advice of the winner, who suggested offering more prize money. Well, 99% of the participants had no chance of winning prize money. The winner spoke for winners, not for all participants.
- An organization's Education Committee, comprised of knowledgeable, committed leaders, crammed a large number of conference sessions into one day, so the group could provide more information and more continuing education units. The majority of members, however, preferred more time to use bathrooms without being rushed, to organize their notes, or just to enjoy a breather between sessions.
- A student leader told high school officials that students did not need a lunch period, that they'd rather sign up for more classes. That may have been true for the overachievers, but the vast majority of students would rather have eaten lunch than sit through extra classes.
- A young association member lauded an organization for establishing a "Young Leadership Group," but many of his colleagues disdained that decision, preferring interaction with colleagues of all ages - including professionals who might hire them in the future.
So, don't settle for anecdotal information. And don't always consult the most involved or the most committed members. Solicit a wide variety of feedback and ensure the leaders are not just speaking for themselves.
March 28, 2013: Setup
Producing a meeting, organizing a party, washing dishes, and playing a board game (not all games are played online) all require those three steps.
Yesterday, I sat for a photo shoot for an ASAE article I wrote. The photographer's setup took 45 minutes, the shoot was 35 minutes, and breakdown was a bit less than that.
Setup requires patience and attention to detail. If setup is not done properly, then execution - which most people think is the most important step - won't be able to be done properly, either.
So, spend the time that is necessary for setup.
March 18, 2013: An innovative idea
Blueseed is planned as an ocean liner, stationed twelve miles off the cost of California - in international waters - housing a start-up incubator equipped with living and working amenities, and protected by an onboard security force.
Non-U.S. citizens would obtain tourist visas while living and working there, allowing them to periodically visit U.S. mainland corporate offices.
A plethora of legal issues will need to be resolved, including determining what laws will govern the occupants, how those laws will be devised, and how they will be enforced.
Still, start up is planned for Spring 2014. Here's more.
February 26, 2013: Where do most ideas come from?
February 04, 2013: The innovation "fad"
Your association should not establish an "Innovation" Committee to dream up "innovative" things it can do. It should not hire a "Director of Innovation."
There should not be a Board agenda item called, "Innovation," nor a report on how the organization is "innovating."
Your group should not "innovate" just to be able to brag that it is "innovative."
Innovation means thinking and acting differently than you've thought or acted before. Considering plans and programs that you may not have considered before. Conducting business differently than it may have been conducted before. Willing to do things differently than others do them.
If you need a consultant to help you learn how to do that, then get one. And then get on with your work.
Your aim should be to improve the ability to achieve your goals. The results of your efforts, not the mindset you adopted to achieve them, is what matters.
October 15, 2012: Worst case scenario
That may be a cynical approach to life but it may be a sound approach to association management.
If you anticipate problems and prepare contingencies, you'll be better able to rebound from setbacks. And if you budget income conservatively and expenses liberally, you're more likely to end the day with a windfall instead of a shortfall.
Here's a thought from Ron Rosenberg, who suggests it's a good idea to "prepare for the worst."
October 10, 2012: Setting criteria
The "Hurdle Criteria" are used to determine if a potential action should be considered. The "Performance Criteria" are used to prioritize actions that survived the hurdle.
Both were posted at the Executive Management Section on ASAE Collaborate.
We all use techniques to make these kinds of choices, but his are very clear and very sensible. They could even be shown to Board members (when doing so might be necessary and helpful in setting the organization's direction).