Archive for the 'Best Practices' Category

02
Sep
14

Association Hunger Games: Victory or Defeat?

I had the pleasure of presenting this year at the ASAE Annual Meeting and Exposition in Nashville. And, believe it or not, I didn’t talk about meetings or learning. Instead, the session was developed as a result of a conversation I overheard at last year’s conference describing the challenges associations often have implementing strategy they’ve either developed internally or in conjunction with a consultant.

The Case for Execution

According to a 2005 Harvard Business Review article, “Companies typically realize only about 60% of their strategy’s potential value because of defects and breakdowns in planning and execution.”

Here you can easily replace the word “companies” with any functional area or department within your organization. As a supplier, you might also think in terms of “sales” or “services.”

Slide05This execution gap suggests that what we plan to do doesn’t quite align with what actually gets done. The resulting gap represents lost opportunities and revenue. Imagine our potential if we improved our execution by just 50%.

So, what’s at risk with poor execution? Following are just a few ideas:

  • Operational: production and finances
  • Organizational: efficiency, culture and reputation
  • Personal: credibility, supporters and job

Still don’t believe me?

“82% of Fortune 500 CEOs feel their organization did an effective job of strategic planning. Only 14% of the same CEOs indicated their organization did an effective job of implementing the strategy.” This is according to Forbes Magazine in 2011.

Take a moment to visualize what strategic planning looks like within your own department or organization. Is it board-driven? Committee-driven? Staff-driven? Consultant-driven? Whatever approach that’s taken to bridge insight and action, it’s important to have a framework in place to address potential pitfalls.

In fact, a 2013 HBR blog post suggests, “Execution is a minefield… Agendas compete. Priorities clash. Decisions stall. Communication breaks down. Timelines get blown. It’s never a question of if these problems will happen; it’s a question of when and to what degree.”

Framework for Execution

During this session I presented a simplistic, non-linear framework for implementation planning and execution. You may already have your own – and I hope that you do. Whatever tool you use, this was an opportunity to think more deeply about it – and to possibly identify areas where it could be improved. This framework first presumes, however, that a thoughtful strategic plan is already in place.

Scan

During the scanning phase:

  • Assess strategy/plan based upon recent performance
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis
  • Assess competitive strengths and identify weaknesses
  • Determine the issues that need to be addressed based upon findings

In many ways, scanning is the key to excellent execution. After all, it’s difficult to correct implementation issues if we haven’t identified them.

Slide11Even conducting a simple SWOT analysis when freshening up your conference plan can really improve implementation.

  • Strengths: Positive attributes internal to your organization
    • What do you do well?
    • What internal resources do you have?
  • Weaknesses: Aspects of your organization that detract from the value you offer or that present a competitive disadvantage
    • What areas need improvement?
    • What do you lack?
  • Opportunities: External factors or reasons your organization is likely to prosper
    • What opportunities exist in your market you can benefit from?
  • Threats: External factors beyond your control placing your strategy and organization at risk
    • What contingency plans could you develop to minimize threats?

Porter’s Competitive Forces

This is a simple but powerful tool for understanding where power lies in a business scenario. It helps you understand both the strength of your current competitive position, and the strength of a position you’re considering moving into.

  • Rivalry among competitors: Evaluate the number and capability of your competitors. If you have many competitors with products and services of equal quality, you have little power; suppliers and buyers will go elsewhere if they are unhappy. If what you’re selling is unique, you have tremendous strength.
  • Threat of substitutions: If substitution is easy, viable and inexpensive, your power is weakened.
  • Potential new entrants: People may enter your market and weaken your position if it costs little in time or money or if few economies of scale are already in place. Assess barriers to entry.
  • Power of suppliers: How easy it is for suppliers to drive up prices?
  • Power of buyers: How easy is it for buyers to drive prices down?

Bu2HB7SCUAAki1TPlan

In the planning phase it’s important to be inquisitive and to ask lots of questions. In her Association Hunger Games Tribute profile for Now Daily Donna Oser, CAE said, “Katniss Everdeen’s skill at archery can’t hold a candle to the ability to ask good questions.”

Equally important, then, is the tool you use to collect and maintain the responses to these questions. It could be a simple Excel spreadsheet or something more sophisticated like Basecamp, a popular project management platform. Either way, the tool you use to communicate actions and outcomes is just as important as the plan itself.

Implement

When it comes to implementation, there are a few key points to remember:

 

  • Ensure leadership knows the plan.
  • Schedule key checkpoints.
  • Invite input from colleagues.
  • Be on the look out for barriers.
  • Help colleagues prioritize.
  • Monitor the plan… obsessively.

Communicate

The framework continues with successful communication. When communicating, be sure to:

  • Articulate specific actions needed and desired outcomes.
  • Check in frequently/regularly for questions and progress.
  • Ask questions about process, workflow and unexpected issues.
  • Share progress, challenges and successes along the way.

Evaluate

Finally, don’t forget to evaluate:

  • Progress towards goals/metrics
  • Performance against the plan
  • Feedback from colleagues
  • Feedback from stakeholders
  • The ‘Done wells’, the ‘Do betters’ and even the ‘Don’t dos’ for next time

Common Pitfalls

When Katniss and Peeta entered the Hunger Games arena, they faced mutant animals, starvation, acid fog and fire. In the Association Hunger Games, the roadblocks are different but equally toxic. They include:

  • Lack of detailed planning
  • Expectations not clearly stated
  • Poor communication/coordination
  • Lack of accountability
  • Poor prioritization

During the session we walked through two case studies. After reading these scenarios and applying the framework, consider your own workplace: What changes can you make to how you execute? What other things will you consider or look into? What other ideas has this generated for you?

In narrowing your own organization’s implementation gap, may the odds be ever in your favor!

Scan

02
Sep
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – September edition

Aaron Wolowiec, president, Event Garde LLC

Aaron Wolowiec, president, Event Garde LLC

Q & A with Aaron Wolowiec, president of Event Garde, LLC

Q: If you could sit on a bench in a beautiful wooded area, next to whom would you likely be sitting on the bench, and why?
A: My partner, Selma, particularly if there was no WiFi or cell service. With our busy schedules, I appreciate the opportunity from time to time to just disconnect and enjoy one another’s company.

Q: If you were to create a slogan for your life, what would it be?
A: I’d borrow a page from the “Rent” manuscript: “No day but today.”

Q: Let’s say you had an imaginary friend. Describe him or her, and what makes you two click.
A: My imaginary friend would be an introverted homebody. While I’m often “on” at events and with clients, I derive my greatest energy from recharging in the comfort of my own home.

Q: It’s a gray, rainy, autumn day. What would we find you doing?
A: That’s easy! I love the rain. You’d find me curled up inside with a warm blanket, a cup of hot chocolate and my dog, Lillie, at my feet. I’d either be reading a good book or watching some marathon on TV. 

Q: If you were a sea creature, what would you be, and why?
A: I’d be a starfish. Much like the old man in “The Starfish Story,” I’d like to think I make a difference in the lives of others, one at a time.

 

31
Jul
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – August edition

Jenny Hill

Jenny Hill, database coordinator

Q & A with Jenny Hill, Database Coordinator

Q: What keeps you busy when you’re not working for Event Garde?
A: In addition to working for Event Garde, I also work full time as an overnight customer service manager, so the rest of my time is spent sleeping!

Q: What’s your biggest vice?
A: I enjoy watching TV. I have nearly 30 shows from this year on my DVR.

Q: If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?
A: I would love to go to Egypt and see the pyramids. I think it would be awesome to see.

Q: What book, fiction or non-fiction, do you think best represents your life, and why?
A: I love reading the Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich. I enjoy that everything goes wrong in a comical way but in the end it all works out. I’d like to hope that is how my life will go.

Q: If you were a food, which food would you be, and why?
A: Fettuccine Alfredo. It’s a twist off of classic spaghetti – just a little bit different but people still love it.

29
Jul
14

Happy employees, big dollars

EmployEngagementI remember the first time a boss took me out to lunch for a job well done.

It was my first job out of college, and the editorial staff had just launched our newly designed magazine. As editor, I wrote and scrutinized thousands of words. I’m pretty sure the designer and I spent weeks staring at a computer screen and proofs.

I’m fairly certain the lunch wasn’t that amazing. But the conversation was. As a new college graduate, the praise tasted far better than the food. It wasn’t much, but at the end of the day, we felt appreciated and engaged in the success of the association.

The morale of the story: Engaged employees work harder and smarter. Happy, loyal employees are the backbone of a successful organization, or so it seems, according to a recent study by Gallup.

It found that companies with an average of 9.2 engaged employees compared to every one disengaged employee experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share than their competition. In addition, companies in the top 25 percent of Gallup’s database have significantly higher productivity, profitability and customer ratings and less turnover and absenteeism.

And it flows from the top down. The Gallup report found that managers are almost solely responsible for building employee engagement.

The problem: Only 22 percent of employees in the study indicated they felt engaged, with service employees feeling the least engaged.

So what’s the trick? According to Gallup: Measure the correct forms of engagement (emotional); hire the right managers, who should be expected to cultivate engagement among their employees; design day-to-day engagement opportunities, rather than build lofty goals; and find ways to connect with each employee.

It sounds easy, right? But it’s not. Managers need to be coached and encouraged to participate in professional development. Mentoring programs work well, according to those surveyed.

But what about associations?

Generally equipped with smaller staffs, it seems employee engagement should be easier to foster. That’s not always the case, as employees often juggle multiple responsibilities and wear several hats. Associations operate with less to do more, and sometimes, finding the time to foster engagement is tough.

thank-you“When it comes to recognition, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” wrote Tara Ericson, group vice president for Naylor, LLC, in the July 22 edition of Association Adviser. “I find the most success when I tailor the way I acknowledge employee achievement to how they want to be appreciated. Knowing your employees on an individual basis is the only way to know how to manage and recognize their accomplishments effectively.”

For example, Ericson creates a list of her employees’ favorite things – hobbies, restaurants and leisure activities – and refers to it when it’s time for recognition.

Also, she celebrates milestones – birthdays, marriages and births – and budgets for appropriate items.

“Sometimes, a reward isn’t justified, but your staff still deserves feedback,” Ericson said. “My rule of thumb is to say what’s on your mind. If a team member is performing well or not meeting expectations, I tell them immediately. Being direct and honest lets your team always know where they stand with you. It encourages better productivity and a more secure job culture by combating rumors and unjustified fears, and creates a constructive environment where coaching and open feedback are the norm.”

Ericson offers some other free or low-cost reward ideas:

  • Flex hours and telecommuting
  • Casual dress day
  • Public recognition
  • Reserved parking spots
  • Time off (leaving early, extended lunches, days off)
  • Happy Hours
  • Gift cards

At the end of the day, whether you have a large staff or a small staff, it’s important to remember that “an army of one” is a fallacy. Your association needs members, and your employees work to recruit and keep them.

As a manager or executive, remember that small gestures go a long way. So next time you’re craving a long lunch, or a lunch meeting at the golf course, ask your employees to join. You’ll do more than just foot the bill.

15
Jul
14

Is your association a global guru in the making?

Global businessFrom membership to events to publications, associations provide critical services to nearly all industries and professions – not just at home, but around the world.

As industries boost their globalization efforts, associations seem to be following suit, according to a new report, “Achieving Global Growth,” by American Society of Association Executives.

But what differentiates a successful global association from a not-so-successful one? Commitment. Strategy. Good business acumen. Cultural appreciation. Just to name a few things.

The ASAE Foundation and MCI Group, a global network of 50-plus offices providing market development services and conference management, just launched a multi-year, multi-phase research project to better understand U.S. associations’ global strategies and international engagement. In the end, a series of whitepapers and other resources will equip association members with tools to “go global.”

As the first byproduct of the initiative, the newly released report focuses on U.S. associations’ business activities with countries outside North America. One of the key findings: The most successful global associations have a strong commitment to internationalization, with a clearly defined and executed global strategy.

Specifically, the study found associations with successful global operations:

  • Recognize that international business operations are important to their financial health
  • Introduce products to international markets frequently
  • Conduct international meetings, conferences and face-to-face training
  • Develop strategic global partnerships
  • Invest in emerging international markets, rather than those that might be most popular or English speaking
  • Establish global offices or locations

The study also found those associations that successfully engage worldwide have higher membership growth and more non-dues revenue than those that don’t.

In addition, 60 percent said they have staff dedicated to international operations.

An interesting finding: Associations that reported growth in product sales from outside North America are more likely to have board members who reside outside North America. On the contrary, those who restrict board membership to North America have flat membership growth.

All associations (globally engaged and non-globally engaged) reported China will offer the largest potential for globalization throughout the next few years. But successful global associations also recognize potential in Brazil and India, and plan to target those markets.

“Proactive associations are those that reach out to non-U.S. members and customers to better understand their needs, promote the membership or products that are uniquely useful to them, lower barriers to engagement and consumption, give local leadership responsibility and reward or recognize participation.

“The case should be made to find ways to get into [identified emerging] markets now so as to build brand awareness, cultivate demand, build partnerships and improve service delivery capacity,” the report states. “Doing so now may actually be less expensive than waiting, when costs will be higher, negotiating for favorable terms harder and competition is more intense.”

So what do you think? Do you agree with the report’s findings? Is globalization in your association’s future?

01
Jul
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – July edition

Cally Hill, Director of Client Relations

Cally Hill, Director of Client Relations

Q & A with Cally Hill, Director of Client Relations

Q: When you’re not working for Event Garde, what keeps you busy?
A:  I enjoy spending time with my family and watching Tigers baseball.

Q: If you could meet one famous person, who would it be, and why?
A: Tom Hanks. He has been my favorite actor since he was on the sitcom “Bosom Buddies” in 1980.

Q: What song best describes your life, and why?
A: My favorite song is “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel because it is the first song I remember hearing as a kid and it reminds me of my dad.

Q: What is your secret talent?
A: I don’t have any secret talents, as I think they’re out there for everyone to see. (Editor’s Note: Cally is very skilled at making everything run smoothly. Her secret talent is definitely multi-tasking! – KP)

Q: Which color do you think best represents you, and why?
A. Orange. It’s a bold color that stands out.

24
Jun
14

5 Cool Things Associations Are Doing at Meetings and Events

This month’s guest blog post is by Samantha Whitehorne, deputy editor for Associations Now. Contact Whitehorne at swhitehorne@asaecenter.org.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne, deputy editor for Associations Now.

As the weekly blogger (and deputy editor) for ASAE’s AssociationsNow.com, I write about some of the innovative things that associations are doing for their meetings and conferences. While it can be stressful to come up with something new each week, it gives me a chance to spotlight association meetings, which sometimes are wrongly perceived as unable to keep up with the likes of bigger conferences such as SXSW or TED.

Here are five ideas executed by associations throughout the past year that I think are the best of the best.

Have Staff Wear the Latest Technology
In April, the Washington Restaurant Association outfitted its onsite staff with Google Glass to provide a live video feed of the event.

During the two-day event, WRA staff wore Google Glass while walking around the show, producing a video feed that streamed on its web site to give people an idea of the event’s layout and provide additional exposure for exhibitors via “on-camera” interviews.

“It allows us to go to a lot of the exhibitors and industry experts who are part of the trade show and interview them in a casual manner,” Lex Nepomuceno, WRA’s director of communications and technology, told Associations Now.

Keep Attendees’ Health in Mind
More associations are helping to keep attendees on track when it comes to their health and fitness while they’re onsite. For example, the annual conference and exhibition of the Health Information and Management Systems Society offered a three-day Wellness Challenge this year.

Here’s how it worked: Attendees had to sign up through the meeting web site and were required to have a fitness tracker to participate. They could either purchase a Misfit Shine activity tracker for $59 through HIMSS, which they picked up onsite, or use their own.

Each of the three days featured a different challenge. Participants used their trackers to calculate each day’s measurements and then posted their numbers online to qualify for daily prizes, which included two $300 gift cards and an iPad mini. To ramp up the competitive spirit, participants and other attendees could visit a booth in the exhibit hall to see who was in the lead each day.

Perfect the First-Time Attendee Experience
Conference newbies can be just as anxious to attend a meeting as they are excited, especially if they don’t know anyone, which is why the first-time attendee experience is so important.

The Society of American Archivists, with the help of its Students and New Archives Professionals Roundtable, put together a first-timer’s guide for its 2013 joint meeting with the Council of State Archivists. It includes a list of what to pack and a guide on how to best network at the conference. In the latter section is a breakdown of networking opportunities made specifically for first-time attendees, including the Navigator and Lunch Buddy programs. SAA also has two other resources on its site for first-timers: One has interviews with three previous attendees highlighting their tips and tricks for making the most of the conference and the other focuses on how to best navigate the meeting.

The American Homebrewers Association also has a fun first-timer’s guide for the National Homebrewers Conference on its site. My favorite tip — written by “AHA Conference Veterans for Fun” — is this: “As delicious as it is, beer is not really food. Don’t get carried away with your conversation on hop glycosides and hot side aeration and forget to eat.”

conferenceDesign a New Learning Experience
Well-known keynoters, high attendee numbers and hundreds of education sessions are nice, but they don’t guarantee a successful meeting. What does? Designing a learning experience members can’t re-create or find elsewhere.

With member feedback in mind and a desire to create a more engaging learning experience, the National Association of Secondary School Principals made a fundamental shift in how knowledge was acquired and delivered at the NASSP Ignite 2013 Conference.

The backbone of the strategy was the Connected Learning Center, located in the middle of the exhibit hall. The center featured a technology showcase to demonstrate new tools and included a place for speakers to hold mini-sessions to dive deeper into concepts and topics they presented on during their larger, 75- to 90-minute learning sessions held earlier the same day.

To further encourage this dialogue, presenters also were able to hold “office hours” in the center. These open-door meetings gave speakers and attendees the opportunity to discuss the work they’re doing.

Let Members Do the Planning
In an effort to get members more involved in the meeting-planning process, the National Association of Plan Advisors — a sister organization of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries — let members select session topics for its NAPA 401(k) Summit, which took place in March in New Orleans.

The best part was that it was inexpensive and simple. ASPPA used the free, open-source platform All Our Ideas for the voting process. The tool was easy for members to navigate. They were given two session ideas, and they could either pick their favorite or add their own idea into the mix for others to vote on. The process was then repeated. The platform’s algorithm sorted and ranked the ideas in real time, allowing members and ASPPA staff to see what topics were in the lead.

What other cool and innovative things do you think are occurring in the meetings space, association-related or not? Share in the comments or shoot me an email at swhitehorne@asaecenter.org.




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, hot yoga, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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