Posts Tagged ‘strategy

15
Nov
16

Building a board strategy

dean-west

Dean West, president/founder, Association Laboratory Inc.

Good leadership requires vision. Strategic vision. Goal-oriented thinking. A team mindset.

And nowhere is this more important than in nonprofits – or for that matter, in any organization in which boards of directors make decisions.

“When working on complex engagements like strategic planning or developing membership value propositions, the ability of the board of directors to think and, through the staff, act strategically has consistently resulted in superior decisions,” said Dean West, president and founder of Association Laboratory Inc. “Superior decisions mean superior outcomes.”

Association Laboratory recently released a whitepaper (scroll down to download) on how associations can build strategic boards.

In its research, the company surveyed 25 chief staff officers and senior association leaders. In summary, there is a finite set of characteristics that define strategic boards:

  • Future focused — A strategic board understands and values the necessity of informed, future-focused strategic discussions.
  • Establishes, prioritizes and monitors goals and interim measurement standards — A strategic board values establishing strategic goals and the corresponding standards or criteria relevant to overseeing implementation of strategies to achieve these goals.
  • Models strategic decision making competencies — A strategic board models critical thinking skills, objective analysis and decision making. It challenges existing assumptions regarding the association’s future role and corresponding business strategy within the industry or profession.
  • Promotes accountability within the board and in the board/staff relationship — A strategic board values and supports an objective, accountable partnership with association management.

All this said, it’s not always easy to find and/or develop those characteristics, Association Laboratory warns.

company higher consil

Photo by Svilen Milev, freeimages.com

For starters, board members are often influenced by professional or personal interests, which may not align with those of the association. And so an ethical battle ensues.

In addition, often board roles aren’t clearly defined so members struggle with expectations. Some of that is because associations often don’t invest proper resources in training and orientation.

So what’s the key to building a strategic board of directors?

According to those surveyed:

  • Associations need to implement volunteer identification, recruitment and development strategies that ensure a funnel of high-quality leadership into the association.
  • Associations need to develop strategies to orient all volunteers to their role and the unique characteristics and corresponding expectations of a peer-to-peer decision making environment.
  • Associations need to be led by a chief staff officer and management team that understands and models strategic thinking and can apply these competencies to their support of the board.
  • The business processes of the association need to support the board’s ability to make decisions within a strategic framework.
  • Associations need to create and support a culture of personal and organizational accountability and continuous improvement.

“As competition for the time, attention and interest of our community’s best leaders grows more intense, the ability of an association to develop a compelling leadership funnel becomes a long-term strategic priority necessary for successfully achieving mission-based and business goals,” Association Laboratory said. “Modern associations and their leaders will create intentional, thoughtful strategies to foster a leadership experience that is attractive to the best and brightest of our professions and industries and will consider the support of these strategies an essential organizational core competency.”

31
May
16

Community management is about strategy

pr-online-communities-20368498Although still relatively new, online communities are quickly becoming popular platforms for engagement, discussion and membership.

But there’s still some confusion about best practices and culture, according to a new report by The Community Roundtable and Higher Logic.

“In the current environment, it’s easy to question or second guess ourselves, but one thing I feel strongly about is this: A community approach can help navigate these issues in a way that brings along customers, prospects and employees,” said Rachel Happe, principal and co-founder, The Community Roundtable. “It is the best way, and maybe the only way, to keep our organizations in sync with themselves and with their markets.”

Happe said communities are the most effective way to deliver learning and change – much better than social media platforms, which are inundated with advertisements.

The Higher Logic report contains data from 339 community programs from a range of industries. The first takeaway: strategy. Strategy is based upon a shared understanding of value. In other words, communities must define value to their organization and to their community to foster engagement. In addition, the report found those who could measure that value to determine ROI performed best.

Next: operations. Giving members a voice is key to community success. Communities that provide a formal feedback system, multi-tiered advocacy program and member-led community programs far outperformed their peers.

And then, tactics: Most communities measure basic activity and membership, but going beyond that, including regularly tracking activity, behavior change and outcomes, reaps big rewards.

Happe

Rachel Happe, principal and co-founder, The Community Roundtable

Some recommendations from Higher Logic:

STRATEGY: Create strong, defined value statements for your organization and members, highlighting the shared value of the community. Tip: Boil it down: What’s the value that the organization and members get from being a part of the community – and where do those value statements intersect?

OPERATIONS: Engage and empower members, through feedback programs, member- and internal expert-led programs and by prioritizing getting organizational buy-in and understanding of community. Giving the community a say in its operation can help increase engagement and community contributions. Tip: Tap into the expertise in your membership – communities that include member-led programming demonstrate higher engagement and maturity than their peers.

TACTICS: Focus metrics and measurement on the behaviors you want to see, not just the ones you can easily measure. Everyone measures something, but the best-in-class communities are digging into the metrics that demonstrate the impact of the community. Tip: Use frameworks to better connect behavior changes to metrics so that you can more readily explain the value of the community to members and the organization.

“As community professionals, we need to keep our focus on the fundamentals and continue to reinforce value and success,” Happe said. “Don’t lose sight of the basics; continue the dialog with those that can benefit from your community; and develop an ROI model to define the specific business value that is generated from the community.”

13
Oct
15

Small but mighty meetings

cwmeeting1.jpg.441x331_defaultThink back to your college days. Remember those massively packed, overwhelming lecture halls? Was it hard to pay attention? Did you feel like a minnow in a sea of students swimming upstream?

I did.

Then, think back to your smaller classes (even if that only happened in high school). Wasn’t it easier to focus? Didn’t you feel a bit more important when the professor/teacher actually saw your hand…and called on you?

Now apply those same scenarios to the workplace. How much do you really get done in hugely packed meeting rooms?

When it comes to strategy and long-term planning, small groups are much more effective. Confidence is higher. Communication flows.

And so, it makes sense that in a recent Successful Meetings survey on small meeting trends for this year, event professionals ranked strategizing as the best goal for small meetings. Training came in a close second and team building took the No. 3 spot.

Also in the survey, Successful Meetings members viewed meetings with 25 people or fewer as “small meetings.”

As for location? A city center took the top spot. Think place-based education, yes? Hosting small meetings allow organizations to showcase local hot spots – and yes, even a favorite eatery works. But resort and hotels nearly tied for second and third place favorites.

However, surprisingly, 46 percent of respondents indicated they don’t use social media for small meetings. Perhaps that’s because face-to-face interaction is conducive to small settings, but it seems social media should have a presence, regardless of size. At the same time, 70 percent of survey participants indicated they don’t offer online components.

That said, of those who indicated they employ social media for small meetings, Facebook was the most common platform. Members ranked LinkedIn and Twitter as second and third.

The biggest challenge to small meetings planning? Room negotiation rates. Finding available dates presents the second largest challenge, followed by securing suitable function space onsite.

So what do you think? What trends do you predict for small meetings in 2016?

07
Jul
15

Selecting and coaching speakers to deliver quality digital presentations

Webinar

This post was originally written by Aaron Wolowiec for the CommPartners blog.

When it comes to identifying topics for face-to-face and digital presentations, there are generally two schools of thought:

Call for presentations; or
Content curation.

In a traditional call for presentations, a general invitation is released to an organization’s key constituents to submit topic ideas for a program. This call provides detailed instructions for submission of papers for assessment and selection by a review committee. Ultimately, constituent submissions are returned to the committee for review, scoring and selection.

In a content curation process, a committee comprised of a cross-section of the organization’s key constituents first identifies the topics of greatest interest or concern to the industry. In some instances, this committee may rely on a content outline such as the one created for the Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam.

If no outline is available, the committee will consider current trends, future trends (five to 10 years or more into the future) and other hot topics likely keeping the industry up at night. Once content is reviewed, ranked and confirmed, the result is a makeshift content outline the committee can use to disseminate speaker asks.

Ultimately, staff inherent speakers from one of these two methods. Via the call for presentations approach, speakers self-represent their content expertise and speaking prowess and are selected accordingly. Via the content curation approach, speaker asks may be more deliberate (e.g., based on credentials or demonstrated know-how); however, they are limited by the committee’s network.

Regardless of the method used, there really is no guarantee speakers will be successful. Your candidate may be an experienced and skilled face-to-face presenter, a 30-year industry veteran and a world-renowned practitioner, but still may not be ready to present utilizing a digital platform.

SpeakerBefore selecting a speaker for your next digital presentation, consider that individual’s digital presentation experience. Additionally, request evaluation data. Where possible, it’s best if the speaker has previously presented (successfully) using the same digital platform you intend to use. Remember, not all digital platforms are created equal.

And regardless of experience, speakers should be open to furthering their presentation skills. Following are 11 challenges and possible solutions you may use to coach your speakers in delivering quality digital presentations. Of course, practice is still the best strategy for mentoring speakers who have no previous digital presentation experience.

Challenge: Attendees seem disconnected from the speaker/learning experience.
Solution: Utilize a webcam to deliver the presentation; care should be taken to look directly into the camera throughout the program.

Challenge: With no facial expressions/body language to draw from, the speaker is uncertain attendees are “getting” the content.
Solution: Consider pausing the presentation periodically to ask an assessment question via the digital platform’s poll function.

Challenge: When joining remotely, participants are constantly distracted by email and other visual cues.
Solution: Set ground rules for participants early in the program and ask attendees to follow along in a pre-printed participant guide where they can complete assignments and take notes.

Challenge: Reflection activities cause a lot of dead space/air time during the program.
Solution: Convert the reflection activity into a pre- or post-program assignment.

Challenge: Practice activities facilitated during face-to-face programs don’t seem to translate into a digital environment.
Solution: Encourage multiple registrants from the same office or gather attendees at centralized locations to participate in the program together; arm them with a supplies list, directions and plenty of activity time.

Challenge: Four or more hours of content may be required to teach a particular skill.
Solution: Segment and sequence content into smaller modules. No more than 60 minutes is suggested, though even shorter is preferred.

Challenge: Learners want to share their experiences, but this is difficult to facilitate when all of the lines are muted for optimal sound quality.
Solution: Allow attendees to demonstrate their interest in speaking and then open up only their phone lines. Alternatively, gather attendee stories in advance of the program and have the moderator read them aloud.

Challenge: Participants are easily bored by digital presentations.
Solution: Incorporate different instructional strategies into the program beyond lecture (e.g., video, poll, chat).

Challenge: The chat function is difficult to moderate so it often goes unused/is turned off.
Solution: Participants crave interaction with their peers. They also learn a lot from these conversations. Utilize a separate chat moderator who can prompt discussion with attendees, respond to questions and pose trending questions to the speaker.

Challenge: The digital platform makes it difficult for the speaker to provide personalized attendee feedback.
Solution: Allow participants the opportunity within 30 days to follow-up with the speaker directly (e.g., ask a question, gain clarification).

Challenge: It’s challenging to ensure retention and job transfer post-program.
Solution: Encourage action planning to focus learner ideas and next steps; create a job aid to guide future performance; or schedule post-session touch points (e.g., 30, 60 and 90 days).

09
Jun
15

Time to breathe…and think long-term

Strategy-Small1Meeting professionals are some of the busiest people I know.

But thanks to periods of economic stability, for the first time in a decade, these always-on-go folks will have time to take a breath and think strategically, according to Meeting Professionals International’s Meetings Outlook, 2015 Spring Edition. It was developed in partnership with Visit Denver.

This year has been, and will continue to be, defined by intelligent growth for the meetings and events industry, the report found.

For starters, 60 percent of survey respondents predict an increase in live events, while 56 percent predict an increase in virtual events. Part of the reason: Young professionals are realizing the value of face-to-face networking.

Other key findings:

  • 74 percent of those surveyed predict better business conditions.
  • Industry professionals plan to use mobile apps more strategically this year, including location-based technology for session check-ins and networking.
  • Budgets are still a concern, so organizations plan to host more local meetings, compress meetings into shorter times and increase use of technology.

“It takes opportunity, resources and the desire to be able to think strategically to consider how to improve relationships and to be smarter with how folks use the tools in their toolbox,” said Bill Voegeli (MPI Georgia Chapter), president of Association Insights — the company that conducts the Meetings Outlook research. “Now is one of those rare times.”

While this is good news, opportunities also bring challenges. For instance, it’s a sellers’ market, so meeting professionals will need to contend with shorter lead times. As such, pop-up meetings are becoming more common. And sometimes, when attendance is low, venues tack on charges.

shaking-handsIn addition, with the increase in live events comes the need to build face-to-face communication skills (much tougher than communicating behind a screen).

Budgets are increasing, but with a planned uptick in live events, resources won’t go as far. At the same time, food and beverage costs have increased, so organizations will need to come up with creative budget solutions (i.e. purchasing their own AV equipment, rather than renting from a venue.) The key: During budget planning, think long-term and out of the box.

It’s an exciting time for meeting professionals, and to help foster success, MPI lists some tips in its report:

  • Offer attendees more engagement while gathering more data through your apps to help inform future meeting design.
  • Crowdsource: Publicly display social media posts from attendees, such as comments and photos.
  • Make your eRFPs pop with clear details, and consider working with CVBs to streamline the process.

“All of this is opening a new era for meetings, as attendee behavior data is going to explode — and it will help in shaping meeting design in multiple areas,” said Christian Savelli, senior director of business intelligence and research for MPI.

What do you think? Does your organization have a strategic plan? Are you doing things differently? Let us know.

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

01
Apr
14

Navigating Extreme Association Trends

ASAE held its annual Great Ideas Conference in Orlando, FL last month. During that conference, Scott Oser and I had the pleasure of presenting a session titled, “Under Pressure: Navigating Extreme Association Trends.”

More than 50 association executives hailing from across the country attended our session. We were pleased so many of our colleagues were willing to take the plunge, as this session required an extensive amount of audience participation.

Ultimately, the goal was to openly discuss three apparent trends in the association community. They are as follows:

  1. Membership is dead
  2. The demise of face-to-face meetings
  3. The social media imperative

Attendees were led through a series of exercises that allowed them to reflect on what they thought about each trend, how they believed the trend related to their organizations and any action items they might want to explore upon returning home. Fortunately, our colleagues were not shy. Following is a summary of their insights.

sprint-unlimited-my-way-undead-zombie-commercialMembership is dead; or is it?

This so-called trend has been heard loud and clear throughout the association community for years now. Although it’s received a lot of press, there are a number of recent studies indicating that membership in many associations is, in fact, growing.

After reviewing facts supporting both sides of this trend, attendees did not believe that membership is in a desperate state of decay. Rather, attendees agreed that the membership life cycle is changing and lapses in membership, when members leave for a period of time before returning, are becoming more common. They also discussed the need for more personalized membership experiences, requiring more membership data and a more targeted marketing approach. Finally, nearly all participants agreed that if associations understand the needs of their members and have a strong value proposition, the existing membership model is a viable option so long as tweaks are made based on industry needs.

conferenceThe demise (or rather reduction) of face-to-face meetings

Everyone’s professional development budgets are strapped these days and time is limited. We’re all busy; there’s simply no going back. So while our participants indicated a necessary reduction and consolidation of face-to-face meetings to right size the number and type of meetings planned each year, there’s simply no evidence they’ll be canceled altogether (at least not in our lifetime). The reason is simple: networking. In fact, in a global survey of 2,300 Harvard Business Review subscribers, 95% said that face-to-face meetings are both key to successful long-term relationships and to building strong relationships.

We did, however, determine that this shift in the professional development landscape has rightfully encouraged many of us to re-evaluate our face-to-face meetings to ensure exceptional attendee experiences that focus on learning research, supporting the styles and preferences of our attendees. Moreover, there’s a renewed emphases on identifying and offering quality topics and facilitators that meet attendee needs (vs. wants). This has resulted in tighter value propositions and more thoughtful marketing collateral. Many had also explored hybrid conference models (including live streaming, virtual expos and the like) as a means of opening up their associations to new audiences.

Social-Media-Manager-Job-DescriptionThe social media imperative; are you crazy?

The introduction of social media has had a profound impact on the way associations reach their members and customers. In fact, there’s been so much talk about social media and its benefits that you might think failing to allocate marketing resources to social media would justifiably harm your organization. While a good number of associations are using social media to their advantage, there are an equal number of associations that are not. And believe it or not, they exist to tell the tale.

When presented with points and counterpoints to the use of social media, our colleagues did not easily reach consensus. What they did agree on, however, is important: If you are going to use social media, you must have a strategy in place that leverages best practices and you must allocate the appropriate resources to effectively implement your plan. If you are not using social media smartly, or if you are unnecessarily pulling your staff away from other essentials products or services, you may be doing more harm than good. That said, participants seemed to concur that most organizations should have some form of social media presence. At the very least, if a member or a prospective member searched for your organization on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, they should find a link to your website for more information.

Final thoughts

This session was held on the very first day of the conference so we were able to follow-up with participants for the next couple of days. Time and again we heard from our colleagues that they appreciated hearing both sides of each trend. They also enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss with their peers how each trend applied to their unique situations. Many attendees told us that far too often only one side of the issue is presented. Moreover, it’s often implied that going against the grain would somehow result in dire circumstances. Both Scott and I believe this is rarely the case and are very happy we were able to bring attendees together to discuss a number of the most “controversial issues” facing our profession – if only for 75 minutes. More conversations like this need to happen in our organizations before new ideas are implemented if we are to remain viable, solvent organizations in the future.

Tell us: Where do you fall on each of these issues?




meet aaron

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

meet kristen

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

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