Posts Tagged ‘whitepaper

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.”

08
Nov
16

No more learning silos

62623_10151545003900256_752994597_n

Photo courtesy of Skillsoft via Facebook

I’m a self-professed word nerd. In college, I loved leaving classes with a new nugget of information. And now that I’m a working professional, I get giddy at the thought of attending conferences.

 

And, even better: My employers not only encourage professional development, but expect it.

Why? Because they know educated employees drive success.

According to Kieran King, vice president, global customer insight, at Skillsoft, currently there’s a “war for talent.” And many HR departments are losing.

Some HR departments have been pretty lax in encouraging professional development and education, because, quite frankly, it wasn’t deemed important. But with workplace dynamics changing and younger, better-educated professionals coming on board, that’s no longer the case.

“The demographic shifts, revamped business models, digitization of products, rise in big data analytics and new forms of competition require organizations to fuel perpetual skill upgrades,” King said in her new whitepaper. “HR must evolve to apply new paradigms toward talent attraction, mine for unrealized capability, build rapid development tactics, implement highly effective engagement strategies and unveil succession pathways with far more innovation than they have demonstrated to date. Old assumptions and stale practices need to be abandoned. Organizations that successfully compete for talent will exploit technology to achieve a smarter way, build a healthier culture and develop a more resilient workforce.”

How?

Break down the silos between talent management and learning.

Training employees, especially with an event-centric approach, isn’t enough, King said. Instead, companies should create an environment that fosters learning and employee development. It’s about much more than setting up educational programming in an LMS and conducting performance reviews. It requires HR to adapt new roles.

kieran-king

Kieran King

“Achieving this type of symbiotic relationship between talent and learning not only dissolves silos, it also creates competitive differentiation,” King said. “Organizations that apply this modern approach build superior employer brands, entice a higher level of talent to join their ranks and optimize the existing workforce in new ways.”

 

Enter a self-developing organization.

A self-developing organization allows individuals to control their own personal development and career trajectories, King explains. This involves making information available and actionable and connecting employees with the appropriate resources.

And it starts with the top. Leaders of self-developing organizations establish and monitor goals and stay abreast of industry trends and opportunities, passing that knowledge on to their staff.

However, King said, that’s only possible by leveraging smart technology – technology that customizes individual employee needs and delivers recommendations.

In short, in a self-developing organization:

  • Learning and talent management efforts and technologies should be coupled together.
  • High-quality, curated content delivered in the context of job performance is essential.
  • Fluid talent mobility is key to keeping employees engaged and it is a competitive lever.
  • Ubiquitous access to learning – delivery at the time and place of need – is critical to knowledge acceleration.
  • The user experience must be frictionless and compelling.
  • Technology provides the ability to manage talent and deliver learning in innovative ways.
  • The power of analytics provides insights that can predict demand and serve-up hyper-personalized experiences.

“Organizations that apply higher levels of talent and learning maturity will be better able to respond to business change and will be better positioned to innovate,” King said. “Their HR direction is highly purpose-driven, with clear objectives and multi-faceted strategy. They will be undoubtedly more successful in handling dynamics that will affect adaptation and ultimately, organizational competitiveness.”

Do you have questions for Kieran King? Connect with her on Twitter.

30
Aug
16

Associations play an important role in higher education

Higher-EducationWhen I graduated college 16 years ago, times were different. I had a job before graduation and I never questioned the value of my degree. While I had an internship, the focus then on skills (vs. education) wasn’t nearly as strong. Today, students need internships before entering the workforce.

And then comes the price tag. My son is a freshman this year and soon, we’ll be looking at colleges. As some of you may know, I work at a university (in addition to my Event Garde role), so I live and breathe higher education. Yes, it’s expensive. And yes, it’s worth it.

But when I see students struggling to make ends meet and their parents sacrificing to pay tuition, it’s a scary thought: What will happen?

We’re facing a student debt crisis. Recent college graduates are saddled with thousands of dollars in debt and many can’t find a job, let alone start a career. So what should we do?

The answer may lay in associations, according to Elizabeth Weaver Engel, chief strategist for Spark Consulting, and Shelly Alcorn, principal for Alcorn Associates Management Consulting, who just released, “The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm.”

Educators should develop a better understanding of what students need to be learning, and then connect those learning outcomes to employment, they said. According to their research, students and employers agree on the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace: critical thinking, problem solving, oral and written communications, teamwork, ethical conduct, decision-making and the ability to apply knowledge.

However, there’s a huge divide in the readiness of such skills. Many employers report not finding such skills in recent college graduates because earning a degree doesn’t necessarily teach them.

But with credentialing programs, MOOCs, conferences and other online offerings, associations can fill the skills gap.

“With an education system that is being disrupted, college students graduating with degrees that fail to provide them practical job skills and more adult and nontraditional learners than ever, associations stand at a crossroads,” Engel and Alcorn wrote. “There are enormous needs we can meet: creating high-quality, competency based education; fostering social learning; and providing clear pathways to employment for students, the long-term unemployed, returning veterans or those individuals who are about to see their jobs significantly affected by the rise of automation and artificial intelligence. It’s a big opportunity and a big challenge.”

CBEOne example: competency-based education. Students drive their own pace of completion through a program’s curricular courses or modules by demonstrating competencies through learning exercises, activities and engaging experiences. CBE creates opportunities for digital badges, certification and micro-credentials to visually demonstrate ongoing growth and professional development for adult learners who seek career opportunities and advancement without waiting for completion of a terminal degree as the only signal of qualifications for employment.

“CBE offers the flexibility that could bridge the job-skills gap between employers and those who seek employment in professions that are rapidly evolving,” said Tracy Petrillo, chief learning officer for EDUCAUSE. “Because the learning can occur in varied settings and forms, individuals are not restricted by course schedules and access to programs. New business models are emerging, focused on making CBE programs affordable and on filling needs that are not currently well served through traditional post-secondary models.”

In addition, associations represent every industry and therefore can offer college graduates a pipeline to employers. Associations provide niche education – via credentialing and certification – something most grads won’t have entering the market.

But associations should move quickly, while the landscape is changing, Engel said.

“We have a rapidly closing window of opportunity here,” she said. “For-profits and venture capitalists see a $1.23 trillion market (the current level of student debt in the U.S.) and they aren’t going to sleep on that opportunity forever. (Indeed, the whitepaper covers some of the early moves companies are making into “our” space.) We have other advantages they’ll have a hard time duplicating, but we shouldn’t use that as an excuse to waste our first-mover edge.”

The whitepaper offers seven keys to the shift in thinking, which I encourage you to read in detail (page 28) and offers suggestions for conducting workplace analysis (pages 28-29).

At the same time, Engel and Alcorn offer some tips for associations to take the next step in the educational spectrum:

  • Clearly define educational competencies needed, including soft skills
  • Clearly define career pathways
  • Consider alternative delivery methods and new technologies
  • Offer micro-credentialing and badging
  • Offer blended learning environments
  • Professionalize content development and delivery
  • Provide quality certification programs
  • Create effective alliances

“The education-to-employment system is broken and we need to understand why and what we can do to help,” Alcorn said. “There is a symbiotic relationship between education (acquisition of knowledge and skills), employment (economically rewarded activity) and living a ‘good life’ (an ethical, spiritually rewarding existence as individuals and as a collective). After all of the research we have done, we believe the current system may have been sufficient for the 19th and 20th centuries, but not the 21st. We can do better.”

Finally, some advice for millennials reading this:

Shelly img 26 large“You have personal power and more options than you have ever had. You are just at the beginning of an exciting and accelerating lifelong learning process. Focus on developing competencies required by a new employment sphere. Mix and match educational opportunities. Maybe a formal degree will give you the competencies you desire, maybe not. Maybe a certification can get you working while you pursue other educational avenues. Try MOOCs or coding camps. Try it all. The most important thing is to find and maintain a balance between education broad-based enough to help you build the trans disciplinary muscle you need to understand the interplay between systems, and education designed to help you develop a deep expertise in an area you find compelling or personally rewarding.”

– Shelly Alcorn

Elizabeth Engel

“Don’t discount the value of higher education, but also realize that it’s not job training (and it’s not designed to be), and it’s not necessarily the only way in to your desired career field. Consider all your options, including the education and professional development associations can provide. And if the association in your desired career field isn’t meeting your career and professional development needs, don’t walk away – kick a fuss! Get involved! Agitate for change!

– Elizabeth Weaver Engel

12
Apr
16

Use the media to manage your relationships

media_monitoringIn the early stages of my career when I was working as communications director for a nonprofit, I was amazed at how quickly a national issue could become local.

National grassroots efforts steadily trickled down to local and state governments and organizations so I found myself buried in issues management. Every day, I scanned news outlets across the nation and throughout the state to see which issues may affect my daily operations, but more importantly, the operations of our members. Think federal and state funding!

After a few years in public relations, I’ve learned that to build support, staying on top of trends and issues is key, as is listening to your audiences – otherwise known as key publics.

A new whitepaper by Media Miser – a media analytics and tracking company – spells out the importance of relationship management.

“Effective communications means more than just managing issues through the media,” Media Miser said. “Companies and organizations must also be aware of their external publics – the people and groups outside of an organization’s sphere that affect, or are affected by, what that organization does. This is known as relationship management: the discipline of identifying key publics and establishing strategies for building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with them.”

Step 1: quote analysis. Chances are, your communications staff is monitoring media, but pay attention to quotes. Doing so will allow you to see what your stakeholders are thinking and saying about the trends and issues that could affect your organization. If you’re not on track, their words will tell you.

Also look for advocates and “badvocates.” By scanning for quotes and statements, you can assess who’s on your side – and who’s not. If the media heavily quote someone, he or she could be an opinion leader – and a media favorite – so it’s wise to determine whether your organization’s positions align with that person’s agenda.

As I mentioned before, keeping an eye on regional news will give your organization a taste of the key publics within that region, and could help your association strengthen its presence and capitalize on hot-button issues and trends. For example – knowledge. Is there something happening about which you can best educate that region?

And messaging. It’s so important. Whoever handles communications in your organization needs to develop consistent messaging. That said, staff can tailor those messages to a region or stakeholder’s concerns.

“If you want people to trust you and your organization, consistency is a must,” Media Miser said. “Trust is the first step in developing a relationship with opinion leaders and your key publics. The last thing you want is to communicate different messages regarding the same issue: Without consistency, you run the risk of looking insincere. This will inhibit your publics’ ability to trust you, and without trust it’s impossible to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship.”

It goes without saying that people appreciate transparency, so always, I mean ALWAYS, be honest. Your organization doesn’t want to be caught in the middle of a public relations quagmire.

business-relationshipIn summary, pay attention to what media – and this includes bloggers and niche reporters – are writing about. Even if an issue doesn’t seem important to your industry, it could tangentially relate. Remember: Media are key to helping you build relationships.

Other questions to consider:

  • Is there mutual trust between your organization and your key publics?
  • Is there an equal exchange and benefit? Are you seeing a reaction to your relationship management efforts, or are they falling flat? Should you focus your efforts on different key publics who are more likely to reciprocate?
  • Is your company committed to maintaining a relationship with your key publics? Are you continuing to nurture every relationship that you’ve developed?
  • Are you satisfied with the relationship? Are your key publics satisfied? What can you do to improve these levels of satisfaction?
12
Jan
16

What will 2016 bring for associations?

2016-vpisIt’s a new year. New predictions. New trends. New goals. New successes.

From memberships to learning to partnerships, software and services provider Abila just released its predictions for associations in 2016.

Of special interest? Learning and partnerships. (Note our new tagline – Learn. Network. Transfer.)

The demand for knowledge will continue to grow this year, specifically the focus on certification programs. In fact, Abila predicts certification revenue will surpass membership revenue in 2016.

“One of the most valuable resources you have is your association’s e-learning content,” Abila wrote in its whitepaper. “For many members, certification has greater perceived value and affords a significant career edge that mere membership can’t provide. This is particularly true for your millennial members who will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2020.”

As further evidence, according to Associations Trends’ TRENDS 2015 Report, about two-thirds of survey respondents receive less than half their revenue from dues.

partnershipAt the same time, Abila predicts an increase partnerships. As the association industry continues to evolve, community engagement and networking among industry leaders will be key to success, which could include sharing of resources. So, will there be an uptick in swapping of online materials and open source documents? Maybe.

“Your association should look closely at similarly aligned organizations – regionally, nationally and internationally – to forge alliances for greater visibility and awareness,” Abila wrote. “All avenues, channels and opportunities should be explored to connect with potential new members and customers and generate revenue.”

This could mean partnerships between nonprofits and forprofits. Why? Such partnerships could offer new revenue streams and raise an organization’s profile on social media and among professional and personal networks.

So we’ve covered learning and networking. What about transfer?

Let’s say your staff completes a certification program or engages in e-learning. Or it learns how to better network.

How do staff members apply this newfound knowledge?

It’s about rethinking association management systems, Abila says.

Chalkboard - Strategy

As 2016 progresses, associations will increasingly use AMS for strategy – not just tactics. Mining the system for specific member information will allow associations to personalize customer experiences, which could very well include new networking and learning platforms.

“2016 will be a year in which many associations will take a deeper look at membership and the entire membership experience to better understand when and how to engage,” said Amanda Myers, senior product marketing manager for Abila. “Many organizations will also look more closely at revenue channels and partnerships as hybrid membership models continue to emerge, revenue from certification programs grows and associations will form new and different partnerships. The AMS will also re-emerge as a key piece of technology and play a far more strategic role.”

Do you have predictions to share? Think new trends will surface this year? Share your comments below!

24
Nov
15

Time to cut the fat

cutting-fat-thumb18752006Like most businesses, associations have a lot of bulk. Maybe that’s because it’s hard to trim the fat.

That said, eliminating wasted efforts and minimizing defects can lead to new products and innovations, according to a new whitepaper by Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, and Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, director of information systems for National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

From the whitepaper: “Is there a process that can help associations achieve our missions, stay in business, find problems worth solving and make a real and meaningful difference for our members, achieving the sustainable, dynamic impact we seek? Your authors would argue that there is: lean startup methodology, as most fully developed and articulated by Eric Ries in his 2011 book ‘The Lean Startup.’”

Elizabeth Engel

Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

I asked Engel to break it down for us, and following is our Q & A. Thanks to Engel for her contribution!

Q: How would you simply explain lean startup methodology?
A: Lean startup is an innovation system developed by Eric Ries that came out of his experiences with lean process improvement, which is all about reducing waste and defects and working more efficiently and effectively. Ries had an insight: It doesn’t matter how quickly you’re moving if you’re headed in the wrong direction.

Lean startup methodology is designed to help make sure you’re going the right way and going there quickly and efficiently.

Q: Why is it important?
A: To quote Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, my co-author, “There’s no bigger waste than investing resources working on the wrong thing.”

Lean startup methodology has been being used not just in startups, but also in more conventional for-profit business, for several years. And that makes it easy for associations to dismiss: “We aren’t a startup – or even a for-profit. This isn’t for us.”

Guillermo and I would argue that associations share a key characteristic with startups: tight resources (and by that, we mean human as well as financial resources). Those perpetually tight resources are precisely why this methodology is so useful for our community.

Q: How do you think associations, specifically, could benefit from practicing this methodology?
A: In associations, decision-making is often driven by anecdotes, untested assumptions and the HIPO (highest income/influence person’s opinion). “One of our board members talked to a member who said she wants X so therefore everyone must want X and therefore we have to go build X immediately.”

But are you sure you’re solving a real problem that’s important to at least one of your key audiences, in a way that’s useful and makes sense to them – and that they’re willing to pay?

Guerimallo

Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, director of information systems for National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

That very situation was what sparked Guillermo’s interest in lean startup methodology. His association, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, is one of the case studies in the whitepaper, and he relates two stories: one of a project that took place before NCARB starting using lean startup that was NOT the right problem, the right audience or the right solution; the second of a project after NCARB “saw the light” that was far more successful for them.

Q: Walk me through the build-measure-learn cycle…what’s involved?
A: The build-measure-learn cycle is the core of the methodology.

In lean startup, you build first. That means you’re trying to get the Minimum Viable Product (that is, the minimum version of the product you can build with the smallest investment of resources and effort that would still be real enough to let you start testing your assumptions) out to your audience as quickly as possible. No theorizing or speculating, no “stealth mode,” no working for two years on creating the absolute perfect thing (that you then discover no one wants). You build a prototype and get people using it and offering feedback as quickly as you can and with as small an investment of resources as possible.

Next, you measure. You’ve identified a problem you think might be worth solving, and you have a hypothesis about what the right solution might be. Now you have to test whether your hypothesis is correct. You have to identify and track a few key measures that will prove – or disprove – your theory.

That testing leads to learning. Did you identify something that’s a real and important problem? Are you targeting your solution at the right audience? Does your solution work and make sense for them, at a price they’re willing to pay?

The only way to reliably answer those questions is to let people use your product and find out what they think and how they act. That information feeds back to your team so you can get closer to where you should be going in your next MVP iteration.

Q: Change can be scary. So what do you think is the best first step?
A: First of all, the whitepaper is just a primer on lean startup methodology and is designed to introduce the concept to association executives and hopefully pique their interest in learning more. If that’s you, I’d strongly encourage you to read some of the more extensive treatments of lean startup we share in the bibliography, to get some formal training (and we share sources in the conclusion) or to join a local lean startup MeetUp group for peer-to-peer learning.

Beyond that, start small, with something that lies completely in your own area of responsibility and is relatively low profile. Once you have a few examples of how the methodology works, it’s time to start sharing your story.

Q: Let’s say associations are ready to start with lean. How do they achieve buy in from the board of directors? members? staff?
A: It’s all about being able to demonstrate that the methodology works, which is different from building the perfect product right out of the gate.

To quote two of the other key thinkers in lean startup, Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer: “It’s liberating to recognize that no human being can guess correctly when you face uncertainty, and that part of the process is making changes to adjust to these inevitable errors.”

That’s what’s so powerful about lean startup: You are not going to get it right all the time. This methodology is built on that fact and structured to help you move as quickly and efficiently as possible from “here’s an interesting idea” to “here’s a program, product or service that we know – because we’ve been testing it all along the way – our audiences want, need, will use and will pay for.”

LeanstartupQ: And finally, what are two or three takeaways from your research that you’d like to share?
A: I’d strongly encourage people to download the whitepaper – it’s free – and read the stories of four associations we interviewed, all of which are using lean startup. It’s eye opening to see how this methodology works in real situations, where your peers are using it to help their organizations provide better service for their members and other audiences and invest their resources more efficiently and effectively.

Second, one of the concerns we’ve heard over and over from associations is: “What about our brand?” Again, quoting Guillermo: “In associations, we tend to worry that releasing a half-baked program will negatively impact the brand. I would argue that doing the same thing year after year without changing also negatively impacts your brand.”

Also, you have to realize that lean startup may not be suitable for every single initiative of your association or for every single audience – it’s hard to create a Minimum Viable Certification. Some of your members will not be O.K. with beta-testing a new product for you. But some will love that and leap at the opportunity to co-create a new service with the association. It’s up to you to find those people, who are your champions and allies in this.




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.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,352 other followers

Twitter Updates

Featured in Alltop

%d bloggers like this: