When it comes to becoming a more innovative organization and leveraging today’s technological advancements for the overall betterment of the association and its operations, it all starts with the vision. Just look at how the tech stack comes out of the organization’s vision and their strategic plan. It might be very well worth borrowing philosophies from outside the industry. When you look into associations and entrepreneurship, for example, there’s this battle between how risky we want to be versus how agile we want to be; associations generally aren’t big risk takers. However, there’s no reason associations can’t adopt a more entrepreneurial mindset and use certain valuable methodologies for their benefits.
When I’ve asked association execs how they come up with their vision and key objectives, the answer I get most of the time is “Our ED tells us” or “The important stuff floats to the top every year and our leadership decides what’s important.” This is not good enough. If you look at entrepreneurs, they use a few methodologies for planning and execution that involve creating a vision, mission and values and communicating them often and clearly to employees and customers. Additionally, they have a structured method for breaking the vision down into small digestible bites and attacking it little by little with a well documented execution process.
Meena Dayak and her ACE (Associations Catalyzing Entrepreneurship) group is a really good example of a group of association executives that are taking entrepreneurial philosophies and applying it to associations. I definitely think it’s worth taking a page out of their book.
There are a few systems that businesses use, and most of them will force an organization to look at every aspect of their “business” and form an understanding for where they are, where they want to be and how to get there. If you’re thinking about processes, and how to create a long term vision and then the steps to get there, a couple examples of these methodologies are Traction, by Gino WIckman and Scaling Up by Verne Harnish. Additionally, Cameron Herold has a very simple solution called The Painted Picture.
Similarly, most associations don’t give much thought to culture in relation to incorporating new technology in processes and operations. But with a strong culture, your team will be more productive, happier and naturally more innovative with their approach to creating value for the members. Not only will member retention go up as a result of creating a great culture, but your staff retention will remain high as well. Few organizations think about creating a great working environment for their staff. If associations want to behave more like entrepreneurial minded businesses, then they’ll need to embrace the idea of structured strategic planning and creating culture by design.
All these systems create a vision that applies to every aspect of the organization. This is the foundation of the tech stack. From here it’s much easier to identify what solutions, technological and otherwise, are important and what they need to do well.