Posts tagged ‘change management’

What Social Media Means to Associations – Beyond Mere Facebook Pages and Twitter Accounts

I’ve recently had the wonderful opportunity to deliver presentations to a variety of individuals and organisations regarding how social media is already transforming the future of associations.  Through these experiences, I’ve listened carefully to fears, perceptions and admirable admissions of a lack of functional understanding relating to what social media means to associations.

I also hear allot about Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, as if that is somehow enough to leverage the potential of the social web.  The reality is social media is more than a communication channel, rather it is a one-to-one and one-to-many conversation and relationship-building tool.  The same types of conversations and relationships we have been engaging in with current and prospective members for years.  It’s also a business strategy, just like other vital aspects of organizational operations provided it is already acceptable for staff to answer the phone and handle attendee questions at conferences.

Simply put:

The social web is an opportunity to expand your association sphere by listening, connecting, engaging and building vital relationships which expands your association sphere.

Why is this important?  Because conversations and relationships are what led to the creation of associations in the first place.  Further, social cohesion is the glue which holds together and propels our organizations.

A member’s commitment to an association is measured by the extent to which they feel a connected part of the organization.  The way members connect to an association is through some form of engagement or participation.  Before the social web, it required a greater sacrifice and investment to participate (planes, trains and automobiles), but today the social web provides an inexhaustible opportunity to connect and participate.

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.  The social web is simply a smarter tool with which we can adapt and greatly expand our mission.  With the right organizational foundation, we can all be ready when Facebook inevitably becomes tomorrow’s MySpace.  While the platforms will continue to change, the “rules” will always remain the same.

I designed the cluster symbol above to demonstrate the way in which a like-minded group of people bond together to form an association.  Clusters form within associations to initiate new projects and components.  Today, new clusters are forming outside the walls of your association, in almost every case not to replace you but to give rise to issues and concerns facing a trade or profession.  As associations, our goal is to reach out and create new bonds with individuals and groups working in support of our interests.  This symbol is also the official symbol of my new consulting practice, Social Frequency Media, which I started out of a deep desire to help associations transform their futures and leverage the potential of social media.  I hope you will find the above information and other postings here at Association 2020 useful.  SM


December 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm 3 comments

A Confluence Model for Building Activity-Centered Organizations

stuart-meyer2The princple of this model is rooted in moving organizations from being department-driven to being activity-driven.  Why is this important to associations?  The philosophy and psychology of such an approach is rooted in the belief that when people begin to think of initiatives being centered around an activity rather than another department, the goal becomes shared and people become more invested in the outcome.

This is a silo-busting model which sheds “turf” in exchange for shared ownership, balanced collaboration and responsibility.  Greater clarity and transparency helps to bring people together on the same frequency.  In other words, the goal is to move groups of people from thinking “that’s not my problem” to a sense of “this is our shared problem”. 

Think “confluence” in terms of “flowing into” a central place (multi-lateral) rather than “flowing from” (uni-lateral) a specific area.  The focus is on the activity to be completed or problem to be solved, rather than who “owns” the issue.  

I actually learned this principle while working in politics.  The magnitude of selfless teamwork in political campaigns always amazed me.  My own analytical viewpoint is that campaigns bring staff resources together because the work is cenetered around one central activity… the election of a candidate.  However, I was always equally amazed by the vindictive hell and fury that breaks lose once a candidate wins as previous teammates begin to scramble for their own plot of political “real estate”.

What is the source of this fragile volatility?  I believe the answer is the same in both political adminstrations as it is in the dynamics of any organization… the humanistic flaw of envy.  For whatever reason, real or imagined, envy is the great initiating force for overt and covert human grudge matches.  Referencing a previous posting, it’s the “Pfactor” (the people factor).  We’re all human and have our share of flaws and insecurities.

So how do you overcome envy?  You must focus on balancing the attention on the important and uniquely essential contribution of each person in the ultimate success of the endeavor.  As a leader, to succeed in maintaining this level of morale and security in your team is extraordinarily difficult if you do what so many organizations do and that is to delegate the control and ownership of an initiative to specific department which creates the air of a “master/servant” realtionship.  Nobody wants to be a servant to his/her peers… that’s where the “it’s not my problem” mentality kicks in. 

Thus, the easier path to fostering a confluence of team is to shift the structure of activites from being  around a particular department to residing around the activity itself, with each person’s contribution flowing into development, execution, completion and success.  That way, not only is success shared, but so too is failure.  Think of the possibilities.

What’s your next step toward this model?  Look at your strategic plan and analyze how initiatives are aligned with staff… does there appear to be “domains”, “areas”, “primary” people, “categories” of staff or  “divide and conquer” language?  Embracing project management is another way to begin fostering a new mentality in terms of activity-centered alignment.  Create management teams of key staff leaders who all have an equitable seat at the table from activity conception to completion. 

Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that every task is completed by committee, but rather the overall construct of activities are built around the essential contributions of each component with the organization as a whole being the primary owner and stakeholder of the activity.  I am in the process of developing a visual model for this concept which I will share once completed.  In the meantime, I will leave  you to ponder the possibilities.  SM 


December 10, 2008 at 8:03 am Leave a comment

Succeed in association business innovation by seperating it from “the pack” in the developmental phases

If you’ve read my previous postings, you may be starting to see a pattern in my thinking.  In my mind, one of the biggest threats to innovation, in general, is not a lack of creative thinking or evolutionary ideas… it’s often the wrong composition of people involved in the decision-making process and roles of influence. 

Let’s face it, some people find a greater level of comfort in tradition.  While tradition helps us honor the past and the lessons learned, it often serves as the arch enemy of innovation.  The question is:

Q. How can well-reasoned innovative ideas and new association business models survive the gravitational forces of tradition and marginalization?

I would argue in analagous terms that you wouldn’t plant a new tree within inches or even feet of an existing mature tree because you need adequate spacing in order for the young tree to grow and prosper.  Over time, the young tree grows in size and it’s branches eventually reach toward and join together with the mature trees in concert to create a forest.

In association terms, why not create a special incubator with the right composition of people who embrace the vision and goals behind the well-reasoned innovation to do the foundational and developmental work with adequate spacing from the influence of tradition.  During the incubator process, the innovation endures the rigors of research, pilot testing, stage-gate and all predicted scrutiny.  

Eventually, once ready and the timing right, the innovation can be brought out of the incubator and the political journey toward institutionalization can be taken with the peripheral knowledge and validation gathered during the incubator phase.

I will confess, this is less a theory and more a case study from earlier in my career.  Based on well-reasoned analysis, a small team I was leading developed a truly innovative concept which would transform the structure of relationships and activity within and between our components.  You might be surprised to learn this is not a Board story.  As a matter of fact, our Board approved the initiative in the strategic plan. 

The struggle came with our internal stakeholders as we began building the foundation of the project.  Very early on, during stakeholder meetings, we realized that not everyone was enthusiastically on board and some simply struggled to understand the practical application of the concept. 

We were very understanding of these potentially sabotaging concerns/challenges and consciously avoided judgement realizing that some simply were not ready.  As a result, rather than “drag” the entire stakeholder group through what may have been both a failure-inducing marginalizing process, we chose to break the development process into phases. 

Phase 1 was our incubator which included both my early team who envisioned the concept as well as supporter stakeholders who could see how the concept would benefit their area.  As a result, the right environment was established to cultivate the innovative concept in tact and we were able to achieve some early success providing greater concept clarity which enabled us to win over our previously skeptical stakeholders… and everyone lived happily ever after…. okay, well we know it’s not always “happily ever after” in the association world as new challenges inevitably arise.  However, I believe this approach can help anyone maximize the potential for successful innovation.  Finally, regardless of how brilliant the innovation seems, never forget to do your homework at each step in the process! SM     

September 11, 2008 at 7:48 am Leave a comment

Survival Tips for Managing Innovation … It’s Evolutionary!

One of my favorite expressions is that often times “ignorance is bliss”.  For the innovators out there who love envisioning the future and the changes which must be made today, survival is rooted in either an exceptionally thick outer layer of skin or, perhaps, divine naivity. 

If you fall somewhere between these two extremes, here are some tips for the day to keep you moving forward:

  • Maintain a strong focus on the outcome of your vision when weathering the present and future challenges you face. 
  • Revolutionary ideas are referred to as “revolutionary” for a reason… they often first cause “revolt”.  However, always remember that it’s easier for others to dismiss an idea or believe to be crazy rather than to admit they might not be able to see that which may seem so clear to you.
  • Involve stakeholders in the process as early as possible to uncover potential pitfalls and invest them in the process. 
  • Cultivate a strong yet open-mind to house your conviction and a loving heart rooted in a deep appreciative understanding of people. 
  • Always remember that when leading your organization or providing leadership from where you stand, the best path to successful change is through inclusive participation and evolutionary stages.

Keep moving forward!

August 27, 2008 at 5:37 am Leave a comment

Using History to Bridge the Gap Toward Your Association’s Future

It’s often said that you can’t get to where you are going unless you have an understanding of where you’ve been.  Your leaders lead from where they stand using their unique point of reference… for better… for worse.

If there is any question of how powerful history can be, one only need look back to the role of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution to see how these documents continue to shape our future as a country. 

In the future, I’ve long held the belief that the core mission of associations will not change, rather it is the way in which our missions are achieved.  Put another way, we’ll be playing the same game, it’s only the playing field which is changing and expanding.  As association professionals, it is up to us to help guide our associations to adapt to this new playing field which is full of seemingly limitless opportunities to achieve what has historically been our purpose and mission.

As we manage our own evolution, the closest distance between two points in creating a bridge to the future is not to focus on how “different” the world will be, but rather building from the perspecive of what will build upon the same… people coming together to engage and advance a profession to create a strong voice which will shape the future of the profession.  

Be careful not to fall into the trap of the “otherworldly” language spoken in the web 2.0 and beyond world to cast a confusing shadow of what is at the bottom-line of these technologies.  

One suggestion would be instead of introducing and explaining the functionality of new technology, such as blogs, social communities, wikis, Twitter, etc, focus on the core capabilities as it relates to mission and how such capabilities can strengthen and expand mission, member engagement and participation.

Let’s use a wiki for example.  Instead of suggesting your association launch a wiki, start instead with painting a scenario in which like-minded members with specific expertise connect with each other to contribute and strengthen the associations conent-matter which is presented to both members and the public… all of which is not dissimiliar to what associations have been doing for hundreds of years. 

Chances are, if you stand up at your Board meeting and suggest the association launch a wiki, every word you say after that moment will likely sound more like “blah-blah-blah-blah” to your Board members. 

So, my point is to use history and tradition as a tool to connect your association with its future.  SM

August 22, 2008 at 5:36 am Leave a comment

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