Monday, October 16, 2017

When Action Items Aren't Action Items

Last week I wrote about a message my Board chair and I had crafted to help frame the discussion at our recent Board meeting. With a Board that was committed to maintaining a governance role for the organization, the message was designed to help them determine and decide the pertinent strategic questions that were to be addressed at this point in our annual strategy and execution cycle.

Essentially, the message reminded them that the year's strategy had been set, and that the Board's job at this meeting was not to re-invent that strategy, but to review the action plans that had been put in place by staff. If those actions plans were adequate to the strategic tasks, then, see where Board members could help execute them. If not, then determine and provide the additional resources that would be necessary. At the end of the blog post I said I would be curious to see how our Board members would react to the message and what kind of discussions would ensue.

Well, now it's a week later, and the Board meeting in question is in the past rather than the future. The reaction of our Board members was universally positive. They are all very busy professionals, leading companies and divisions of companies in our industry, and they have all readily embraced the tenets of the Governance Policy we recently put in place.

That policy says the Board is in charge of determining the ends the association will achieve and the staff, under the leadership of the CEO, is in charge of determining the means for how those ends will be achieved. The message and the discussion frame it provided was viewed as a simple and welcome extension of that principle. We're not hear to tell you what to do, they seemed willing to say. We're only here to tell you if the things you're doing are the right or wrong things.

So that's great. The Board members all reacted positively. But as for the discussions that ensued; well, that's where things get a little more complicated.

A typical pattern for these discussions went something like this. The agenda would turn to a new strategic objective. Something the Board had said was important for the organization to achieve in the coming year. Staff would give a short report on the action plan that we were following to achieve that objective, even citing, when appropriate, places were individual members of the Board could get engaged and help move the action plan forward.

The Board would then discuss the action plan. Almost always, quick agreement would be reached that the action plan was appropriate and should be pursued. But also almost always, a number of suggestions would be made for how to improve the action plan. Those suggestions rarely included the requested actions for individual Board members to take. Much more frequently, they included new and somewhat speculative ideas. Actions whose resource ramifications were sometimes uncertain and other times unknown.

None of that is bad, per se. Often times, our Board members, as members of the association we work for, and of the industry that the association represents, have really good suggestions that staff needs to take seriously. They are the eyes and ears of the marketplace we're trying to serve, and they can absolutely help us get more quickly to the tactics that will help us best achieve our strategy.

The problem, as I see it, is therefore not with the suggestions themselves, but with how to position those suggestions in the context of Board discussions and decisions. In other words, are they action items? Are they the kind of Board decisions that should be duly noted in the minutes, and to which staff resources should be assigned in order to ensure their execution?

The day after the Board meeting, as I sat down to hobble together the minutes from the scribbled scraps of paper I had kept at my side during the discussions, my first inclination was that they were. They were action items. But as I began to transcribe them as such, I started to doubt myself. Really? This relatively minor suggestion, this simple tweak to a staff-level action plan, this was an official action of the Board? This is something I would have to document for posterity and then report back on at the next Board meeting?

That, I realized, was not in keeping with the very message that my Board chair and I had offered at the very beginning of the meeting. We are not here to micromanage the staff. Only to review their work and to decide if it has the adequate resources to succeed. For a Board as committed to a governance role as mine was, and with nothing but the best of intentions, the results of many of its discussions at our most recent Board meeting had a decided management feel.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.

Image Source
https://www.thebalance.com/call-to-action-1794380


Saturday, October 14, 2017

25 Years of Tomorrow by Dan Perkins

I’m a big fan of This Modern World, a weekly satire in cartoon form published by Dan Perkins under the pseudonym Tom Tomorrow.

A while back, he had a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund the printing and publication of a two-volume “boxed set” of his entire career -- twenty-five years of his creative output.

I kicked in my seventy dollars, and two coffee-table-sized books, titled 25 Years of Tomorrow, Volumes 1 and 2, arrived at my doorstep a few months later.

For this fan, they were an absolute delight to read, filled with treasures both expected and unexpected. No where else was I likely to come across the very first incarnation of This Modern World, a self-published “zine” from 1987.

It is 27 pages of vintage Perkins -- in many ways laying the foundation for much of his satirical view and sense of humor. This Modern World, then, was a place where citizens have mandatory consumer quotas (because it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law), industry mines the very fabric of reality (for the good of mankind), and children are well cared for in a null-entropy stasis field where they don’t grow older or make any noise (a real boon for modern parents).

Like a piece of pork fat, the satire may sometimes be difficult to swallow, but it is always delicious.

Today, and for much of the intervening 25 years, This Modern World has taken a decidedly political bent. Many would call it liberal, but I think it is more properly thought of as progressive. Perkins exposes both Republicans and Democrats for the politicians they are, often more occupied with placating their own egos and their electoral bases than with any of the progressive causes Perkins loves and to which at least half of the politicians he portrays pay lip service.

Yes, President Trump was shown as an Incredible orange Hulk during the recent primary season, smashing all challengers with his unhinged utterances…

...and is shown now as a giant man-baby, throwing tantrums on Twitter and complimenting anyone who pays him doting attention.

But before him President Obama was shown as a superhero called Middle Man, seeking compromise on even the most right-wing proposals…

...and before that as a plain politician with a ghostly image of himself hovering nearby -- the progressive fantasy of his presidency that many of his supporters voted for and continued to assume that he was.

And that’s just the tip of the crazy (and clever) iceberg. Above all, This Modern World is a place where the otherwise dying art of satire still reigns supreme. That, if nothing else, was worth my seventy bucks.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.




Monday, October 9, 2017

When Governance Means Governance

I'm gearing up for another Board meeting this week. That means, among other things, that I've been in communication with our Board chair about necessary agenda items and things that we would like the Board to achieve by the conclusion of the meeting.

Now, as I've recently blogged, a few years ago my association's Board adopted a Governance Policy that, among other things, clearly separates responsibility for ends and means determination. In other words, it puts the Board squarely in charge of governance, the association CEO squarely in charge of management, and creates a bright line between the two.

This year's Board chair takes that policy seriously, and in our planning discussion a major focus was on how we would keep the Board "out of the weeds" and focused on either: (a) determining the outcomes the association should achieve; (b) monitoring whether or not the plans put in place by staff were achieving those outcomes; or (c) allocating the resources needed for successful execution of those plans. In the view of my Board chair, those were the only kind of discussions that would keep the Board squarely in its governance role.

It's a more complicated situation than it may seem. Four months ago, at the Board's annual strategic retreat, high-level outcomes for the association were determined, as well as a set of metrics that would be tracked over the next fiscal year to determine if the association was moving productively towards those outcomes. In the intervening months, most of the activity of the association has been at the staff level -- setting goals, developing the program objectives that would help us achieve them, and moving forward with the individual and necessary action plans.

Now, we're only one third of the way through our fiscal year. Some of those action plans are already producing the desired results, but not all, and many are not expected to. The plans and programs, after all, are designed to manifest over the course of an entire year. To me, pulling the plug on them after only four months makes even less sense that re-discussing, and potentially changing, the desired outcomes that we determined back in June. But, if we're not careful, the Board, given its focus on governance not management, may find itself going down either of those trails.

What are we to do?

Well, working with my Board chair, we crafted the following message, which will be included as one of our first agenda items:

At the June 2017 meeting, the Board set our “ends” – and described them in our ends statements, success indicators, and approved budget.

Since the June meeting, the staff has defined our “means” – and have described them in a series of goals, program objectives and action plans that should help us achieve our ends within the limits of the budget approved by the Board.

During the October 2017 meeting, the program objectives and action plans associated with several of our key goals will be described and discussed. The Board is asked to focus its attention on the following questions:

1. For each goal, are the means in alignment with the ends that the Board has defined? Does the Board believe that execution of the described plan will result in the achievement of the goals?

2. If yes, what role can Board members play in the execution of the means? Remember that in addition to serving a governance function at our Board meetings, Board members can be asked to provide key support for our operational objectives.

3. If no, why not?

4. Do the proposed resources appear adequate to fund the means? What additional resources might be needed? How can those additional resources be provided?

It's a good message. It reinforces our strategy and execution process and provides the Board with clear expectations for its role at this stage -- four months in to what must be viewed as a twelve-month journey. It seems to communicate, remember, we have already set our goals, and now we are working the plan. If the plan is sound, good, we can rest easy. If it isn't, then we must ensure that it is made sound, and especially that it has the resources it needs to succeed.

I'll be curious to see how the other members of the Board react and what kind of discussion ensues.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.

Image Source
http://www.pilothouseadvisors.com/practices/risk-compliance-governance/



Monday, October 2, 2017

Board Succession Quiz

As I said a few weeks ago, another association has invited me to speak at their Annual Leadership Conference on the subject of high-functioning association Boards. I'm going to hit four subjects during my presentation: Board selection, Board discussions, Board decisions, and Board succession. Each one is going to begin with a one-question quiz, with which I hope to take the temperature of the participants in the room.

Here's the question I've drafted for Board succession.

Which statement most closely describes your knowledge about the people who will be joining your Board in the next two years
(a) I know the people who will be joining our Board in the next two years and they are already engaged in Board activities and decisions.
(b) I know the people who will be joining our Board in the next two years but they have not yet been engaged in Board activities and decisions.
(c) I do not know the people who will be joining our Board in the next two years.
(d) No new people will be joining our Board in the next two years.

The "right" answer, of course, depends on the specifics of your own situation, but I plan to make the case that, for high-functioning Boards, the correct answer is (a). Boards interested in increasing their effectiveness should be sure that the people joining their ranks in the next two years have been identified and are already engaged in Board activities and decisions. The speed of business, and the need for association Board members to make quick and meaningful contributions, require nothing less.

For my own association, the answer is (a). A few years ago, we created a structure we call Strategic Task Forces that have helped us not only identify viable candidates for future Board service, but get them plugged into Board activities and decision-making from a very early stage.

Our Strategic Task Forces are task forces of the Board, which means that all Board members serve on one of them, but they also very consciously include non-Board members from some of our most important stakeholder groups. The job of the Task Forces is to assist our Board in determining the appropriate metrics by which we will measure the success of our strategic objectives, in tracking the progress of those metrics over time, and in deploying the needed resources.

The real magic, however, comes from the fact that our Strategic Task Forces only meet at our Board meetings. The Board meetings themselves are two-day events. On the first day there is an opening lunch and a strategy briefing, where we bring all the attendees (Board and Task Force members alike) up to speed on the strategy of the organization, and the issues that will frame the rest of the Board meeting. In the afternoon following the strategy briefing, the Task Force meetings are held where the Board and non-Board members of the Task Force engage with the issues presented and interact with each other. A social dinner is held that evening, and on the following morning comes the Board meeting proper, where the Task Forces report on their discussion and the Board takes formal action on any recommendations coming from the Task Forces. One more social lunch as people begin to rush off to airport brings everything to a close.

Two otherwise difficult things happen as a result of this structure and schedule of meetings.

First, the non-Board Task Force members get an in-depth preview and orientation on the Board and how it operates. No one is trying to describe or present it to them. They are experiencing it, participating in it, in real time, with real issues and real decisions.

Second, sitting Board members, especially those on our Nominating Committee, get to know the candidates and witness how they perform and communicate on issues of importance to the organization. Do they contribute effectively? Do they have the necessary vision and perspective? When it comes time to select one of the Task Force members as a nominee to the Board itself, there usually isn't any doubt that the individual will make a positive contribution to the Board and its objectives.

Following the presentation of this material, I plan to ask the participants to discuss some of these concepts at their tables. How does their organization identify and engage future Board members in the activities and decisions of their Board? How might their organization start engaging future Board members in the activities and decisions of their Board?

Knowing that every association faces a different situation, I fully expect the most practical learning to come out of these table discussions, and the brief report-outs that I will facilitate at their conclusion. I can set the stage and provide some examples, but if their experience is anything like mine, finding their own specific way forward is something only they can do.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.

Image Source
http://www.effectivegovernance.com.au/board-succession-planning/


Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

My edition of The Good Soldier comes with an introduction. Here’s the first paragraph.

This may or may not be ‘the saddest story’ you will ever hear, but it will certainly be one of the best. As a tale of the ‘broken, tumultuous, agonized and unromantic’ human condition it has few equals and it spellbinds from the beginning. Ford once said that he and his friend and collaborator Joseph Conrad (whom he first met in 1898) strove for progression d’effet in their novels, where ‘every word set on paper -- every word set on paper -- must carry the story forward, and, that as the story progressed, the story must be carried forward faster and faster and with more and more intensity’, and The Good Soldier, with its tortuous retreat from the farthest reaches of the Empire and the cosmopolitan watering-places of Europe to a loose box in a Hampshire stable (by way of two suicides, one fatality and one mental collapse), achieves progression d’effet of rare degree. It is universally regarded as one of the masterworks of modernist literature, a novel which explores tensions between light and darkness (epistemological, moral and narrative), speech and silence, desire and restraint, order and chaos with an ever-tightening power. Sadness is one of its many attributes; humour, oddly enough, is another.

Wow. I happened to read this at the very end of a period of personal tribulation and at the very beginning of a period of personal reflection, and I thought I had stumbled upon the perfect novel to assist me with that process of transition.

It may be worth a re-read. Truth be told, I had trouble penetrating it.

On the surface, The Good Soldier is a story told by John Dowell, our American first-person narrator, whose wife, Florence, has an affair with the philandering Englishman Edward Ashburnham; both of whom, sequentially and for different reasons, wind up committing suicide.

That, in itself, is a sad story. Indeed, Ford “had wanted to call the novel The Saddest Story, and had only offered an alternative as a joke when his publisher insisted that his preferred title would render the book ‘unsaleable’ following the outbreak of the First World War.” But Dowell’s story is not, I think, the saddest story that Ford had in mind.

For, whatever may be said of the relation of the sexes, there is no man who loved a woman that does not desire to come to her for the renewal of his courage, for the cutting asunder of his difficulties. And that will be the mainspring of his desire for her. We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist.

So, for a time, if such passion come to fruition, the man will get what he wants. He will get the moral support, the encouragement, the relief from the sense of loneliness, the assurance of his own worth. But these things pass away; inevitably they pass away as the shadows pass across sundials. It is sad, but it is so. The pages of the book will become familiar; the beautiful corner of the road will have been turned too many times. Well, this is the saddest story.

Remember, this is Dowell’s first-person voice. He is commenting that the story he is telling is the saddest story -- as he has done numerous times in the text. But it isn’t Dowell’s story that is the saddest. It is the deeper human pattern that his story follows that is indeed the saddest story of them all. The loss of both the passion and the security of love, which, in Ford’s metaphoric imagination, is all but inevitable.

Inevitable, and impenetrable.

I call this the Saddest Story, rather than ‘The Asburnham Tragedy’, just because it is so sad, just because there was no current to draw things along to a swift and inevitable end. There is about it none of the elevation that accompanies tragedy; there is about it no nemesis, no destiny. Here were two noble people -- for I am convinced that both Edward and [Edward’s wife] Leonora had noble natures -- here, then, were two noble natures, drifting down life, like fire-ships afloat on a lagoon and causing miseries, heartaches, agony of the mind and death. And they themselves steadily deteriorated. And why? For what purpose? To point what lesson? It is all darkness.

These things happen. In this world, these sad things happen to both the great and the small, with no apparent distinction or motivation. One must add this into the mix if one is to transform the sad story of Edward and Florence into the saddest story of the human condition.

Is there any terrestrial paradise where, amidst the whispering of the olive-leaves, people can be with whom they like and have what they like and take their ease in shadows and in coolness? Or are all men’s lives like the lives of us good people -- like the lives of the Ashburnhams, of the Dowells, of the Ruffords -- broken, tumultuous, agonized, and unromantic lives, periods punctuated by screams, by imbecilities, by deaths, by agonies? Who the devil knows?

And this inscrutability connects directly the Ford’s method of storytelling.

I have, I am aware, told this story in a very rambling way so that it may be difficult for anyone to find their path through what may be a sort of maze. I cannot help it. I have stuck to my idea of being in a country cottage with a silent listener, hearing between the gusts of the wind and amidst the noises of the distant sea, the story as it comes. And, when one discusses an affair -- a long, sad affair -- one goes back, one goes forward. One remembers points that one has forgotten and one explains them all the more minutely since one recognizes that one has forgotten to mention them in their proper places and that one may have given, by omitting them, a false impression. I console myself with thinking that this is a real story and that, after all, real stories are probably told best in the way a person telling a story would tell them. They will then seem most real.

It was the introduction that tipped me off to this aspect on the novel -- that in it, Ford is experimenting with this very real authorial theory, that a narrative that rambles and jumps around in time, the same way that human beings verbally relate past events, would seem more realistic and natural to the reader. You’re not supposed to be able to connect every dot, to follow every plot point chronologically from one to the next. This novel is messy because life is messy, and memory is both fallible and subjective.

And add to all of that Dowell’s status as an unreliable narrator. From the introduction:

Ashburnham is most certainly a bit of a mystery, but Dowell is English literature’s most fascinating enigma. Paradoxically, the more gushingly he idolizes the errant ex-soldier and the more contradictory his appraisals of the other main characters turn out to be, the more urgently we feel the need to fathom not them but him.

Put plainly, Dowell consistently praises Ashburnham for his virtue, all the while providing details of a life seemingly dedicated to the absence of virtue. And he is equally as unreliable in portraying the actions and motivations of the novel’s other main characters. Is Dowell blind? Or lying? Or something else?

Ultimately, depending on how Dowell’s relationships with Florence, Leonora, Nancy and Ashburnham are configured; on how the reader interprets the various relationships amongst these last four and, above all, on whether the reader sees Dowell as ‘an American millionaire of exaggerated destiny’ or a more switched-on and manipulative story-teller, seemingly intent on hiding rather than revealing the truth, ‘analysis of [his] … psychology’ is probably the only reliable angle from which the novel may be approached.

What is one to make of such a novel? Like peeling back the layers of an onion: an unreliable narrator, ineptly telling a story about characters, whose interactions represent the sadness and futility of the human condition.

Yes. Definitely worth a re-read.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Board Decisions Quiz

As I said a few weeks ago, another association has invited me to speak at their Annual Leadership Conference on the subject of high-functioning association Boards. I'm going to hit four subjects during my presentation: Board selection, Board discussions, Board decisions, and Board succession. Each one is going to begin with a one-question quiz, with which I hope to take the temperature of the participants in the room.

Here's the question I've drafted for Board decisions.

Which statement most closely describes the level of decision-making your Board engages in most of the time?
(a) Most of our Board’s decisions are about our ends – the outcomes that our organization will achieve.
(b) Most of our Board’s decisions are about our means – the tactics that our organization will pursue to achieve our ends.
(c) Our Board’s decisions are about equally divided between our ends and our means.
(d) Most of our Board’s decisions are about something else besides our ends or our means.

The "right" answer, of course, depends on the specifics of your own situation, but I plan to make the case that, for high-functioning Boards, the correct answer is either (a) or (c). Boards interested in increasing their effectiveness should be sure that most of the decisions they make are about the ends, or outcomes, that their organization will achieve.

For my own association, the answer is (a). Inspired by the Carver Policy Governance Model used by one of our former Board chairs with his corporate Board, my association's Board drafted a clear Governance Policy for our organization that, like Policy Governance, clearly separates responsibility for ends and means determination.

The two most relevant points of our Governance Policy are:

“Ends” determination is a pivotal duty of the Board. The Board will determine what results are to be achieved, for whom, and at what cost, and clearly express these “ends” in the mission, strategic priorities, ends statements, success indicators, and budget of the association. 

Tactical responsibility is delegated to the CEO. The “means” employed to achieve the association’s “ends” are the responsibility of the CEO and the staff members and association volunteers he or she assigns and recruits to assist him or her. In providing needed direction to the CEO, the Board will only describe the “means” that are unacceptable, and will neither approve nor micromanage staff-level activity. The Board will rigorously monitor the performance of the CEO, but only to the degree that identified “ends” are being achieved without violating the unacceptable “means.”

There's a lot packed into those two short paragraphs. But it breaks down into two very simple concepts. First, the Board owns "the what": what will the organization achieve? And second, the staff owns "the how": how the organization will achieve what the Board says it will achieve.

In practice we've found the need to split the traditional strategic planning process used by many associations into two discrete segments. The first segment is called the Strategy Agenda, it is a work product of the Board, and it contains the following elements:

Mission: This is the overall purpose of our organization, our highest possible "end," the goal towards which all of our activities should lead. It's what the organization is here to do. Specifically, for us, it is to strengthen the fluid power industry.

Ends Statements: These are the high-level outcomes that we will achieve for our members. They all support achievement of our mission, of course, but they also deal with the specific benefits that will accrue to our members if our subsequent programs are successful. In previous blog posts, I have sometimes referred to our ends statements as the "business units" of my association, because they define broad areas of activity and service delivery. At our Board table, we frequently ask the question, "What business are we in?" The ends statements are the answers to that question. They describe how we will fulfill our mission. We currently have five ends statements. To give an example, we refer to one as "Effective Forum." It says that our association will provide an effective forum for fluid power manufacturers, distributors and suppliers to advance their collective interests.

Success Indicators: These are the metrics by which we'll know that we are achieving our ends statements. In determining success indicators, the Board has to carefully review the capabilities of the organization, because in order to be a true success indicator, not only does it have to reflect advancement towards the ends statement, it also has to be something that the organization can affect, and can measure. Frequently in our environment, metrics are chosen based on only one or two of these conditions. It takes real work, often including experimental activities in the marketplace, to identify metrics that meet all three conditions: the organization can measure it, the organization can affect its movement, and its movement reflects advancement towards the outcome described by the ends statement. To continue my example, in my association, our "Effective Forum" ends statement has four success indicators associated with it: (1) Is the membership growing? (2) Are members generally participating in our activities? (3) Are members engaged in our leadership functions? and (4) Are members attending our networking events?

One final point, for each of the success indicators, our Board determines something we're beginning to call our Idealized State, by which we mean the level of success that equates with fulfillment of the ends statement. Building an effective forum for our industry is an important objective, but we've found that all of the success indicators associated with that ends statement are susceptible to the law of diminishing returns. Sure, you'd like to have 100% of your members attending your networking event, for example, but is that really worth the investment of resources it would take to make such a result come about? Can not the effective forum you're looking to build come into existence with "only" 90% of your members in attendance at the event? What about 80%? 70%? Finding the line between what is needed for optimal performance in one area, while reserving resources to tackle all the other areas defined by our Board has been one of the most challenging discussions my Board has engaged in.

And that's it. Believe it or not, the vast majority of decisions made by our Board fall into one of these four categories. What is our mission? What are the ends we must pursue if we are to fulfill that mission? What are the metrics we should track if we are to know that we are achieving our ends? And what level of success within each metric is required if we are to declare victory? It is the way the Board decides to answer those questions that we call our Strategy Agenda.

All other decisions -- including answers to questions like what goals should we set this year to move us closer to our idealized states, which programs should we conduct in order to achieve those goals, and how should each of the programs be managed -- are part of what we call our Operational Plan, and they are the purview of me, the association CEO, and my staff. As reflected in our Governance Policy, the Board may advise (and frequently their advice is helpful), but the only decisions in this sphere that they can make are ones that define unacceptable methods for pursuing our idealized states.

Following the presentation of this material, I plan to ask the participants to discuss some of these concepts at their tables. What are their organization’s ends and success indicators – the outcomes they will achieve, and the metrics that show they are being achieved? How might their organizations start discussing and defining their ends and success indicators?

Knowing that every association faces a different situation, I fully expect the most practical learning to come out of these table discussions, and the brief report-outs that I will facilitate at their conclusion. I can set the stage and provide some examples, but if their experience is anything like mine, finding their own specific way forward is something only they can do.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.

Image Source
http://www.livemint.com/Companies/zI8IGJcYRIQV2zmtAH6VXO/Evaluating-and-improving-board-effectiveness.html






Monday, September 18, 2017

Hurricanes and Asynchronous Communication

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were on everyone's mind these last few weeks. Even if you weren't directly affected by them through mandatory evacuations, storm damage, or the tragic loss of life, the hurricanes were undoubtedly on your mind and they probably impacted the way you did your job.

My social media feeds were full of examples of associations pitching in to help storm victims or otherwise changing their marketing and communications strategy to give members in the hurricane affected areas a break from what otherwise must be an onslaught of association messages.

My association, however, didn't do any of these things. We have members in Texas and Florida (Houston and Sarasota, to be precise), but everything coming out of our office was, damn the hurricanes, full speed ahead.

I'm not bragging. In fact, I feel a little ashamed. We don't have that many members in the affected areas. A few personal reach-outs would have been easy and probably would have been well received. Hey, how are you guys doing down there? We're thinking about you. We'll lay off for a few days, but please, let us know if there is anything we can do to help.

Perhaps it is the overwhelming asynchronicity of our regular communications that is responsible. Increasingly, real-time communication with our members only happens in person at our live events. My schedule and theirs are so full of meetings and travel commitments that even phone calls have to be scheduled. Hey, there's something I need to talk to you about. What's your schedule look like for the next two weeks?

In this environment both my members and I have become used to and somewhat proficient at asynchronous communications through email. Just this past week my Board chair and I have been discussing topics for our next Board meeting, with his emails coming in at 1:42 AM as he moves from Europe to India.

In this way, the idea of suspending communications to members in hurricane affected areas seemed unnecessary. After all, I'm already not expecting an immediate response. Whether you're in the office and everything is fine, on the road on a planned business trip, or, heaven forbid, forcibly evacuated from the path of a terrible storm, getting back to me sometime in the next couple of days is totally fine.

Was I wrong?

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at eric.lanke@gmail.com.

Image Source
http://utoptens.com/top-10-facts-hurricane-irma/