Monday, April 7, 2014

Takeaways from Humainze

WSAE is hosting an education session in Green Bay this Monday and Tuesday, and our speakers are the co-authors of Humanize, Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant. In preparing for the session, I decided to go back and review the blog posts I wrote that summarized some of my major takeaways from the book. They include:

Stop Calling It Strategic Planning
Inspired by a take-down of strategic planning in Humanize, I pledge to stop using that term to describe the messy, constantly evolving process my association uses to determine our direction and set our objectives. In laying out the guidelines that govern our activities, I realize that only one term makes any sense--association management.

Pockets of Chaos
Arguing that human-centric organizations are decentralized, Humanize presents the concept of “pockets of chaos,” where a leader figures out how to give the maximum freedom to specific pockets within his organization, while still being able to maintain the integrity of the enterprise. It resonates strongly with me, not just as a counter to the many false arguments one hears against decentralization, but providing a constructive framework for bringing more experimentation into an organization.

Leadership Is a System Capacity
This is another essential concept behind decentralization—that leadership is not some personal characteristic or quality that exists in certain people, but it is better defined as the system’s capacity to shape its own future. Applying this concept to an association board of directors, I recognize anew that one of the most important functions of such a body is to ensure that the association has the capacity to serve its own interests for generations to come.

Every Organization Needs Two Values Statements
Humanize talks about being trustworthy, and there are several pages in there about the importance of having a values statement—a clear and transparent declaration of what actions, beliefs and assumptions your organization values. It was the inspiration that finally got me over my own hostility towards values statements (most of which are fake and wind-up undermining the very goals they were intended to achieve) and attempt to create a decidedly aspirational values statement for my own organization.

It’s safe to say that Humanize has had a positive effect on my thinking and on my leadership. Across all four of the blog posts I wrote, a central theme seems to dominate. It is the idea of an association in which leadership and decision-making is not concentrated at the top, but diffused productively across its many levels. Given the ever-increasing need in my environment for nimbleness, innovation and new value creation, I believe this is one of the central challenges my organization faces. And Humanize, if not a guidebook for charting those waters, certainly contains enough inspiration for me to begin tackling some of the tougher issues on my own.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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