Monday, June 29, 2015

Strategic Priorities Define the "Businesses" You Are In

I'm describing in a series of blog posts the different elements that make up my association's Strategy Agenda--a new term I've introduced in my organization to represent the essential work product of our Board of Directors. It is comprised of four distinct elements, each one nesting in the one that precedes it, and describes what we want to achieve and how we will measure our success in achieving it.

Two weeks ago I focused on the highest of the four elements: the mission. This week, I'm going one step down the outline to talk about the second element: strategic priorities.

The simplest way to describe what we mean by strategic priorities, I think, is to say that our strategic priorities describe the handful of ways we are able to fulfill our mission. By way of example, our association currently has three of them. Although we don't always phrase them this way, to emphasize their connection to our mission, we could say:

Our mission is to strengthen the fluid power industry, and we do that by:
(1) Serving as a forum where all fluid power channel partners work together;
(2) Promoting fluid power technology and fostering an innovative environment for the fluid power industry; and
(3) Building and connecting our members to an educated fluid power workforce.

In day-to-day parlance, we often abbreviate those sentences into keywords, but the keywords are less important than the sentences themselves. They essentially describe the major "businesses" that our association is in. We bring our industry together for networking and collective advancement, we promote our industry to external audiences and create spaces for technological innovation to occur, and we educate future employees and help connect them to our industry. These are the things that we do and must do well if we are to fulfill the mission we have set out for ourselves.

And although there is no magic to the number three (indeed, some people have accused us of packing several different "businesses" into those three statements), there is magic to the concept of "a handful." In my opinion, no organization can be in more than five businesses--at least not if it expects to be effective at all of them. Keeping the list short helps provide focus both to the strategic concepts and discussions that follow on the Strategy Agenda, and to the organization's use of resources and development of staff talents.

It is therefore critical for an association to get clarity around this concept before moving on to ends statements and success indicators (the next two elements in the Strategy Agenda). But understanding clearly what the association does--and by inference, what it doesn't do--the process of describing the ends or outcomes to be achieved and the success indicators or metrics by which that achievement will be measured becomes much simpler. By understanding what businesses you are in, the discussion about what you will achieve and how you will know you achieved it almost automatically lives within the bookends of the association's areas of focus and core competencies.

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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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Saturday, June 27, 2015

With Liberty and Justice for Some by Glenn Greenwald

Greenwald’s thesis in this book--that the United States of America has a two-tiered justice system, one based on the rule of law for common citizens, and another based on the winds of political opinion for the ruling elites--has a lot going for it.

He offers several examples, but few are as illustrative or as clear-cut as the case of President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping in 2002-05.

In a New York Times article published on December 16, 2005, the reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau made the situation plain: in early 2002, “President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States … without the court-approved warrants required by law. For three years, Risen and Lichtblau revealed, the intelligence agency had illegally monitored and intercepted the “telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people in the United States.”

When the spying program was exposed, Bush showed no hint of contrition. Instead, he went on national television and proudly admitted that he had done exactly what the Times had described, and defiantly vowed that he would continue doing it.

Damn straight, a Bush supporter might say. And what’s wrong with that?

That there was a criminal law in place explicitly prohibiting warrantless eavesdropping did not seem to concern him in the slightest.

The dictates of that law--the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act--could not have been clearer. FISA specifically barred government officials from intercepting the “electronic communications” of American citizens, and of foreigners on U.S. soil, without first obtaining a warrant from a specially created court.

So he broke some old law, a Bush supporter might continue. One that probably didn’t consider the grave threats that terrorism poses to our nation.

And while some Bush officials attempted to justify their illegal spying on the ground that they were doing it to stop terrorism, FISA’s warrant requirements explicitly applied to surveillance of anyone believed to be “engaged in international terrorism or activities in preparation therefor.”

Okay. But we’re probably talking post-September 11 terrorism here. Just what is this “FISA” law and what was it meant to prevent?

Some background is in order. FISA had been enacted in response to the shocking discoveries made in the mid-1970s by the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee investigation. That investigation, which had been prompted by reports of serious eavesdropping improprieties by the Nixon administration, uncovered decades of surveillance abuses by the executive branch under every president since World War II. For all those years, the government’s eavesdropping power had been publicly justified as necessary to fight communism, but the Church Committee found that those powers were in fact continuously misused to spy on the communications of thousands of American citizens for purely political purposes.

Let me interrupt our Bush supporter here to say that this will be a favorite theme that Greenwald will return to again and again. Lawful or unlawful, political powers are always used for political purposes, regardless of the bogeyman du jour that they are first called into action to address.

Here’s a quick aside to better illustrate that point.

The “state secrets” privilege has a sordid history. It was first created by the Supreme Court in 1953 in the case of United States v. Reynolds, a lawsuit brought against the U.S. government by the widows of three air force pilots who died when their military jet crashed during a training mission. The widows contended that the air force had been negligent in maintaining the jets and that this negligence resulted in their husbands’ deaths. To prove their case, they sought to obtain the maintenance records for the jet their husbands had flown.

The government, however, told the court that disclosing these records would jeopardize national security, as it risked letting America’s enemies learn the secret design of the aircraft. The Supreme Court agreed and ruled that, notwithstanding their obvious relevance, the government could keep these sensitive documents hidden. It was only in 2000, when the maintenance records were obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request filed by one of the pilots’ family members, that it was revealed that the government had blatantly lied to the court. The records in question contained no military secrets at all but were full of information showing that there had indeed been gross negligence in how the plane’s engines had been maintained by the air force.

So, from the very beginning, the new governmental power known as the “state secrets” privilege, was used to cover-up negligence, not protect national security. Just as presidents after World War II used eavesdropping to “fight communism,” and President Bush evidently used warrantless wiretapping to “fight terrorism.”

Let’s get back to our on-going narrative.

The most notable abuse documented by the committee was the FBI’s malicious, years-long eavesdropping on the telephone calls of Martin Luther King Jr., carried out in an attempt to obtain embarrassing personal information with which King could be blackmailed.

The FISA bill was meant to remedy these abuses. It stipulated that before government officials could listen in on private communications, they had to obtain judicial approval in the form of a warrant. That requirement was designed to ensure that government agencies would eavesdrop on Americans only if they first were able to present convincing evidence to a federal judge that the target of the eavesdropping was acting as an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist group. In the face of intense public anger over the abuses revealed by the Church Committee, FISA passed both houses of Congress with large majorities and substantial bipartisan support, and was signed into law in 1978.

In language as clear as English permits, section 1809 of FISA provided that anyone who violates its mandates by eavesdropping without the requisite judicial approval has committed a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense.

Back to our Bush supporter. Okay. But President Bush didn’t do that. Did he?

And there was no question that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden, and many other Bush officials had violated FISA’s requirements by spying on Americans without warrants. Not only had the New York Times article exposed that illegality, but Bush himself had confirmed the findings on national television.

Yeah. I guess he did.

But as Greenwald will go on to describe, both in this example and throughout the book, the fact that this was a crime did not matter.

If we were a country that actually lived under the rule of law, the illegal actions would have carried grave consequences for the lawbreakers--just as if they had been caught robbing a bank, embezzling money, or dealing drugs. But since we’re not such a country, it has done nothing of the kind. From the start of the wiretapping scandal, the nation’s media stars and the leaders of both political parties unanimously adhered to the same piety: whatever else one might want to say about the NSA spying program, it was simply wrong--inappropriate, unserious, and reckless--to talk about it as though it were a crime.

Time’s Joe Klein, for example, echoed the rapidly emerging consensus of the Beltway class. In an article titled “How to Stay out of Power,” he sternly warned Democrats not to criticize Bush for his illegal surveillance, let alone demand accountability for it. Conceding the long history of government abuse of surveillance powers when exercised without oversight, and further acknowledging the mountains of public evidence that the Bush administration had transgressed the limits of the law when acting in other areas, Klein nonetheless insisted that “these concerns pale before the importance of the program.” He then ventured this guess: “I suspect that a strong majority would favor the NSA program … if its details were declassified and made known.” He concluded by denouncing what he called “civil-liberties fetishism” as “a hangover from the Vietnam era” and warned, “Until the Democrats make clear that they will err on the side of aggressiveness in the war against al-Qaeda, they will probably not regain the majority in Congress of the country.”

All that mattered, in other words, was the political calculus of the situation. Not what’s right or wrong, but what’s popular and what’s going to keep people in power.

That the eavesdropping was illegal, criminal, a felony under long-standing statutes was not mentioned by Klein at all. It simply did not enter the calculus. Nor did the issue get noted by the overwhelming majority of media figures or, for that matter, by politicians from both parties who commented publicly on this scandal. After all, it was the president who had ordered this program. And as Richard Nixon announced long ago, “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” The NSA scandal left no doubt that what was once a strange Nixonian formulation had become unchallenged orthodoxy. It is difficult indeed to find any media figure with a national platform in 2005 who was willing to even refer to Bush’s program as a “crime,” let alone call for legal accountability. The vast majority, with very few exceptions, affirmatively defended it.

I’ve quoted this section at some length because it so aptly summarizes Greenwald’s essential point. And the reference to Nixon is a good reminder that he traces the modern launch of this two-tiered justice system back to Ford’s pardon of Nixon--when elite crimes were dismissed “for the good of the country.” Ever since, Greenwald claims, each presidential administration avoids investigation and prosecution of possible crimes committed by the former. And all, not for legal reasons, but for purely political ones. A more recent example is, of course, when the Obama administration decided not to investigate the allegations of torture committed by the Bush administration.

What’s particularly striking about the decision not to investigate the architects of Bush’s torture regime is that it was manifestly driven by political considerations, not legal ones--precisely the accusation Democrats had lobbed at Alberto Gonzales and the Bush DOJ. Holder himself was remarkably candid about the reasoning behind the White House dicates. As he told GQ in November 2010:

“You only want to look back at a previous administration if you feel you really have to … Because it has a potential chilling effect. If people who work in this administration today think that four years from now, or eight years from now, the decisions they make are going to be examined by a successor administration, you don’t want that to happen. So that’s a political consideration.”

Of course Greenwald knows what this really means.

To make decisions about who should and should not be prosecuted based on “political considerations” is to convert the Justice Department from an independent law enforcement agency into a political arms of the White House.

Which, I think, is pretty much our current state of affairs. Once a nation of laws, the United States is now a nation of political considerations, with major media figures actually arguing for this fearfully irreversible slide towards despotism. Greenwald quotes many examples, including this one from Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of the Washington Post, discussing what to do with the torture allegations against the Bush administration.

On the one hand, this is a nation of laws. If torture violates U.S. law--and it does--and if Americans engaged in torture--and they did--that cannot be ignored, forgotten, swept away. When other nations violate human rights, the United States objects and insists on some accounting. It can’t ask less of itself.

So far, so good.

Yet this is also a nation where two political parties compete civilly and alternate power peacefully. Regimes do not seek vengeance, through the courts or otherwise, as they succeed each other. Were Obama to criminally investigate his predecessor for what George W. Bush believed to be decisions made in the national interest, it could trigger a debilitating, unending cycle.

There are so many things wrong with that second paragraph, I don’t even know where to begin. Regimes do not seek vengeance? When did we enter the parallel dimension in which prosecuting criminals is equated with seeking vengeance? Are we seeking vengeance when we prosecute the burglar and make him given back the things he stole?

But the reveal comes in the next sentence, when Hiatt predicts what would happen if "Obama were to investigate Bush." The presumption that underlies that statement illustrates the very nature of the dilemma we’re in. The DOJ is not supposed to be a political arm of the president. It is supposed to have independent authority. As Greenwald says:

One of the central principles of the American justice system is supposed to be that specific decisions about Justice Department prosecutions are to be made by that department itself, independent of all political considerations.

And there was a time, evidently, when this was actually the rule.

That principle is so sacrosanct that its violation, or even suspected violation, has in the past been treated as a political scandal. One of Nixon’s most criticized acts--the trigger for what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre--involved the resignation of Attorney General Elliot Richardson due to his refusal to follow Nixon’s order to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. In the 1990s, Attorney General Janet Reno was frequently attacked by the American right for her purported lack of independence in refusing to appoint independent prosecutors to investigate every last one of the Clinton White House’s alleged improprieties. During the Bush years, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s habit of collaborating with the White House and making decisions about prosecutions on the basis of political rather than legal considerations was a recurring source of controversy and ultimately helped to drive Gonzales out of office.

But that’s clearly no longer the case. The very idea that a DOJ prosecution of government officials who may have ordered or engaged in torture cannot now be viewed as anything other as “Obama seeking vengeance on Bush,” shows you how much political considerations have come to dominate.

But forget all that. Ask instead if there is any alternative. Prosecute criminals and you “trigger a debilitating, unending cycle” of political vengeance. But if Greenwald’s book attempts to show anything, it attempts to show that when you fail to prosecute in these cases, you get a different kind of debilitating, unending cycle, one in which each administration engages in an escalating series of crimes and attacks on the personal liberty of the citizens and creates this two-tiered justice system. That’s probably what the politicos would prefer, but what about the voters? Are they happy with the debilitating, unending cycle we’re already seeing?

Because, to be honest, that cycle actually isn’t an unending one. That cycle leads to an very specific ending, one that I hope I don’t live to see.

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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”

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Very Essence

This week is my annual strategic retreat with my association's Board of Directors. As CEO, it's my job both to facilitate the event and to make several presentations--one on our activities during the past year, what we've been able to accomplish and where we may have fallen short, and the second on my view on our priorities moving forward.

The exercise has got me thinking a lot about my role and the role of my Board and, by extension, the role of association staff executives and association Boards in general. And I think the very essence of their complementary roles can be expressed in the following list of questions, and understanding that each has the final responsibility for answering them.

The Board

  • Why does this organization exist? What’s it for?
  • What are the handful of mechanisms that we have for doing that? What businesses are we in?
  • What change do we want to create in each of those areas?
  • What can we measure that will tell us that change is happening? What are the needles that we will seek to move?

The Staff Executive

  • Given the resources available, how can we best move those needles?
  • Are they moving?
  • If they’re not moving, why?
  • If it's a failure of performance, then I'd better deal with it, because that's my job.
  • If it's a lack a resources, then I'd better take it back to the Board, because that's theirs.

Doesn't that pretty much sum it up?

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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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Monday, June 15, 2015

A Mission is Short and to the Point

Two weeks ago I provided an example of a Strategy Agenda, a new term I've introduced in my association to represent the essential work product of our Board of Directors. Comprised of four distinct elements, each one nesting in the one that precedes it, our Strategy Agenda describes what we want to achieve and how we will measure our success in achieving it.

This week I want to spend a little more time talking about the first and highest of the four elements: the mission.

As I've previously described, my association's mission is to strengthen the fluid power industry. In its construction, it is a fairly common mission as trade associations go. I know. A few years ago, when our Board was re-examining our mission, I spent some time visiting the websites of 20 or so other manufacturing-based trade associations to see how they defined their missions. As I recall, strengthening or representing or advocating for or helping to grow the many different industries these associations served were the most common phrases I found.

And that makes sense. As I like to say, a mission is a statement of an organization's essential purpose, the thing it has been created to do, the thing that wouldn't otherwise get done if the organization wasn't there to do it. In our case, that's strengthening the industry to which all of our members belong.

But as simple as that definition is, accurate mission statements often elude otherwise well-intentioned organizations. I've seen them saddled with ideas and terms that don't belong there, with ends statements and strategic priorities being the two most common additions.

I've used my own terminology there, so let me try to clarify. Ends statements go by a variety of different names, with vision statements probably the most popular alternate. They are essentially statements of a future world the organization is trying to create over a long period of time. And strategic priorities also go by many names, with goals, objectives, and key program areas popular choices. They describe things the association will achieve, usually in a shorter period of time, and usually with a much higher degree of certainty.

So let me cite some examples of missions that include these concepts, using our own parlance. Were we to add an ends statement to our mission, it might look something like this:

Our mission is to strengthen the fluid power industry by engaging with government agencies and universities to develop fundamental knowledge of fluid power and educate the next generation of scientific and engineering leaders in the field.

And if we were to add a strategic priority:

Our mission is to strengthen the fluid power industry by promoting fluid power technology and fostering an innovative environment for the fluid power industry.

In my experience, that little word "by" is a dead giveaway that you've left the realm of the mission and you've strayed into the territory of vision or objective. Any time you start talking about how your going to accomplish your mission, you're not talking about your mission any more. You're still talking about something important--something that clearly belongs on your strategy agenda--but putting these elements into your mission risks obscuring the vital purpose of your organization.

After all, your organization likely doesn't accomplish its mission by doing only one thing. Neither does mine. As I've mentioned previously, my association has three strategic priorities and seven ends statements. Trying to work them all into our mission statement would create a very long and unwieldy sentence that no one would be able to remember.

And that's important. You want a short mission because you want people to remember it. Both people inside and people outside your organization. Obscuring or confusing people as to what your organization's essential purpose is never a good idea.

So keep those missions short and to the point.

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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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Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

What follows is tragedy. -- Or, at the least the echo of tragedy, the full-blooded original being unavailable to modern men and women, so it’s said. -- A burlesque for our degraded, imitative times, in which clowns re-enact what was first done by heroes and by kings. -- Well, then, so be it. -- The question that’s asked here remains as large as ever it was: which is, the nature of evil, how it’s born, why it grows, how it takes unilateral possession of a many-sided human soul. Or, let’s say: the enigma of Iago. It’s not unknown for literary-theatrical exegetes, defeated by the character, to ascribe his actions to ‘motiveless malignity.’ Evil is evil and will do evil, and that’s that; the serpent’s poison is his very definition. -- Well, such shruggings-off will not pass muster here.

This, to me, is the very crux of this challenging novel--and, in the view of the author, evidently, the religion of Islam. How did evil enter the world, and why does it do what it does? With regard to the novel, Rushdie’s characters play numerous roles in this grand morality play.

My Chamcha may be no Ancient of Venice, my Allie no smothered Desdemona, Farshita no match for the Moor, but they will, at least, be costumed in such explanations as my understanding will allow. -- And so, now, Gibreel waves in greeting; Chamcha approaches; the curtain rises on a darkening stage.

They are angels and devils--both figuratively and literally--transforming in the course of the fanciful narrative to take on both the appearance and the motivations of these mythical creatures.

But on the broader canvas of Islam, Rushdie’s question of evil becomes just that much more sublime. The book’s title, The Satanic Verses, is, in fact, a reference to the controversy itself. The verses are a handful of lines, supposedly written into the Qur’an by the Prophet himself, and then disavowed by the Prophet as the words of Satan, not the revelation of God. And Rushdie uses them in powerful ways to explore both the excesses and uncertainties implicit in claims of divine revelation. Essentially, the argument goes, if even the Prophet Muhammad couldn’t tell if it was God or the Devil whispering in his ear, what hope does any of us have?

In the novel and in real life, there are those who believe the story that Satan inserted these words into the Qur’an, and therefore reject them, and there of those who believe that it is Satan that wants you to believe that they don’t belong in the Qur’an, and therefore accept them. This lie, or more precisely the lack of certainty that it is or isn’t a lie, creates divisions within Islam, one sect warring against another, each convinced that they have the revealed truth and that the other is deceived.

And that circle, of course, feeds on itself, and it is taken to ugly extremes.

‘We will make a revolution,’ the Iman proclaims through him, ‘that is a revolt not only against a tyrant, but against history.’ For there is an enemy beyond Ayesha, and it is History herself. History is the blood-wine that must no longer be drunk. History the intoxicant, the creation and possession of the Devil, of the great Shaitan, the greatest of the lies--progress, science, rights--against which the Iman has set his face. History is a deviation from the Path, knowledge is a delusion, because the sum of knowledge was complete on the day Al-Lah finished his revelation to Mahound. ‘We will unmake the veil of history,’ Bilal declaims into the listening night, ‘and when it is unravelled, we will see Paradise standing there, in all its glory and light.’

When my revealed truth runs counter to the reality around me, then even reality must be a lie, because doubting my revealed truth is unthinkable. In the world the Satanic Verses have created, it is blasphemy, apostasy, and death. Rushdie does little to hide the import of his words by changing the names of some of the characters in Islam’s history.

But there’s an even subtler reality going on here.

This notion of separation of functions, light versus dark, evil versus good, may be straightforward enough in Islam -- O, children of Adam, let not the Devil seduce you, as he expelled your parents from the garden, pulling off from them their clothing that he might show them their shame -- but go back a bit and you see that it’s a pretty recent fabrication. Amos, eighth century B C asks: “Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?” Also Jahweh, quoted by Deutero-Isaiah two hundred years later, remarks: “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.” It isn’t until the Book of Chronicles, merely fourth century B C, that the word shaitan is used to mean a being, and not only an attribute of God.

That’s right. Go back far enough in the original sources, and the entity of Satan disappears completely. All the evil in the world is a direct result of God’s divine power, not any agency working against his intentions. In that light, the controversy of the Satanic Verses also disappears, and it is only the influence of men that has changed the words of the Qur’an, just as they have changed countless copies and translations of the Bible to make that text align with the doctrinal demands of their own era.

And remarkably, throughout all this dark and deep material, we find Rushdie the author having fun with his material and with his audience. Speaking from time to time directly to the reader, his tone something like Ferris Bueller with a PhD in comparative religions.

I’m saying nothing. Don’t ask me to clear things up one way or the other; the time of revelations is long gone. The rules of Creation are pretty clear: you set things up, you make them thus and so, and then you let them roll. Where’s the pleasure if you’re always intervening to give hints, change the rules, fix the fights? Well, I’ve been pretty self-controlled up to this point and I don’t plan to spoil things now.

The author of the novel or the author of the universe. Rushdie undoubtedly knows that these intrusions work brilliantly in either case.

But, sadly, I believe this to be one of those books that is a hundred or so pages longer than it needs to be, with satisfaction coming ultimately not from the clashing climax of its professed narrative, but in the metaphorical infrastructure it quietly builds for that narrative.

One powerful digression of this type comes in the form of an extended parable--The Parting of the Arabian Sea--in which a prophetess (Ayehsa) leads her believing flock into the titular sea, objectively to their doom, but to their greater glory in the eyes of any believer that witnessed or heard about it. Mirza Saeed is a skeptic who joined his believing wife on this fateful pilgrimage, and his dilemma in confronting the facts of the events is in many ways the dilemma of our age.

Mizra Saeed awoke in a hospital ward to find a CID man by his bedside. The authorities were considering the feasibility of charging the survivors of the Ayesha expedition with attempted illegal emigration, and detectives had been instructed to get down their stories before they had a chance to confer.

This was the testimony of the Sarpanch of Titlipur, Muhammad Din: ‘Just when my strength had failed and I thought I would surely die there in the water, I saw it with my own eyes; I saw the sea divide, like hair being combed; and they were all there, far away, walking away from me. She was there also, my wife, Khadija, whom I loved.’

This is what Osman the bullock-boy told the detectives, who had been badly shaken by the Sarpanch’s deposition: ‘At first I was in great fear of drowning myself. Still I was searching searching, mainly for her, Ayesha, whom I knew from before her alteration. And just at the last, I saw it happen, the marvelous thing. The water opened, and I saw them go along the ocean-floor, among the dying fish.’

Sri Srinivas, too, swore by the goddess Lakshmi that he had seen the parting of the Arabian Sea; and by the time the detectives got to Mrs Qureishi, they were utterly unnerved, because they knew that it was impossible for the men to have cooked up the story together. Mishal’s mother, the wife of the great banker, told the same story in her own words. ‘Believe don’t believe,’ she finished emphatically, ‘but what my eyes have seen my tongue repeats.’

Goosepimply CID men attempted the third degree: ‘Listen, Sarpanch, don’t shit from your mouth. So many were there, nobody saw these things. Already the drowned bodies are floating to shore, swollen like balloons and stinking like hell. If you go on lying we will take you and stick your nose in the truth.'

‘You can show me whatever you want,’ Sarpanch Muhammad Din told interrogators. ‘But I still saw what I saw.’

‘And you?’ the CID men assembled, once he awoke, to ask Mirza Saeed Akhtar. ‘What did you see at the beach?’

‘How can you ask?’ he protested. ‘My wife has drowned. Don’t come hammering with your questions.’

When he found out that he was the only survivor of the Ayesha Haj not to have witnessed the parting of the waves -- Sri Srinivas was the one who told him what the others saw, adding mournfully: ‘It is our shame that we were not thought worthy to accompany. On us, Sethji, the waters closed, they slammed in our faces like the gates of Paradise’ -- Mizra Saeed broke down and wept for a week and a day, the dry sobs continuing to shake his body long after his tear ducts had run out of salt.

Belief--in the parting of the Arabian Sea, in whichever side of the Satanic Verses controversy suits your fancy, in the ear-plugging dogmas that dominate much of our public discourse--is, in the end, all that matters. And the unbeliever, the skeptic, the one who relies on the common facts of the world around them, is forever placed in a position of opposition and enmity. Because in today’s world, when so much of our objective reality is understood, the only refuge for dogma is in unwavering tests of faith and fidelity. Damn the bloated corpses washing up on the beach, I know what I saw! Stick with that blind certainty, the dogmatist will promise you, and you will be unconquerable.

Which is probably why I keep coming back to the passage I opened this post with--and its purposeful inclusion of the Bard’s immortal Iago. Rushdie certainly knows what any first-year English major learns in his Shakespeare class--that despite the countless theories and theses that it has spawned in the intervening centuries, the source of Iago’s evil is no more complicated than what Shakespeare himself said about it at the time he penned it. Iago is evil because Iago has to be evil. There is no story without it.

Is Rushdie saying the same is true of Islam? No wonder they put a fatwa on his head.

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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

Monday, June 8, 2015

Fundraising and Association Leadership

In the past year, I and my association have gone through dramatic transformations.

With regard to my association, we have significantly increased the amount of money--and our dependence on that amount of money--that is raised from our members through our 501(c)(3) foundation. Gifts have consistently gone from 3- and 4-figures to 4- and 5-figures and, if our efforts and success continue, soon will be tipping into the 6-figure territory.

And as for me, my transformation has been to become our principal fundraiser--something neither my education nor my previous experience have prepared me for. But the responsibility is mine, and now that it is, there are some things I'm beginning to see clearly that I may not have even guessed at before.

The most significant of these things is this: successful fundraising in the association space is absolutely dependent on personal connections and relationships.

Initially, we worked with an external fundraising consultant. Both his preference and my gut instinct was that he wasn't there to raise money for us. He was there to help us build the capacity in which we could raise the money ourselves.

The consultant prepared us well--and now we are operating without him, executing on the fundraising plan and activities that he helped us define and develop.

And as I work this plan I can't help but notice that any success that we have had in converting those 3- and 4-figure gifts into 4- and 5-figure gifts is directly proportionate to my own ability and comfort-level in picking up the phone and engaging people I already know in conversation about what it is we're trying to achieve and what it is we need from them.

Simply put, in our environment, cold calls and direct mail are not winning strategies.

As a result, when I'm at a meeting with our members, I'm much more focused than ever before on shaking hands and engaging as many people as possible in conversations--casual or otherwise. That's always been important. That personal contact at the conference may be the only positive connection I have with a member in a given year. But now, it is literally the primary way that I'm building our potential donor base.

Today's handshake is tomorrow's 6-figure gift. One won't immediately follow the other, but it is the only place, I think, that such a journey can start.

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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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Monday, June 1, 2015

An Example of a Strategy Agenda

Four weeks ago, I wrote about the essential elements of a Strategy Agenda, the new term I've introduced in my association to describe the essential work product of our Board of Directors. Its focus is a clear description of what the association will achieve and how the association will measure its success in achieving it, and it is made up of the following four elements. Our:

1. MISSION, our overall purpose, from which we derive our
2. STRATEGIC PRIORITIES, how we will achieve our mission, from which we set our
3. ENDS STATEMENTS, the outcomes each strategic priority will achieve for our members, from which we identify our
4. SUCCESS INDICATORS, the metrics by which we'll know that we're achieving the outcomes.

This week I wanted to provide a concrete example of each of those elements, based on the actual terminology and language my association leadership has determined. As described above, each element is derived from and nests within the element that comes before it. Visually, this can be represented as a kind of organizational chart with our mission at the very top, our three strategic priorities stemming from it on the row below, our seven ends statements stemming from the three strategic priorities below that, and our twenty-six success indicators stemming from the seven ends statements below that. What follows, therefore, is one of twenty-six possible journeys down that organizational chart, from our mission to one particular strategic priority to one particular ends statement and to one particular success indicator.

Our mission is to "Strengthen the fluid power industry." This is our overall purpose, the thing that would not be done in the world if not for our organization.

From that mission, we have identified three areas of strategic priority, the essential things that we do that help us achieve that mission. We call one of those strategic priorities "Technology," and we define it as our effort to "Promote fluid power technology and foster an innovative environment for the fluid power industry."

Within that strategic priority, we have defined two ends statements, the specific outcomes that don't currently exist and which we wish to achieve for our members. We call one of those ends statements "Knowledge Development," and we define it as a state in which "Government agencies and universities engage with NFPA to develop fundamental knowledge of fluid power and educate the next generation of scientific and engineering leaders in the field."

And finally, within that ends statement, we have identified four success indicators, metrics that will indicate that we are making progress towards the ends statement. We call one of those success indicators "Industry Donations," which we define as "Industry donations to the NFPA Foundation are increasing and being used to fund more fluid power research and education within universities."

With these concrete examples I hope the linkages between the elements of our Strategy Agenda are more clear. By increasing industry donations to our Foundation and using those resources to fund more fluid power research and education within universities (success indicator), we begin to create a world in which government agencies and universities work with us to develop fundamental knowledge of fluid power and educate the next generation of scientific and engineering leaders in the field (ends statement), which is an essential change we need to see if we are to promote fluid power technology and foster an innovative environment for the fluid power industry (strategic priority), which helps us strengthen the fluid power industry (mission).

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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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