Monday, September 26, 2016

How Many Eggs in Your Basket?

I used this metaphor the other day when talking about all the things our association does. If our mission is the basket, I said, and the strategic objectives that we pursue in order to achieve that mission are the eggs, then we have six eggs in our basket.

Described that way, that doesn't sound like a lot. But, in fact, it is, especially when one considers how easy it can be to confuse eggs with baskets.

What do I mean by that? Let me try to explain it this way. How many people in your organization--staff and volunteers alike--really see the basket? If your organization is like mine, the answer will be far fewer than the number of staff and volunteers who see only one or more of the eggs.

A lot of people in your organization spend all their time in one area of strategic engagement. Staff or volunteer, their focus is in one area. This dynamic is even more prevalent outside your organization. Unlike your internal staff and volunteers who are probably aware of other eggs in your basket, external partners and stakeholders almost always view your organization entirely through the prism of their engagement point. From their perspective, their egg is your basket.

And that's where the trouble comes in.

Every organization has to make choices. Choices about how many strategic priorities to have, but more importantly for this discussion, choices about how many resources to allocate to each priority. Some organizations put all of their resources behind one priority, but those organizations are typically not associations. Associations, by and large, tend towards the other extreme. They have many priorities and fewer resources to assign to each.

Maybe you see where I'm going with this. What happens when a person (internal or external to the organization), whose focus is entirely on one of the eggs, comes to believe that the organization is not dedicating enough resources to their favored priority? If given the chance, what kind of decision might that person make about the number of competing priorities and the resources dedicated to each?

Here's the reality. Your organization should be a basket, not just a random collection of eggs. And decisions about the amount of resources to dedicate to each egg have to be made by people who not only see the basket, but understand the inevitable interdependence of the eggs it contains.

Decisions at that level are a lot harder, but they are more likely to help you actually fulfill your mission.

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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

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