Monday, November 27, 2017

It Takes Resources

Another lesson for me this week that demonstrates how a strategy without the resources to support it is a recipe for failure.

We sometimes deceive ourselves in the association business. We know our strategies are compelling and our volunteers are dedicated, and we think that if we simply bring the two in alignment with each other the execution will take care of itself. Often, unfortunately, it doesn't. Even the most compelling strategy coupled to the most dedicated volunteers will falter in its execution if the association doesn't also bring its resources to the table.

What resources are those? Dollars, certainly. In the specific situation the confronted me this week, we needed to start spending money on something we hadn't spent money on in years. But the need for resources almost always extends beyond just dollars. It almost always also includes staff time. An association staff person has to make space on an already crowded plate to organize and coordinate a new effort.

In my experience, one of the toughest challenges associations face when it comes to resource allocation is opening up staff time for the strategic projects that matter most to the association. Adding project after project ultimately serves neither the staff person nor the association. The reason the strategic project is not getting the attention it needs is almost always associated with staff plates already being full. In these situations, if you're going to pursue something new, you have to take something else off the plate.

And that leads me to the biggest resource need that I find myself identifying, again and again, when a strategic project has stalled. Yes, it needs dollars and yes, it needs staff time, but more than anything else it needs leadership. The willingness and ability of someone in a leadership position to step in, shepherd it, and make it happen through the force of his or her will.

That person can be the association staff executive, but it doesn't have to be. I work hard in my association to consistently communicate the message that the most valuable trait any staff person can exhibit is leadership -- specifically, the kind of leadership I'm taking about in this post. The strategy is compelling, the volunteers are dedicated, but neither is truly the catalyst for true success. For that, we need a staff person to step up and make something happen.

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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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