Five Things Associations Can Do To Implement Consultant Recommendations

Written by Jeanne Sheehy

Chief Marketing Officer, Bostrom


You’ve hired consultants to facilitate a much needed Strategic Plan or Business Model Canvas exercise and the opportunities, ideas and new paths for growth are exciting and daunting. Staff and leaders are always left with now what? How do we get all of this implemented with the limited resources we have already overextended?

I recently watched a documentary on Warren Buffet. He and Bill Gates are very good friends and have been for a long time. They were both asked to write down on a piece of paper one word that describes how they were so successful.  Separately, without a word between them, they both wrote down “focus”.

When you have a new plan, program, or model in front of you requiring change, rethinking and speedy implementation, it requires focus to get the plan implemented. Focus on the right people working on the right things. Focus on agile value delivery over stagnant but comfortable products, processes and procedures. The five tips below outline proven modern concepts to address this challenge and put a renewed FOCUS on implementation after the consulting occurs.

1.    Build a culture of continuous learning

In today’s fast-changing work environments, you cannot rest in terms of learning new ways to get more done with less and doing different things that have never been tried. Make sure your organizational culture (top to bottom, across all departments) supports lifelong learning with educational opportunities and funding, time for reflection and thought, and rewards for innovation.


– Peter Drucker

2.    Invest in modern, connected and people-aligned data strategies

Data has become the greatest asset an association has at its disposal. In this multi-channel, highly personalized and quickly-becoming-regulated environment, associations need to secure their internal and external data systems to protect privacy AND leverage data for marketing, management and continuous improvement. This means putting technologies and policies in place to govern how data is used throughout your association and who has access to what information. It also means collecting data that is actionable and solves business problems based on what the analyzed data shows. Data must be relevant and actionable or it shouldn’t be collected. Make sure departments are reporting data that allows for adjustment, enhancement and knowledge sharing.

3.    Adapt agile values

There are some discreet values used in agile software development, agile management and agile marketing that associations can utilize to their advantage when implementing change or new programs:

  • Visibility – make projects and goals highly visible using tools like Basecamp, Trello, Asana or post-its on a whiteboard
  • Experimentation – make sure you have an environment where team members feel safe to fail and creativity reigns
  • Collaboration – the people closest to the work and the audience consuming that work should decide how that work gets done (see number 4)
  • Efficiency – agile teams work hard to do less

4.    Embrace Knowledge-Based Governance (KBG)

Organizational boards need to govern more and manage less. This means two things:

  • Staff leaders need to guide these principles and help boards become and stay strategic and
  • Boards need to adjust their behavior and thinking for optimum success.

KBG involves adopting a knowledge-based approach to decision making, using dialogs before deliberation, embracing principles of critical thinking on governance, and committing to a process of thinking and planning strategically. Easier said than done, I know, but the results confirm the approach works: a nimbler, more proactive organization making better decisions with their customers wants, needs and pain points top of mind.

Good leaders and boards make conscious decisions about what will be accomplished and how they will lead. Leadership must be willing to change governance process; changing processes changes behavior and changing behavior changes culture.

Culture is the key. An enjoyable and trustworthy culture increases the likelihood of getting things done. It increases the desire to meet new challenges and opportunities for both staff and volunteer leadership.

5.    Destroy disruptive time wasters

Last year I heard Curt Steinhorst, author of Can I Have Your Attention?: Inspiring Better Work Habits, Focusing Your Team, and Getting Stuff Done in the Constantly Connected Workplace, speak at an ASAE conference. I was completely hooked, read his book and listen to his video blog weekly. When we talk about focus and putting our attention on the right things (as mentioned in the introduction), it is difficult when we are simultaneously constantly interrupted by email, phone calls, meetings, employees, family, friends, news, and the list goes on and on.

We now live in a world of constant connection and technology. We need to be disciplined to navigate through that “noise” to accomplish anything. Curt’s book provides practical tips and life lessons to learn this important work habit.

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