Association Decision Making & The Ground Hog Day Effect




I’ve sat through my fair share of association leadership meetings this year and noticed a trend.  Over time, our organizations seem to speak through the same issues, over and over again – it’s almost like the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.
The carousel of little action. 
During any given strategic meeting, Association staff make presentations on their activities for the year – what they’re doing, what’s working well, what’s needed, and even some of the gaps where the objectives weren’t met. Obviously, they want to act on these challenges.
Association members talk about the various association programming, what works well, what they like, and what could be improved upon. So, these folks have their list of changes they want to be made as well.
And then we stall out…
So, you’ve got these two groups: association staff and the volunteer leadership, and what’s missing? Someone, anyone deciding the path forward on their “action items.” I wholeheartedly believe this is a fantastic opportunity for associations to take the reins and define and implement an effective decision-making process.
What is really needed is a decision-making process to ensure action is taken when everyone seems to be lined up for it.
What is the role of the Board of Directors? The Boards sets strategic direction, what’s the association’s mission – what type of organization do we want to become and what to achieve.
Then, the staff takes the ball.  Develop the budget, resources needed, staffing and the programs needed to execute the mission.
Then mutual accountability kicks in.  Set a good direction board, execute the hell out of things staff.
Right now, I see organizations whose staff and the volunteer leaders really don’t know their role, so fingers are being pointed at one another, laying blame out of frustration – because there is no process, there is no mutual accountability, and nothing substantial is getting done.
Without this, what happens? We get together at the next Board meeting in another 6 months and nothing has happened, and little tangible progress on the mission. Then, we have the same meeting (with some new leaders who hear the story for the first time) over and over again – the Ground Hog Day effect.
Someone needs to break the alarm clock with the baseball bat, and here’s how:
Train the board and staff on the roles of high-performing organizations.
1.  Establish an agenda – front-loaded with decisions to be made.
2.  Backload the agenda with weather reports – no action.
3.  Insert an agenda item that addresses a key issue or trend – one that affects members’ businesses and the association.  Build their knowledge muscle, so when decisions are to made they have context.
 For additional content on this topic – check out: Overcoming Decision-Making Paralysis


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