The problem with sacred cows is that at one time they were the latest, greatest thing and someone invested time, energy, and heart into creating them.There was a program at my state association where one of my members said “It really means nothing to get the award certificate (It was a REALTOR honor society of some sort) but as long as they keep offering it I am applying.” This program was expensive, ate up tons of staff time, and benefited just a handful of members of whom most did not view the award as having value.
Using evidence based management practices, as defined in Part 1 the first step in sun-setting the program is to track the actual time it takes, from start to finish, for your employees to administer the program. Each and every time a staff member touches the program- log the time. Obviously, the next step is to track actual dollars. Using a zero-based budgeting model take your payroll and your overhead costs (fixed costs of operation rent/mortgage, property taxes, utilities etc.), divide this amount by the number of employees, and you have your average cost of implementing a program. At the end of the program calculate the hard dollars and the staff implementation costs. Don’t think you need to calculate this based on the hourly rates of a particular employee. Every program/service has an impact on every employee. Use the Zero-Based rate. At this point you have quantifiable, verified, actual costs of the program.
Next contact by phone, not via email survey (people rarely take surveys), record the conversation for notes later (using IMEET or GOTOMeeting is perfect for this) and ask each program participant a few questions: On a scale of 1-5 what is the value of this program to you. On a scale of 1-5 how likely are you going to participate next year? On a scale of 1-5 how would you rate the overall value to the overall membership? On a scale of 1-5 how upset would you be if the program was discontinued. Next go to qualitative- why did you participate? Why do you think most members do not participate? You may want to email survey all your members (if you believe you can get a decent response) and ask them to rate the value of the program. If you do choose to survey the entire membership use this free sample size calculator to determine how many responses you will need to put forth a valid representation of the membership with a confidence level in the results of 90-95% http://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm
Take all this data and turn it into a graphical representation- its just easier for your leaders to see the impact in a pie chart or graph versus numbers. Find one or two quotes that summarize why this program should be sun-setted and put them under/to the side of each graph. Show graphically how many members benefit from the program versus all other members. Take those same hours of your employees and show where they could be applied to make other programs more successful. Ensure leadership has a handout of all the quotes. Offer a workable alternative- a plaque in the lobby listing all past winners, a scholarship in the name of the program, something that keeps it alive in a different way that doesn’t cost continuous staff time and dollars.
It is hard to argue against hard data. Provide evidence not opinion as to why the program is no longer valued and valid.
There is nothing more frustrating when doing research to finally find a blog via a Google search and going YES! YES! This was the topic I was looking for! Then you link to the particular blog post hoping to find more only to discover the abandoned blog. That search term you were looking for was in a post from 2012 and the writer is Gone, Gone, Gone.
For those of you who have missed my pithy comments on leadership, association management and organizational behavior, I am back! For those of you who are unfamiliar with this blog, I was on a journey to achieve my Ph.D. in Organization and Management with a Leadership specialization. As my deadline for completion was looming perilously close I opted to take a sabbatical and finish. I am a Ph.D. survivor! Once that goal was accomplished I focused on finding gainful employment. I am happy to report that I was able to successfully transition my association management background and skills to another industry (my second career goal) and best of all I work 100% remotely, telecommuting from my backyard pool (or at least I will this summer) or my comfortable family room sofa (my third career goal). I passed my “Probationary Period” 15 days ago.
So I am no longer Gone, Gone, Gone and will resume my blog effective this week! I know many were anxiously awaiting the strategies for sunsetting a sacred cow (association program with little value but being held on tenaciously by volunteer leadership). You may also want to review Part 1 of the series: Evidenced Based Management and Why You Need It.
I continue to find new ways to use Formstack. I am so surprised that this is not the contact management/survey management/event management system for every association in the US. So EASY! So Inexpensive – $39. So I use it for everything because members can sign a doc online with their finger, upload documents for applications or contests, change their contact info etc. This week I found a new use! I wanted to add a House Rules page to my facebook business page- there are lots of ways to do this but you do need a secure site to place the copy with an https:// url. I created a one page form in Formstack- which automatically gives it a secure URL. Voila! House Rules page up and running! Formstack also has tons of API integration- it integrates with salesforce.com as well as multiple credit card acceptance programs. Members can register and pay right through your Formstack. Here is a link to the program- really worth checking out if you do any kind of work with members or volunteers: http://www.formstack.com/r/85697251
This week there was a lively discussion regarding CEO evals and the leadership that administers them. Every once in awhile I can focus on the negative and remind myself that there is an opposite side to any situation; the positive. I gave some thought about why I believed that David K. Moeller, broker of Redbud Realty & Associates, in Edmond OK, was such an outstanding association president. I did not ask his permission to write about him or use his picture, but knowing Dave I am sure he won’t mind.
- Dave had extensive experience in running a large multi-unit for profit business. He knew spreadsheets, statistics, sales, accounting and probably most important, how to empower his staff. He knew the association was in fact, a business, a corporation, and he used his experience and insight from another field to add to the association.
- Dave never “took” from the association. No fancy meals, no unnecessary trips, no perks. He took very seriously that he was the steward of the members’ money.
- Dave was an phenomenal public spokesperson. The media loved him! The year he was president the association received a lot of press because Dave understood what they wanted and was an adroit and entertaining spokesman.
- Dave came into the officer position with a passion and a mission. He was going to focus dollars on high impact projects that met the needs of many rather then pet projects that impacted very few. For example, although many presidents in the past view their installation as a coronation ceremony (wanting nothing but the best) Dave slashed the installation budget and had a modest ceremony which was a packed house.
- It was so EASY for me to be his AE because his mission was so clear and so focused.
- Dave understood that he managed the volunteers- I managed staff. When we had an issue with a volunteer, although certainly uncomfortable, he dealt with expediently and then it was done. No going over it 1000 times- it was confidential and it was over.
- Dave never surprised me at a board meeting. He came in an hour early and we went over every item on the agenda for a second time- just to ensure nothing had changed. I was never put on the spot. If something came up unexpected he would glance at me to gauge my reaction. He had no compunction about calling a recess to look into an issue before answering.
- Dave understood we were a leadership TEAM. When a member came to him with an issue his response ,”I need to discuss this with Dawn and then I will get back to you”. He never Lone-Rangered it which meant I was never in that awkward position of having to correct him or go against what may have been said to a member.
- His communication skills were outstanding. Every week- one day per week- we went to a lunch at a local deli (timed before exec and BoD meetings). Getting me out of the office was a surefire way to open my mind up. He never demanded, never came with a list for me to do, never insisted I take notes (although I actually learned so much about managing effectively from him) and he would always open with “Is there anything I can do for you?” Every time. He understood my job was difficult and wanted to make sure the volunteer leadership was supporting me and my efforts.
- He inspired trust. I often would talk over areas where I was having a problem or a concern. I never felt that if I talked about a problem I was being judged. I was never fearful that he would question my abilities because he made it clear from the get-go, we were a team. He understood the difficulties of the AE job (see number #1) and we solved problems together without judgment.
I have been fortunate that I have worked for a lot of really great people! I chose to focus not on personality but on the skill set of being a president when I chose Dave as my exemplar.
As I synthesize what I have wrote it gives me a list of presidential qualities: Educated, Experienced, Public Speaker, Passionate, Mission-driven, Team Player, Role Clarifier, Inspires Trust, Committed, Communicator.
Not too long ago I was speaking with one of my colleagues and he was bemoaning a program that brought no value-add to the organization (although it cost very little in terms of staff time and operational expenses). The primary argument to keeping it was the low-cost and that it was a long standing program which a handful of past-presidents just loved. The crux of the issue is that it often became a focus of micro-management.” What was the staff doing wrong that the organization had so few applicants to this program?” ” We are not communicating enough!” “Maybe we need to add a monetary incentive to apply” and on and on. It just had become a real sore spot with staff because they realized (anecdotally) that the program only benefited a very small amount of people and even so the reward was so minimal those few annual applicants were dropping off. The view of the presidents was that the program caused “no harm” so letting it continue was easy. Or was it?
The problem in this scenario is that my esteemed colleague and his past leadership were all using anecdotal evidence to make their point. Anecdotal evidence is typically personal perception oriented and often affected by personal biases. This is akin to the President wanting to offer a workshop on XYZ simply because he/she has an interest in it ergo ALL MEMBERS MUST BE INTERESTED. It is faulty reasoning at best. Anecdotal evidence is almost always qualitative- ” I feel… I believe… Members told me they loved it… Everyone seemed to enjoy it”. CEBMa (2014), the center for evidence-based management , explains it this way:
Most management decisions are not based on the best available evidence. Instead, practitioners often prefer to make decisions rooted solely in their personal experience. However, personal judgment alone is not a very reliable source of evidence because it is highly susceptible to systematic errors –cognitive and information-processing limits make us prone to biases that have negative effects on the quality of the decisions we make. Even practitioners and industry experts with many years of experience are poor at making forecasts or calculating risks when relying solely on their personal judgment, whether it concerns the credit rating of bonds the growth of the economy political developments or medical diagnoses. Practitioners frequently also take the work practices of other organizations as evidence.
Following is a chart provided by CEBMa that gives the basis for formulating evidence based decision making:
Evidence-based practice is about making decisions throughthe conscientious, explicit and judicious useof the best available evidence from multiple sources by
1. Asking: translating a practical issue or problem into an answerable question
2. Acquiring: systematically searching for and retrieving the evidence
3. Appraising: critically judging the trustworthiness and relevance of the evidence
4. Aggregating: weighing and pulling together the evidence
5. Applying: incorporating the evidence into the decision-making process
6. Assessing: evaluating the outcome of the decision taken…
to increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome. (CEBMa, 2014).
So how would I use Evidenced-based management principles to sunset this particular program?…. Watch for Part 2 of this post!
To access the entire CEBMa article on evidence-based principles just follow this link http://www.cebma.org/wp-content/uploads/Evidence-Based-Practice-The-Basic-Principles.pdf
Association management coach extraordinaire- Bob Harris (CAE at rchcae.com) just recently shared with me a great communication piece to start the dialogue of establishing boundaries with your new incoming president. In my recent research study (in press) the theme of presidents veering outside the strategic plan and even the budget was a recurring one. This article guides the AE in setting boundaries in a non-threatening, non-ego harming way. Definitely worth a read as you plan the next leadership year!
A Day with the Incoming Realtor President 8-15 (just click on the link to download!)