Monday, July 18, 2011

Staff Meeting 24/7...It's the ONLY WAY

Have you ever been in a staff meeting and wondered how much time was actually quantifiable as productive time in the meeting?  How many of the people sitting in the staff meeting were just sitting there listening to people give updates that did not impact their day-to-day work assignments?    How much productivity and labor dollars are wasted in associations spending 2 to 4 hours going over projects, meetings, and committee work, to make sure everyone is, “in the know?”   ...And how do we keep everyone “in the know”, on the developments of the projects, meetings, and committees as a staff, to ensure we don’t miss any details?

No matter what size the association, keeping the information flow throughout your office efficient, so that the right pieces of information get into the right minds, at the right time, and it be documented in a central area, is always a challenge.


Recently, I was asking these questions as I sipped a cup of coffee, listening to the waves crash onto the shore.  This is usually where most of my innovation happens by the way J.  As I pondered the question, I then started asking myself, do we have the means already in-house, technology wise, to engage an inter-office structure that could equate to a 24/7 staff meeting, where when we sat down, everyone “already” knew the updates, thereby making staff meetings shorter and more targeted at more effective brainstorming, due to everyone already being “in the know”?

As I started panning through the various technology we have put in place the last 24-months, it struck me:   Our social technology system has subgroups, within main groups, that can be made private.   That instantly led me into creating a private group called, “Staff Meeting 24/7”, that is not accessible to our members.  Only staff personnel can view it.  I then created a subgroup for every project, meeting, committee, and benchmarking survey we currently have open, making the appropriate staff a member of the subgroup.  I then created one discussion forum called, “Status Updates”, for everyone in the group to post any type of change or update on that particular meeting, project, survey, or committee.

This was revolutionary in my mind, because my staff would always tell me, there is so much information in my brain as CEO that needs to be released to them on the projects we are working on, and it doesn’t get released because of my busy schedule.  Now all I have to do is post my latest set of information/questions in each subgroup, and the appropriate staff receives it.  ...And when they reply, the staff and I get more claiming, “I didn’t know I was suppose to do that.”  ...No more waiting until next staff meeting, 3 weeks from now, to know another persons activity’s are going to have an impact on your department.  Now, inter-office communications, and all association activities related to staff are centralized, fully listed with up to date information, and instantaneous.

This has streamlined our operations tremendously, and put focus with our staff, because if something is not listed in our subgroups as a meeting, committee, survey, study, or project, we aren’t working on it as a staff.  It has made our staff meetings more focused and shorter, because our agenda is the list of subgroups in the Staff 24/7 group on our social media site, and everyone is already informed through the status updates posted.  Now important information is not in someone’s head, it’s posted centrally, so we can all focus on the most important aspect that drives member value…driving creative ideas that solve member problems.  Now that’s innovation...and it was right at our fingertips.  We just had to ask the right questions, and start exploring our technology.

For those of you wondering who the Metal Treating Institute uses for social technology, we use the MemberFuse platform by Avectra.  I would highly recommend no matter what vendor you use, seek to use it to its fullest.  Live in discovery zone as you ponder how to help your staff be more efficient.  The technology you need may be right under your fingers.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Success at an Annual Conference: WHAT'S THAT?

So you've registered for this event called an annual conference, with hundreds or thousands of attendees, and an overwhelming number of learning labs.  You spent the time convincing a supervisor, CEO, or yourself, that the return on your investment is going to be worth the effort to pack clothing for four to five days; that the time away from the frantic pace of the office, and spending long days learning and networking, are worth the money spent.

When you consider time, effort, and money, a tremendous amount of resources go into attending an annual conference.  Yet, I personally am amazed at people who get to the end of a conference and say the words, "I really didn't get much out of the conference!"  REALLY?  I'm thinking, "I learned the one idea that is going to reshape our membership, or revenues, or our entire value proposition."  What sessions were they in?

Having reviewed conference surveys for a number of years, how do we have one attendee that says, "I've been coming to conference for 30 years, and thought the keynote was the best EVER," and another person says, "I didn't get the keynotes presentation?"

Ten years ago, I implemented a system for myself to attack any conference, to guarantee I would come away with ideas that could transform our association over the next 12 months.  Remember, true success is not about a one time dynamic shift in all you do, it's a small set of incremental changes, made over a period of time.  Staff and boards can handle small incremental change much easier than sweeping change.

Using the simple system noted below has provided me the ideas that have helped our association over the last five years grow its member surplus over 450%, increase per member revenue 28% on just 7.5% growth in total members.  All this, through the up and down economies of 2009 and 2010.

So here are the keys to getting the most out of any conference you attend:

Decide whether you want information or ideas - I always ask people the question, "would you rather return with 12-legal size pages of great information, or 2-sentences of an idea that could transform your association?"  I find people are so focused on writing down what the presenter is saying, they never transform what they are saying into something actionable.  Me personally...I want the GREAT IDEA!

Define and write down the 2-top challenges your association needs to solve now, and the 1-top challenge it needs to be looking at solving in the next 24-months.  This keeps you focused in the presentations to listen and write down the actionable ideas you know will work for those challenges.

What to write down at conference - I don't require myself or my staff to write any notes on what the speaker is saying at any session.   I only require we make note of the following items for each day we are at conference to review at the end:

1) A new idea or new way of doing something we already do
2) What are we going to do differently on Monday when we return
3) One person I met who can help us make the change we need

Putting focus on these three items each day of a conference has helped us cut through the mass of information, and zero in on ideas and people that have led to the amazing growth and excitement we have experienced.  ...And it is continuing in 2011.  We are slated to grow our member surplus by another 17%. 

A couple of closing comments:  Don't get caught up in the information.  Get caught up in the ideas that you can actually implement, that are clear, achievable, measurable, and support the future vision of your association.  If you have reached the end of a conference and don't have any ideas, you need to change the crowd you hang with at conference.  I personally could miss every session at conference and still walk away with a great return on my investment, because I feel I hang with the most innovative minds in the industry.  We like helping each other solve our challenges so we can achieve the greatest success both personally and professionally.

So get your pad or mobile device out, and define your challenges you are looking to solve.  If you are looking and listening, you will find all the answers at conference.