Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mobile, Agile & Hostile: Operational Strategies for Associations?

When I played hockey at Ohio State, my coach -- with his fine Canadian accent -- once told me, “Drake, you’d be a lot better hockey player if you were mobile, agile and hostile.”

Funny how you never forget such pointed advice!

A couple of stories in the news last week suggest that Mobile, Agile and Hostile might be great operational strategies for association management whether trade associations or professional societies. 

WHERE NOKIA WENT WRONG by James Surowiecki via The New Yorker.

Nokia’s agreement on last week to sell its handset business to Microsoft for $7.2 billion is something of a minor business coup for Nokia, since a year from now that business might well turn out to have been worth nothing. 

It also demonstrates just how far and fast Nokia has fallen in recent years. Not that long ago, it was the world’s dominant and pace-setting mobile-phone maker.

Today, it has just three per cent of the global smartphone market. Four reasons:

  • Nokia’s development process was long dominated by hardware engineers; software experts were marginalized. (Executives at Apple, in stark contrast, saw hardware and software as equally important parts of a whole; they encouraged employees to work in multidisciplinary teams to design products.)
  • And this was, in retrospect, a classic case of a company being enthralled (and, in a way, imprisoned) by its past success.
  • In that sense, Nokia’s failure resulted at least in part from an institutional reluctance to transition into a new era.
  • Nokia overestimated the strength of its brand.
C|Net news shared this Kodak update:

Eastman Kodak announced that it has completely emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a "leaner" reorganized company. Instead of peddling its once-popular film and cameras, Kodak will now focus on digital imaging for businesses.

So, what happened to the Kodak Moment? I’ve shared their issues before:
Will Your Association Face a Kodak Moment?  
Can Your Association Avoid a Kodak Moment?

And These Means What for Associations?

I’ve heard some association executives say. “Those are businesses, we’re an association.” 

Whether we know it or not, many associations and nonprofit organizations face the same challenges as Nokia and Kodak.

Many association executives say the widespread changes in technology and generations won’t impact them.

There’s no new normal, they say.
Our departments provide staffing to meet our member needs.

Speaking of the “new normal,” Jamie Notter posed some interesting questions based on his experience at the most recent ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership conference:

So what does this mean for the association community? Are we evolving in different directions in a healthy way? Or have we just created two separate bubbles, both of which lack perspective and are headed for some disappointing pops? Is it good to have co-located meetings like this? Should we work harder to integrate them? Or should they just evolve separately? Was this just me and Bob?

Back to being Mobile, Agile & Hostile

Here are some thoughts on this trio from John Spence (in Awesomely Simple) and Harrison Coerver & Mary Byers CAE (in Road to Relevance):
[R2R = Road to Relevance)


Spence: Speed = Success. He has an entire chapter on this subject!
R2R: Reduce hassle, overhaul the governance model. 


Spence: Be ready to adjust and adapt quickly to the steady stream of curve balls thrown your way. 
R2R: Concentrate on innovation actions. 


... as in focused and disciplined.
Spence: Religiously follow the 9 steps ensuring disciplined execution. Be ruthless in eliminating any process, rule, system, procedure or meeting that does not add real value in helping your people be more effective, efficient and quick in doing their work serving customers.

R2R: Practice purposeful abandonment while creating a lean association, avoiding program creep and understanding and reducing waste.
So, as you “peer through the fog of uncertainty” (quote from R2R), help your staff and association be mobile, agile and hostile!

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