Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Can Your Association Act Fast Enough?


In their new book, When Millennials Take Over,  Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant outline four key capacities that organizations must develop to fully embrace the impending revolution in business:
  • Digital
  • Clear
  • Fluid
  • Fast
I must admit that I struggled with their selection of the phrase “Fast.”

This is partly because I relate to John Wooden’s Be Quick But Don’t Hurry philosophy shared by Andrew Hill in his 2001 book on the great basketball coach. Hurry leads to mistakes; quick leads to wins.

But, in reading the chapter on “fast,” I thought of the cumbersome decision-making processes of most association boards. 

 When serving as an executive of a very large international association (with boards of 48 and 54), we “joked” that we needed three board meetings when working on decisions for a major new program. As a result, change came slowly.

In today’s fast-paced environment, associations and nonprofits cannot afford to move slowly.


My dad spent 37 years as the general manager (CEO) of a regional dairy (artificial breeding) cooperative. In the beginning, counties earned board seats based on the number of cows bred in that county. As the coop grew and expanded to other states, the size of the board continued to grow. It became unwieldy ... and met only three or four times a year.

In the early 1970s, he convinced the board to downsize to 15 and all board members resigned and then they elected a new board.

I asked Dad, “How did you get them to vote themselves out of office?”
Here’s what Dad shared with me:
  • First, I reminded them that as a business, we had to make fast decisions (like spending $50,000 to purchase a new bull). And with the large board, we couldn’t make decisions fast enough.
  • Second, we promised no executive committee. The 15-member board would be the board and make decisions.
  • Third, we had a strong and trusted volunteer president who understood the needs and convinced his fellow board members to vote for the change.
According to Notter & Grant,
  • We want more responsiveness, more nimbleness, keeping up with changes, including market changes. All about better productivity and efficiency. 
  • Millennials keep looking for new ideas. "They want everything very quickly, but they also let go very easily."
  • Millennials can come up with really quick ideas in just a few days. As for associations, "We are not used to moving that fast."
By the way, When Millennials Take Over goes on sale Thursday (3/12).

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