There are very few associations that have little to no activities going on. We are busier than we ever have been. So the question is not about activity, but productivity. Doing things and putting in time does not necessarily translate into productive, mission-driven, member-impacting activity. That should not really be a surprise, but how often do we “do” without considering the direction of “doing?”
I look at it as not just climbing a ladder but making sure we are climbing the ladder on the right wall. We have all had a project that we poured our heart and soul into only to find out it did not have the biggest impact. Look around at the activities of your associations now and ask yourself:
- What walls are the ladders leaning against?
- Where are you working on problems that are non-essential?
- What non problems is staff trying to solve?
- Where is time being allocated to activities that no or very few members are asking for?
- Where does your budget allocate a lot for little?
The ladder illustration begs us to ask again, “What is my association’s main thing?” Why does your organization exist? That is the main thing. It is important that staff, suppliers and vendors do not tell you what the main thing is; your members should tell you what they think is your main thing, your purpose for existing.
One of a leader’s main jobs is to regularly inspect the association’s focus on the main thing: looking for the “ladders on the right wall.” Leaders, do you know the main thing so well that you can adjust and draw the story for staff and volunteers and how their activities are connected to the main thing?