Association Laboratory has a formal evaluation process asking how our clients translate the research insights and advice we provide into action and successful outcomes. Not every association can implement change and the lessons from those that can are very instructive.
The associations who successfully translate research into action model the following success factors.
- Transparent, credible research process
Successful associations implemented a problem diagnosis and decision-making process that stakeholders trusted.
Associations that successfully made change made sure that the process through which they studied the size, scope and nature of their challenge and determined potential courses of action was transparent, participative, deliberative and credible. If volunteer leaders and other stakeholders not actively involved in the process didnít understand the process or believe in how decisions were made the odds that the association was successful decreased.
- Empirical, valid and independent data to guide decision-making
Successful associations invested in research to support decisions consistent with the strategic impact of the decision. They were not penny wise and pound foolish.
Valid, independent data gave stakeholders confidence that they could trust the information they received and use it to guide decisions. It also acted as a common denominator among leaders, ensuring that all participants had the same data improving the likelihood of consensus. Finally, when combined with staff industry and professional knowledge, high quality data helped staff identify critical strategic links that less robust information would have failed to highlight.
- Leadership commitment
Successful associations had leaders that were committed to change and incorporated the desired change into the daily operations of the association.
Associations that successfully made change had key volunteer and staff leadership who were committed on a daily, operational basis to the results of the decision-making process. The implementation of a new direction became a driver of all discussions. All programs, services and initiatives were reviewed through the new lens of the desired change.
- Align structure with strategy
Successful associations organized their structure to align with their desired change.
Form follows function. Associations that successfully made change worked to align their associational structure with the new desired outcomes. For example, one association restructured their internal staff around the 3 primary strategies that were developed during the strategic planning process. This impacted virtually every aspect of their operations but, when completed, each staff and volunteer had clarity regarding their roles and responsibilities implementing each strategy outlined in the strategic plan.
- Align competency with strategy
Successful associations aligned their staff competencies with their desired change.
Associations that successfully made change ensured that their staff competencies were in alignment with the desired change. For example, one association hired new senior staff with experience in global marketing and operations following the decision to evolve from a national to a global association.
Identifying the need for and path to transformative strategic change is a long term undertaking that requires substantive investment by the association. By establishing appropriate expectations for the challenges inherent with this change and modeling the behaviors that successful associations implemented the odds that the association can successfully navigate this path increase.