How many licks does it take to get to the center of a lollipop?

Decision Making for AssociationsUnfortunately for an association to get to the heart of an issue and decision making an important topic it needs to go through layers and layers of bureaucracy before something happens.  You could say that’s a good thing because there are adequate checks and balances like creating federal government policy however it is far far worse than one would hope to be strategically agile in the market which demands rapid change.  Let me explain.

Current process

(more or less steps by required depending on organizational architecture)

If a new idea or concept is introduced to an association it may need to follow one or more of the following steps:

  1. Idea is introduced to a committee by a committee member.
  2. Committee motions to take the idea to the board of directors.
  3. The board sends it to the finance committee to be approved in the budget.
  4. The finance sends it back to the board for approval.
  5. The board of directors seek recommendation on idea from the executive committee and staff leadership.
  6. All in favor and the idea is put into action.

How much time could that take? 6 months? 12 months? 2 years?

By the time a decision is close enough to be made a whole new set of volunteers starts the education process on the original idea again.

These are common issues among committees, the board of directors, and staff leadership:

  • The group lacks critical thinking skills.
  • The group is not familiar with the latest trends, decision making process, or current strategic initiatives.
  • The individuals operate out of their own self interests.

Desired Process

You can’t expect there to be order unless the entire group is familiar with how decisions are made, have enough critical thinking skills to be proactive about change, and are able to set aside their own self interests for the betterment of the team.


Committee Decision making

The three reasons why strategic plans fail is because #1 no plan exists, #2 leaders and decision makers are not familiar with the plan, and #3 implementation is weak or non existent.

Most associations have a plan and can implement however there is little alignment from the original plan or process to keep them on track when important decisions need to be made.  Use the following process for upcoming meetings to save time having unnecessary discussions.

Critical thinking

If the emperor was wearing no clothes would you have the courage to tell him?  There are many areas of opportunity for innovation, improvement, and involvement however we might assume because it is this way now it will always be the same.

For example, let’s pretend your association has a PDF calendar that accepts registrations by phone.  Clearly everyone can see it takes longer to register, harder to find the right event, and members are sick of printing/sending in faxes.  If the leadership doesn’t see this as an issue or a priority it might a lost opportunity because members can find something easier following a simpler process.

Self interests

Do your decision makers on all level’s have a personal agenda?

  • Committee members could be trainers in competition for education dates.
  • Board of directors fear a decision might negatively impact their own company.
  • Staff might have to learn a new skill or method which requires more time.

It’s only when each group aligns what is in the best interest of the entire association, are familiar with the decision making process, and have the critical thinking skills to cause change.

Easier said in a blog post.

Harder for the executive to create a culture of rapid decision making.


Organizations bring in Doug Devitre from St. Louis, Missouri USA when they want to dramatically increase operational performance, create breakthrough value propositions, and serve customers beyond geographical constraints on a minimal budget. For more than a decade he has been setting trends with how organizations engage customers with social media, video marketing, and custom-built software applications. Doug’s book Screen to Screen Selling published by McGraw Hill pioneered the way sales professionals sold homes without being physically present before the COVID-19 pandemic. He is one of a select few who have earned the Certified Speaking Professional Designation from the National Speakers Association and has experience as a REALTOR.

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