Tag Archives: Services

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Infographic: Tricks to learn any skill fast

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Lifelong learning is the gift that keeps on giving, whether that learning is professional or personal. Seventy-three percent of American adults consider themselves to be lifelong learners but half feel underskilled and fear they are missing out on growth opportunities.

This infographic outlines the value of learning as well as how to break down learning skills into smaller tasks that can be built upon.

Infographic courtesy Fast Online Masters

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Taking the pulse of association leaders, influencers and staff

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Environmental factors are encouraging organizations to regroup and consider what the future holds. Many are making positive, long-lasting changes during this time of recovery.

Two distinct groups work as a team to lead an association. Volunteer leaders govern while the professional staff manage.

During the springtime, associations were responding to member urgencies. Soon after, organizations propped up their operations, ensuring sustainability and relevance. Now they are asking influencers, leadership, and staff what the future holds.


Ryan T. Conrad, CAE, CEO at the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS® created a visioning session for the NVAR staff.

“We wanted to take a moment to step back and think about what we’ve learned as a team during the pandemic and our ability to serve members in a completely remote environment. Talking openly about lessons learned is helping us shape what the future of our association will look like when we get back to so-called ‘normal.’”

Whether visioning or polling, the focus should be how a membership organization will stay relevant and increase value. This is an opportunity to be an indispensable partner to members during uncertain times.

Reach out to the leadership, loyal members, big contributors, visionaries, and past leaders.

Questions of the Leadership

Find a time and method to poll the leadership and organization influencers. What has changed for them and their relationship with the organization? Their candid input should be invaluable to decision-making.

  • Has the pandemic changed how you want to engage with our organization? How long do you expect these changes will last?
  • How do you want to receive communications? Frequency, digital, printed publications, technology, etc.
  • Has the pandemic changed your own organization’s culture and relationship with membership organizations?
  • How would you describe our responsiveness to members and community since the start of the pandemic? Are we on the right track?
  • Have your education and learning needs changed; how should we adjust delivery?
  • How can we deliver even more value to the membership and your own organization?

Questions of the Staff Team

The staff should be polled, too. Ask them to share in creating a vision.

Beware of staff focusing on things like working from home more often and flexible work schedules — leaders should keep them focused on the membership and how the association will meet member needs in new and innovative ways post-COVID-19.

  • What does a world-class, member-focused and engagement experience look like post-COVID-19?
  • How is our staff team delivering simpler, quicker, and customized access to resources members need, based on the (“new”) way members do business?
  • What have we learned about what (and how) members need most from their association?
  • What are members doing differently in the field and for their business?
  • What have we done for members differently that has been successful, or not successful?
  • What is the staff vision for the future in 2020 and beyond?

Use the input to create a shared vision for the future. Organizational buy-in and support of what the association looks like post-COVID-19 will be critical to ensure long-term success.

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Report: Developed countries are more vulnerable to cybercrime

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Residents of developed countries are more likely to become victims of cybercrime, according to the new Cyber Risk Index by NordVPN. The defining qualities of developed countries — high-income economy, advanced technological infrastructure, urbanization, and digitalization — are the same factors that increase the prevalence of cybercrime.

NordVPN’s Cyber Risk Index covers 50 countries, comprising 70% of the world population.

The most dangerous place to be online

Northern Europe is the most dangerous region when it comes to cyber risk, while North America is a close second. In both regions, more than 9 out of 10 people use the internet, 8 out of 10 shop online, and 7 out of 10 use Facebook. This leads to increased exposure to cyber threats.

Cybercriminals don’t look for victims, they look for opportunities — much like pickpockets in crowded places. Spend enough time in a packed bus, and a pickpocket will “accidentally” bump into you. Same story online. Your cyber risk increases with every extra hour online.

The average monthly wages in Northern Europe and North America are among the highest in the world. As your income increases, it’s only natural to enjoy the comfort of online shopping and other paid services. But that makes you a much more enticing target for cybercriminals.

India is the safest. Or is it?

In India, only a third of the population use the internet, and less than a quarter have smartphones. A tiny share of all Indians use Instagram (5.8%), watch video on demand (7.1%), or play online games (6.6%). The monthly wage in India is 13 times lower than the average of the 50 countries analyzed. That makes India the safest country covered by NordVPN’s Cyber Risk Index. But there are some important caveats.

Cyber Risk Index reflects the big picture, the country-wide statistics. Indians who do use the internet, spend a lot of time online — more than an hour longer than the average. They probably live in cities and get higher wages. That puts them at a much higher cyber risk than the average Indian.

In countries with huge income inequality, low levels of urbanization, or low internet penetration, a small segment of the population may face a much larger cyber risk than the general population.

The method behind the Cyber Risk Index

NordVPN created the Index in partnership with Statista, the world’s leading business data provider. The Index was created in three stages. First, Statista collected socio-economic, digital, cyber, and crime data from 50 selected countries. Second, NordVPN analyzed the data’s positive and negative impact on cyber risk and calculated the correlation between the first three data sets (socio-economic, digital, cyber) and the fourth (crime).

Finally, NordVPN trimmed the data down to the 14 most significant factors, used them to create the Index, and ranked the 50 countries according to the cyber risk they’re facing.

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Mastermind groups: A perfect solution to today’s uncertainty

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Years ago, I was invited to join a women’s mastermind group. It took place each week and followed a well-defined format that included a brief guided meditation; check-in; a designated amount of time for each member to share successes, challenges and receive input and support; and finally, intention-setting for the coming week. I found it inspiring, empowering and extremely helpful because it held me accountable and offered me genuine support and solutions.

Mastermind groups have grown extremely popular since the idea was introduced in 1937 (yes, it was that long ago) by bestselling author and prosperity guru Napoleon Hill. He observed the practices of highly successful people and recognized that not one of them got there alone, but in fact, had a team of people with diverse talents, skills and backgrounds working with them.

It became clear to Hill that something greater was at work. He wrote, “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.”

I’ve been running groups for over 30 years, and I’ve had firsthand experience of the power of many minds joined in a common purpose. The shared wisdom of the group goes beyond the mere knowledge of each of its members. Instead, the greater collective is tapped and a fountain of new insights and ideas pours forth upon the group. The individual members are no longer limited by their personality or circumstances. This not only accelerates each member’s progress, but it literally makes room for the extraordinary to happen. Part of this is due to the simple awareness that others care about our progress.

My sense is that humans are naturally tribal, and we’ve lost touch with that in our modernized, technological world. We can check ourselves out at the store; drive through a machine-operated toll booth; check into the airport via machine; get our movie tickets via machine; pump our own gas and pay for it at the pump; get directions from a GPS; and communicate with friends, family and co-workers via phone, texting or video chatting. We can literally go through large portions of our days without contact with another human being.

Now, with the pandemic and quarantine, our isolation has become even greater, which is why I believe it’s the perfect time for mastermind groups, especially for business owners who are not sure how to move forward as we reopen. The more I speak with other business owners and reflect on my own business goals, I realize how many of us feel paralyzed because there is still so much uncertainty. Many of the old ways of doing things simply aren’t available or won’t work in the post-pandemic world.

It doesn’t make sense to try and forge ahead alone. Now, more than ever, we need the brain power and imagination of a group to navigate the unpredictable waters that lay ahead. We need people we can trust to help us make sound decisions. We need encouragement to take brave and bolder steps than we have in the past.

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Rely on Lean’s basics to recover from a crisis, prevent flatlining

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One of the best things leaders can do in a crisis — or to get back on track with their turnaround — is to get back to the basic tenets of Lean. When times get tough, we’re inclined to seek out the next silver bullet instead of digging in to better utilize the tried-and-true methods we already have.

Instead of thinking, “These Lean concepts don’t apply to my business,” you must shift your mindset to being an active, hands-on participant in your Lean transformation. Even when you are sitting in the corner office, this starts with revisiting the fundamentals of Lean and how to manage them.

These basics include heijunka level scheduling, standard work, kaizen, just in time, jidoka, and the SQDC hierarchy. If you aren’t using these, you aren’t actually practicing Lean.

Heijunka Level Scheduling

It’s difficult and disruptive to manage a process when volume severely fluctuates on a day-to-day basis. Heijunka combats this by specifying the amount of inventory that must be produced in a given time period.

Many assume that heijunka only applies to a manufacturing operation; however, it’s applicable to an administrative process as well. For example, an insurance company that processes claims will be more efficient and easier to manage if it has a level-loaded “production” schedule of claims.

For heijunka to be effective, all functions of the organization must collaborate. This is typically done through a sales and operations planning process (S&OP) that gets critical input from sales, marketing, finance, engineering, human resources, and operations.

Most companies don’t optimize this process since they insist on managing their business from a siloed functional perspective, not an enterprise perspective. But this will lead to failure. In the Lean world, an organization must work together to optimize the entire enterprise.

Standard Work

Standard work is a tool that defines the interaction of people and their environment when processing a repetitive product or service. For consistency of the operation, it specifies the motion of the operator and the sequence of action.

Detailing the “best” method or process makes managing them (scheduling, resource allocation) easier. It also highlights what’s normal and abnormal — preventing backsliding and giving the necessary standard, or basis, for improvement.

Similar to heijunka, standard work applies to repetitive administrative processes, as well as manufacturing processes.

Standard work has three central elements:

  1. takt time;
  2. standard work sequence;
  3. standard work in process.

1. Takt Time

Takt is a German word meaning beat or rhythm. In business, it’s the rate that a customer is placing orders on a particular operation, defined by taking the available time during a production shift (usually expressed in seconds) and dividing it by the customer demand for that particular shift. For example, if there were 27,000 seconds available in a shift with a daily demand of 270 units, the takt time would equate to 100 seconds.

What does this mean? It means that if you were to stand at the end of a production line, one good part should fall off the line every 100 seconds. Not 90 seconds, not 110 seconds! Operators and related equipment need to be loaded to not exceed the takt time.

Takt time is a powerful tool for any repetitive process, whether it’s in manufacturing or administration. Running a process without takt time is analogous to an orchestra playing without a conductor.

2. Standard Work Sequence

Standard work is a tool to facilitate continuous improvement. Taiichi Ohno, the father of Lean, once stated, “There cannot be improvement without a standard.” Standard work sequence defines the series of operations performed in a one-piece flow environment.

For example, an operator might carry out this sequence in a manufacturing environment:

  • unload part from machine;
  • load part into machine;
  • cycle start machine;
  • gauge part (quality check);
  • walk to assembly bench;
  • assemble part;
  • test part;
  • pack part into container;
  • walk back to first machine.

Or, in an administrative process:

  • analyze insurance claim;
  • check policy for eligibility;
  • review adjuster’s report;
  • approve claim;
  • enter claim into computer system;
  • process payment;
  • notify insured of claim status;
  • file relative claim paperwork.

The total amount of time required to perform the work sequence cannot exceed the stated takt time.

Once the work sequence is established, it’s easy to see where there are deviations to the standard work. Many times, this signals that there’s an abnormality in the process that needs to be addressed immediately, or that the standard work sequence is being violated.

3. Standard Work in Process (WIP)

Standard WIP is the amount of inventory that’s needed to allow the operator to continue a work sequence. For example, in the previous standard work sequence, the part that gets loaded into the machine allows the operator to walk away from the machine to perform subsequent work tasks. Otherwise, the operator would be idle, waiting for the machine to finish its cycle.


Kaizen is Japanese for continuous improvement.

KAI = change
ZEN = for the better

Based on the philosophy that what we do today should be better than yesterday — and what we do tomorrow should be better than today — kaizen means never resting or accepting the status quo. A way to think of it is that kaizen is a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo.

The key to creating a kaizen culture is to briefly celebrate your successes, not become complacent, and always be taking the next step on the never-ending journey to perfection. Is there ever a time where enough improvement is enough? My initial reaction is, “NO!” However, one must assess where to place your continuous improvement efforts relative to strategic initiatives.

Just in Time

Just in time (JIT) is a philosophy and strategy to increase efficiency and decrease waste by receiving or producing goods only as they are needed, when they are needed, in the quantity that they are needed.

For JIT systems to be effective, it’s vital to produce with near-perfect quality. Otherwise, defects can disrupt the production process or the orderly flow and availability of product.


Back in the early 1900s at the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, the concept of jidoka was born when a loom stopped due to breakage of thread. Jidoka is an automated process that’s sufficiently “aware” of itself so that it will:

  • Detect process malfunctions or product defects.
  • Stop itself.
  • Alert the operator.

If jidoka is not utilized, a manufacturing process will continue to produce defective product until detected by an operator, which can occur too late and be costly.

The SQDC Hierarchy

Another basic I default to when looking at a client’s challenges is the hierarchical lens of SQDC. SQDC stands for Safety, Quality, on-time Delivery, and Cost.

For example, let’s say you’re debating whether or not to airship a product, at a high cost, to a customer so it arrives on time. Because on-time delivery ranks higher than cost in the SQDC model, you know it makes sense to spend the extra money to airship.

Making improvements in SQDC can also impact growth. I worked with a company in the U.K. to bring their delivery time down to three days from 28. This resulted in them blowing away their competition in terms of service, and their sales increased significantly as a result.

You may be uncomfortable with going back to these basics at first because they aren’t easy to master, and they can sometimes seem counter to traditional business practices. However, if you stay the course, these standards will help you recover from a crisis — and get further faster.

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8 ways businesses can help during COVID-19

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In the midst of all the unprecedented challenges that companies need to focus on during the COVID-19 crisis, there is also an immense opportunity to do good. Right now, the world needs philanthropists more than ever and corporate giving offers another way for your company to differentiate itself and go deep as a leader.

So, before putting your corporate giving on autopilot, consider these eight tips to catapult your philanthropic impact. These suggestions apply to corporations of any size, in any industry, and in any location around the world.

1. Adapt your strategy.

Ideally, your corporate giving strategy already aligns with your company’s strategy and purpose. Now, give it a fresh look in the context of COVID-19. If you support a thriving local arts community, find out how you can help within this new reality.

For example, you can offer technical assistance to the local theater company to apply for federal loans. You can provide unrestricted funding to maintain basic operations and fundraising, so they can quickly scale back up when this crisis is over.

2. Volunteer virtually.

While employees won’t be sorting produce at the local food pantry, there are still many ways to help. Simply reimagine volunteering. Ask organizations what they need and then brainstorm ideas like staffing a virtual phone bank to request donations (and offer a matching gift for all donations raised).

Encourage small acts of goodness, such as donating blood, supporting local businesses, and delivering groceries to elderly neighbors. You can also quickly identify relevant and easy ways to engage your employees by allowing your cause partners to publish opportunities directly to your giving and volunteering program site.

3. Join forces with others.

No need to navigate your COVID-19 response alone. Find the crisis response funds in your community created by community and family foundations, corporations and individuals.

Pooled, leveraged and allocated to meet a wide variety of needs, these efforts can support the local food bank, domestic violence survivors, homeless families, frontline workers and more all at the same time. Here is a map of crisis response funds throughout the U.S. and a list of global funds.

4. Strengthen trusting relationships.

If your corporate giving program supports specific organizations, now’s a good time to ask them two questions: How are you doing? What can we do to help? Then listen. After listening well, act on what you learned.

What you assume they need might be different from what they actually need. But keep in mind that although we’re all in crisis mode now, this step requires patience. Be aware of power dynamics between the donor and grant recipient and take the necessary time to break down barriers and truly get to the heart of things.

5. Provide short and long-term support.

While disasters happen fast, recovery takes time. When other givers have moved on is the time when sustained gifts can make a huge and lasting difference — improving childcare infrastructure, strengthening our public health system, supporting e-learning equity in schools, and helping communities to emerge better than before. Careful long-term planning and strategy can help your corporate philanthropy have an impact that lasts for generations to come.

6. Embrace an abundance mindset.

Instead of specifying how organizations can use funding, offer them unrestricted, core operating support with the message “we trust you.” Just like you need money for research and development, executive coaching, talent retention and strategy development, so do nonprofits need unrestricted support that helps them not only survive but also thrive.

7. Create equitable solutions.

Across the United States and around the world, people of color, immigrants, elders, people with disabilities, and people struggling with poverty, homelessness, and incarceration are bearing the brunt of the effects of COVID-19. Inequitable access to healthcare, food, well-paying jobs, and even clean drinking water contribute to this disproportionate impact.

All people matter, and we must understand and prioritize those in greatest need. As we prepare for the recovery, corporate funders can help reimagine the systems the virus has revealed to be inadequate, such as closing the digital divide in our education systems and building a high-quality health care system available and affordable to all.

8. Don’t just react, innovate.

The businesses that emerge from this crisis successfully will be the ones who seize this opportunity to innovate. The same is true for corporate giving. Be a visible trailblazer. Remove rigid practices or policies and replace them with agile and leading approaches.

Perhaps your program has been weak because you didn’t yet have a clear giving strategy. There’s no time like now to create one. Don’t just bounce back from this crisis, bounce forward.

For more information, download the free guide “6 Mistakes Philanthropists Make During A Crisis (And What They Can Do Instead).

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Tips for small business leaders managing social media during COVID-19

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Small business owners have been hit hard in recent months. From forced closures to staff layoffs and increased pressure to connect with customers authentically, the road has been far from smooth. Many businesses have lost most of their communication avenues with customers except for social media.

For those not accustomed to prioritizing social, this has presented a steep learning curve. For businesses that already had a social media strategy, many components of carefully crafted plans have been put on hold or shelved. There’s a real sense of confusion and worry about how to best leverage social media, continue to grow and avoid alienating the current customer base.

As states reopen in phases, there will again be a shift. Businesses that were forced to close may now need to share updates with their followers about their plans for reopening, while others that aren’t reopening now will need to stay connected with customers in the meantime. For either group, there are five key things you should prioritize when creating a new social strategy.

Add to the conversation, not the noise

By and large, it’s a good idea for small businesses to keep posting on social if there are resources to do so. For many businesses, this is now the main customer communication tool available. The key to success lines in providing value to your followers, not just more content to sort through. Whether your business is closed or open in some capacity, you likely have things to offer customers beyond your products and services.

Consider what insights or opportunities for connection you can provide. Can you give a behind-the-scenes look at how your products are produced with a live stream? If you are a wellness-focused company, are there tips and advice for navigating our ever-changing situation that you can share?

What can you do to make your social channels a place for community? Consider creating a private group for your followers to connect, and offer conversation prompts, contests, etc. Focus on content that doesn’t ask much of your followers but gives them ways to engage further if they’d like.

If there’s a lot of unknowns for your business right now, things aren’t going well in your community or managing social media feels like added weight on your mental health, it’s OK to wave the white flag and shelve this piece. Post a brief message letting followers know you’re on hiatus and take the space you need.

Prioritize safety and be transparent

Any step toward normalcy is both exciting and anxiety-inducing in this era. If you’ve had to shutter your business temporarily and are now getting ready to reopen in some capacity, you likely have a long to-do list, a short time to get it done and a cloud of confusion surrounding everything. Your customers want to support small businesses right now and are eagerly awaiting news about your reopening. However, they’re also anxious and confused.

In your posts about reopening, lead with safety. Cover what new procedures you have in place for your business and staff to ensure the comfort and health of your customers. Even small details like having staff wash their hands multiple times a day go a long way toward helping customers feel at ease.

Keep your communications about reopening and safety straightforward and clear on social media. Attention spans are shorter than ever, and customers will want to get the key information quickly. In addition to new procedures for staff, be sure to address what you’re asking customers to do as well (asking them to wear masks, not come if they have symptoms, etc.). Be transparent and don’t be afraid to be human. Let followers know what you’re still figuring out, be available for questions that come through in comments and messages and extend the same patience you’d like in return.

Maintain a respectful tone

COVID-19 fatigue set in weeks ago; you don’t have to directly address the current situation in every post unless your business has timely updates or policy changes to share. However, you should consider that everything you post will be viewed through the coronavirus/social distancing lens for a long time to come.

A post from a local spa sharing ideas for a spa day at home is great; a post encouraging a spa day with your friends is not. A fashion brand posting about a sale on loungewear that supports relief efforts through profits is fine, but a post about essential wardrobe items for your next vacation would be quite tone-deaf.

It’s also important to consider the language you use on social, even for your positive, well-intentioned content. Any health advice you share should come directly from the CDC or WHO unless your business is an established, healthcare-related one. If you’re wishing your followers well, avoid phrases like “staying sane.” While the intent is an admirable one, the phrasing can be insensitive to those struggling with mental health issues. Recognize that “health” is a very subjective term; we recommend using phrasing around “wellness” instead.

Finally, don’t forget one of your most important audiences: your employees. If you’ve had to make difficult decisions about staffing over the past few months, consider how you can be transparent about this with your social media followers. In addition, consider how your employees will perceive the content you put up on social and how you can support them through this medium.

Experiment and engage new audiences

Though it may seem counterintuitive, now is a great time to try new things with your social platforms. As a small business owner, you may have shied away from creating video due to the logistics and time investment. However, you don’t need a professional camera and studio to make quality social media video; you just need a cellphone and a willingness to be human.

The opportunities for leveraging video are endless — behind-the-scenes videos, team profiles, Q&As, interactive livestreams and more. Video typically offers greater engagement and reach than other content types, so there’s a lot to gain and little to risk by giving it a shot.

Likewise, now is the time to experiment with social media ads if you haven’t done so previously. Just as with your organic content, ensure that you’re adding to the conversation and not the noise. People do not like to be sold to, and there are more ads than ever on social media. Build your ads around resources and useful information you can provide.

Your products may fit that bill, but ensure that your ad copy doesn’t read like a sales pitch, includes a call to action and offers something viewers can’t get elsewhere. Used strategically, social media ads can put your business in front of new audiences you’d struggle to reach otherwise.

Leverage free analytics and be flexible

As a small business owner, budgets are often tight. There’s probably not room for an expensive social media management platform right now. Though these tools can streamline your posting process and give you access to in-depth analytics reports, you can get a solid sense of how your content is doing with the built-in analytics on most platforms.

For any channel that offers an export of detailed data for the entire month — Facebook, for example — make sure to download this sheet for the best information. Focus on the month as a whole, looking at impressions, reach, engagement and clicks. Consider your social analytics alongside your Google Analytics reports, and look for connections and patterns.

Did you have a spike in traffic to your site in the middle of the week? Check and see what you posted on each of your social channels that day. Did your follower count rise significantly this month? Consider the types of content you posted and what days/times it was published.

In the COVID-19 era, staying flexible in your social strategy is key. Try new things, ask for grace and offer it in return, and expect that not everything will work out as intended. If you stick with it, your business will reach new audiences, boost engagement and increase brand awareness — long after the pandemic subsides. Take the opportunity now to lay a new foundation, build something new and create real connections.

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The future of work: Why resistance is futile

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I’ve had two careers in my life: one as a college English professor (18th century English literature, to be specific — a subject that’s in critical demand these days, as you can imagine), the other as a composer (incredible shortage of those, too…). What both professions have in common, aside from low pay, is that they’re both being transformed by technology that many musicians and teachers find threatening.

Sometimes I’m amazed how much teachers and musicians resist this transformation. Unfortunately, resistance to the incursion of technology in both professions is almost certainly doomed to failure and will deprive skilled workers the opportunity to shape this technology in ways that could benefit everyone.

In both professions, my fear is, if those qualified to use and benefit from this technology fail to adopt (and adapt it), others less qualified will substitute that technology for the skills we’ve worked so hard to acquire. The outcome’s avoidable, but only if we understand that resistance to technology is futile…

“Save Countless Hours…Without Spending Years Learning Music Theory…”

An ad for an automated chord progression finder recently popped up on my Facebook page. It promised musicians the ability to “instantly create pro-level chords and progressions…without spending years learning music theory…”

Chuck Berry’s big hit, “Johnny B. Goode,” used three chords. You don’t need a lot of music theory to write a hit. Presumably, you could avoid both “years learning music theory” and even the very reasonable price for the advertised chord progression app and just follow your heart. That seems to have worked for Aretha Franklin, whose “Chain of Fools” makes do nicely with a single chord, a feature it shares with The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” and dozens of other hits.

On the other hand, sometimes a musician — me, for on e —can be stuck partway through a song or a television or film cue and the advertised app can instantly supply a lot of inspiration and good advice. It’s not tyranny — it’s advice you don’t need to take.

But several hundred musicians who didn’t buy it, but read the ad on Facebook, erupted online in denunciation and mockery. Their comments all pretty much said the same thing: “I’ve spent years and years learning my craft, and now some idiot has a two-bit app that proposes to let someone else create music without an hour of study? — utter crap!”

Except — and this is news that may be a little hard for some to take — several friends of mine who have put in those “countless hours” and are quite good composers bought the app and loved it!

AI Technology and Education

Similarly, artificial intelligence technology promises to substantially change the education experience for students and teachers alike. This isn’t a vague statement about some indefinite future. A 2017 research study proposes that between 2017 and 2021, artificial intelligence empowered education will have grown at an annually compounded rate of more than 47%.

I’ve spoken to several teacher friends of mine, and, like their musician counterparts, their attitudes about these changes range from suspicion through disbelief and sadness — that in their view something very human at the heart of education is being thoughtlessly discarded in favor of a new toy that in the near future could also reduce the number of classroom teachers needed — not what teachers’ unions most want to hear.

The Skilled Worker Fallacy

Until quite recently, most Americans have assumed that the technological revolution — and more specifically advances in AI — will render primarily low-wage jobs unnecessary. At some point McDonald’s will be able to prepare and sell the same hamburger they’ve always sold with only one or two technology assistants per venue. We’ve digested the fact that trucks, taxis and eventually buses will soon run as well — actually, more safely — with AI technology than with an overworked underpaid driver.

What many of us have only recently come to realize, however, is that this same technology is going to change office work and skilled work at least as much, possibly more. A 2019 McKinsey study proposed that within 30 years as many as 170 million clerical jobs will disappear, replaced by technology.

A detailed 2019 study published in Nature determined that an AI algorithm outperformed six different radiologists in detecting breast cancer in 29,000 women. AI is coming for us all eventually, which will be either an incredible blessing for mankind, freeing us from compulsory work, or a terrible curse, increasing economic inequality, poverty, depression and suicide.

The Choice Is Ours

Governments will ultimately determine whether this technology revolution will be a blessing or curse. Individually there’s only so much we can do about determining that. But meanwhile, each of us — and I’m thinking particularly of those in the two professions I know best, teachers and, more broadly, artists of every kind — can determine to a considerable extent how well we’ll handle and economically survive these changes.

The technology revolution has already changed work and will continue to do so at an increasing pace. Personal success begins with acceptance, further helped by a curiosity to determine how this revolution in work can actually benefit you, your students and your listeners. Since resistance is futile, the best response is to get involved.

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What the leadership manual reveals about strategy

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Association board manuals come in all shapes and sizes. Volunteer directors rely on them to understand their responsibilities.

Some manuals are nicely bound in a notebook with a table of contents and tabs for quick reference. Others are designed as a virtual document, posted to a shared storage site or accessible on memory stick.

They have creative titles: “Pursuit of Excellence,” “Board Playbook,” and “Your Leadership Manual.”

It is a mistake to call it “Policies and Procedures.” By referencing “procedures” as a board responsibility, directors may think they oversee administration. Their focus should be on higher-level governance, leaving procedures to the staff.

“Creating a Leadership Resource Book that is easy to use is an ideal tool for developing the leadership partnership that maintains a healthy balance between governance and management responsibilities,” says Linda S. Jay, RCE of Leadership Concepts in California.

Finding the Priorities in a Manual

It is said, “If you read a budget you can identify the priorities of an organization.” A leadership manual offers similar insights. The contents of the manual reveal an organization’s strategic direction.

Manuals include sections on governing documents, purpose, responsibilities, finances, rosters and an organization chart. Analysis will unveil the priorities. This is especially important as board meetings are cancelled or conducted on-line.

Mission: The mission statement should be page one of a manual. It may be supplemented by a vision, values of the board, and a tagline. The mission is the basis for everything. If the mission is absent in the manual, check IRS Form 990, “…describe the organization’s mission and most significant activities.”

President’s Message: Presidents start the year with a message about priorities. Consider how the message frames or weaves into a strategic plan.

Bylaws: Broad purpose statements are included in the bylaws. While the statements may be outdated, drafted by the founders up to a century ago, the bylaws reveal organizational intent.

Policies: Policies represent the wisdom of prior boards. A review of the policies will reveal priorities that frame the future, such as investment strategies, scholarship qualifications, ethics compliance, and leadership expectations.

Rosters: A board roster should reflect the diversity of membership. The external job titles of directors offer insight into their experience, interests and competencies. The staffing roster and departments will align with priorities; for instance, a Director of Education or Government Affairs.

Structure: An organizational chart depicts relationships with a foundation, components, a for-profit entity and/or a political action committee. Check how the related organizations are structured and their level of performance.

Strategic Plan: Plans span 3 to 5 years, serving as a roadmap for the board. Whether it is a new or expiring plan, keep it on the board table. What was decided in the old plan will be the foundation for developing priorities and initiatives in a new plan.

Committees: Committees are appointed to advance priorities. On average an association has a dozen volunteer groups. Review the committee structure and their purpose statements to identify priorities and how the volunteer force is deployed.

Income: Revenue streams should be diverse, without 100% reliance on dues. Priorities will be reflected by income, for example the conference, magazine advertising, and certification. Revenue reveals association strengths and sustainable interests.

Expenses: Priorities are identified in expense line items. An organization allocating 35% to lobbying and legal fees will surely have advocacy among their strategies.

Assets: How the association invests assets is revealing. Owning a showcase office or building a wet lab for training identifies priorities. On the other hand, weak assets will limit setting a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) for the year. Some associations should focus on creating a reasonable reserve fund.

Membership Application: An application will highlight industry sectors and member interests. Emphasis may be on emerging professionals or career members, for instance. An application asking members to select special interest groups demonstrates engagement and area of focus.

Benefits: The strength of benefits is illuminating. Does a “golden handcuff” exist that draws and retains membership drawing a market share of 70% or higher? Does the association have intellectual property it protects and delivers in the form of a trends’ analysis, certification program or compensation study, for instance?

Publications: Check design and content. Members may not want to receive a newsletter that is out of date before it is delivered. Digital content, apps and platforms require investment in technology to deliver messages the way members prefer to receive them.

Without the Board

I’ve been asked, “Can you create our strategic plan without the board being present?” My answer is yes, though it is better to include board input. Board input can be ascertained with a survey.

If the board is averse to planning or cannot convene, use the leadership manual, a survey, and technology to frame a multiyear strategic plan.

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How the pandemic presents opportunities for association improvement

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There are hundreds of stories about organizational and personal improvement during the pandemic. People are sharing ways they are adapting.

Organizational Improvement

Many of the changes have positive, long-term impact. The adaptations are necessary or organic to survive, sustain, and thrive.

For example, what used to be a daylong board meeting requiring hours of travel is being replaced by a video conference. Groups that shied away from online technology are rethinking the concept, realizing governance decisions can be made without the expenses of in-person meetings, meals, and travel.

Regarding staffing after the government closed offices, employees and their bosses might have thought working remotely would not work. At first it was awkward without guidelines and technology. Now it is being embraced to save time, be effective and add quality of life without the hassles and costs of commuting. Could it be the new normal?

At the Ventura County Coastal Association of REALTORS®, in California, CEO Wyndi Austin said that employees have been able to collaborate and complete projects that often were set aside by the urgencies of the day when they worked in the office.

Associations are platforms for sharing concerns and learning how others are surviving. The Colorado Society of Association Executives transformed its May membership luncheon to an online forum, including breakout groups.

The meeting was an hour of questions and encouragement. For instance, while some associations were thinking of foregoing dues billing for a year, others explained how they had become indispensable to members and recruitment was up.

Organizations are improving by evaluating activities, transforming events, and creating new services for members.

Personal Improvement

For individuals, do not let the crisis paralyze you. Be proactive instead of waiting for the situation to pass. Many executives have kept blogs or written about how the pandemic has affected them.

Anastasiya Baklan, a communications specialist at the Center for International Private Enterprise office in Ukraine, wrote about five ways the pandemic has changed life for the better. Among them were development of women in business, increased use of technology for learning, and personal development.

Some people suppress their thoughts instead sharing. They might think they are alone, or nobody else will care. During social distancing and isolation, communication can be a real gift.

Do not stifle sharing for fear of the reactions. What you share can enrich others, offering solutions and help. Knowing how others are coping can have a powerful positive impact.

By sharing and writing we lighten our own fears. All people need opportunities to express themselves. Many are fearful of taking the first step of sharing their experiences.

Receiving knowledge enhances personal understanding and self-confidence. The reader opens him- or herself to new ideas.

The pandemic may be a good time for making improvements. Through sharing, blogging, writing, and reading, the possibilities expand. You have the power to give others encouragement through this difficult time.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before,” said former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.

This moment teaches us about sharing and adapting. We also realize what is beyond our reach, such as grief, economy, and pandemic.

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