CEO to CEO: Process and Technology

The importance of process to an association and the impact of technology on an industry.

How important is 'process' to the success of your association?

One of the key internal activities of the National Science Teachers Association is to think about and improve how we carry out our work. So much of our work today is done across existing departments. Peter Senge's work on learning organizations shows how processes, not the individual, complete the work because many people play a role in completing a task. We can learn from and improve processes more quickly. Individuals can get blamed or credited for tasks, leading to greater isolation and silo thinking within departments. Improving processes leads to better communication, collaboration, and positive staff morale.

—Francis Eberle, Ph.D., executive director, National Science Teachers Association, Arlington, Virginia. Email: [email protected]

While I have every respect for process—we have plenty of processes—at the end of the day it is results orientation rather than a process culture that gets the job done. And, in a membership organization of 2,000 type-A CEOs, getting the job done is our main goal.

—Barbara Reno, executive director, Chief Executives Organization, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland. Email: [email protected]

Process is what enables great vision to actually get done. As I come into a new role as executive director of the Educational Theatre Association, I plan to reapply my corporate experience from 15 years at Procter & Gamble to implement new processes at our association. In my early assessment, the organization has very strong fundamentals but can be even more productive by focusing on three areas of opportunity when it comes to process: more pre-planning to avoid the last-minute surge, working in multifunctional teams that cross departments, and implementing our strategic plan with measures of success and regular tracking. With more defined processes, we will enable our skilled and motivated staff to reach new heights.

—Julie Woffington, executive director, Educational Theatre Association, Cincinnati. Email: [email protected]

Long term, having the right process takes a back seat to having the right goals. Having appropriate processes in place is essential to be efficient, but organizations with great processes risk irrelevancy if they haven't accurately identified the outcomes that their processes are intended to serve. However, as an association CEO, improving our processes is my major focus on a day-to-day basis. Complex organizations must continually alter their processes in response to shifting priorities, new technology, legal requirements, changes in staff capacity and capability, and available financial resources, and by recognizing that there are always opportunities for improvement. When current processes are routinely defended with "that's the way we've always done it," you know that your organization's culture jeopardizes innovation and adaptability.

—Larry Merrill, executive director, Michigan Townships Association, Lansing, Michigan. Email: [email protected]

What technology has made the biggest impact on your industry in the last five years?

The smartphone has changed our work life, home life, and social life more drastically than any other single technological device in the past five years. We now have instant communication anytime and almost anywhere. To a great extent my smartphone has done away with "office hours"—I am in the office all hours. The upside to the smartphone is better management of communication, while the challenge is to govern the addiction to checking messages constantly. The smartphone also helps to balance work demands and family demands.

—Ann Turner, Ph.D., FASAE, CAE, executive director, American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, Memphis, Tennessee. Email: [email protected]

I would say, without a doubt, it is the advent and constant innovation of electronic banking systems, both commercial and consumer. Online banking has become PDA banking. Remote-deposit capture has given consumers and businesses the ability to swipe checks remotely and have the amounts instantly credited to their accounts. Now, there are many apps that allow for PDA loan applications, money transfers, tax preparation, investment planning, and so forth. Even credit and debit cards are in danger of becoming extinct with the evolution of electronic phone system banking applications. All of this has led to exponentially diminished physical payment instruments.

—Anthony Emerson, president and CEO, Credit Union League of Connecticut, Meriden, Connecticut. Email: [email protected]

The use of broadband and mobile data has had the largest effect on the nation's fire and emergency services. Through smartphones, laptops, and tablets, fire chiefs are now able to access critical information on emergency scenes in real time and to use that information to make better command decisions. Building layouts, water system information, chemical information, aerial photographs, mapping, command checklists, and instant weather information all give our members tools at their fingertips that could only be dreamed about in the past. The impact is realized when lives are saved and property damage is reduced through better decision making based on fast and accurate information received from technology.

—Mark Light, CAE, CEO and executive director, International Association of Fire Chiefs, Fairfax, Virginia. Email: [email protected]

Rapid email technology has been the biggest boost to our industry and organization. We handle and report to members on hundreds of issues per year, and they rely on us to keep them fully informed before something happens or as it hits the media. We can tell them, and we can get real-world input back from them within minutes. This puts us way ahead as a player in shaping the next steps.

—Fred Hunt, active past president, Society of Professional Benefit Administrators, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Email: [email protected]

Watch Now: CEO to CEO: Work-Life Balance

Steve Turckiewicz, CAE, president and CEO of the Montana Bankers Association, shares his tips on balancing work and your personal life.