A New Lens for 7 Measures of Success

A happy team celebrating a success June 14, 2024 By: Keith Skillman, CAE

Nearly two decades ago, a red book published by ASAE captured seminal research. It became an instant classic by defining a framework of disciplines embodied in high-achieving associations. As the ASAE Research Foundation takes a new look at that research, its view is firmly focused on the future.

Do the contents of 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t, published by ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership 18 years ago, have more lessons to share? Thought leaders organized through the ASAE Research Foundation think so, but only as viewed through a refreshed lens that reflects a future likely to be characterized by change far more dynamic than most could have fathomed in 2006.

On June 17 in Chicago, association leaders will gather for a foundation research summit, an initial dialogue designed to explore the evolution of the practices defined in the original research. What has changed? In 2024-and-beyond terms, what insights can a deep dive into the 7 Measures framework reveal? A second, similar dialogue will be convened in Washington, D.C., September 10. ASAE will share the outcomes with the association community.

Seminal Research, Distinctive Practices

The gifts of 7 Measures were an insightful framework of practiced disciplines that leaders could adopt or adapt to their organizational journeys, along with credible examples of organizations that embodied the disciplines. Three commitments—to purpose, analysis and feedback, and action—framed these seven disciplines:

  • Customer-service culture
  • Alignment of products and services with mission
  • Data-driven strategies
  • Dialogue and engagement
  • CEO as broker of ideas
  • Organizational adaptability
  • Alliance-building

They resonate still, but why 7 Measures, and why now? Leaders working on the foundation initiative see the framework as exactly that: a frame of reference for teasing out what has changed, what is shifting, and what leaders must understand about what they are being called upon to accomplish. Wendy-Jo Toyama, FASAE, CAE, the CEO of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and chair of the research foundation’s 7 Measures task force, puts it this way: “The three areas of commitment from 7 Measures still resonate. How the measures show up and how we must think about the issues we must confront are different. What has not changed is that organizations want to be exceptional.”

Resetting 7 Measures

Everything has changed and will continue to do so. In 2006, when the original research came out, most of us were not tapping into, or worrying about, artificial intelligence. We didn’t click into Zoom meetings. And it was not until the next year that a sleek device mainstreamed the smartphone. Leaders navigated change but planned and adapted at a different pace than is demanded today. As Patrick Glaser, chief practice officer at McKinley Advisors and vice chair of the 7 Measures task force points out, the changes that associations and their leaders are experiencing “aren’t single, unconnected changes, like an economic crisis or a new technology, but systems-level changes … that have led to changes in trust in society and new expectations for organizations.” Among them are the speed of business and economic change, generational technology developments, interconnectedness, racial reckoning, and globalization.

Against that backdrop, what will it take for associations to thrive? In 7 Measures terms, for instance, what characterizes organizational adaptability in 2024 and beyond? Are associations structured and flexible and nimble enough to excel in this environment? Are their governance systems and practices sufficient to support innovation? What do data-driven strategies look like in the context of AI?

These and other questions are likely to be top of mind as the foundation’s 7 Measures organizational effectiveness initiative unfolds and shapes a modernized framework—something that, as Toyama emphasizes, is “agile and applicable and useful.”

Keith Skillman, CAE

Keith Skillman, CAE, based in Lawrence, Kansas, writes about associations and their work.