President's Message - The Times, They are a Changin'

by Tom Westerkamp, ICHP President
December 17, 2012

The old Bob Dylan song, “The Times, They are a Changin’,”1 was ringing in my head as I prepared for the ICHP Leadership Retreat, where 28 members gave up a big part of a weekend to evaluate ICHP’s strategies and help point the organization in the right direction.  The main focus of the retreat was to review, discuss and incorporate some of the key concepts obtained from the 2011 ASHP Presidential Officers Retreat that Scott Meyers, Chris Rivers, and I attended.

Each state affiliate was invited to attend one of two meetings last fall in which ASHP sponsored an outstanding speaker and expert in association management, Harrison Coerver, who described the book he co-authored with Mary Byers, “Race for Relevance.”2 This book provides guidance and real life examples from other associations on the complex issues that many are facing, and offers specific strategies to consider implementing to stay current in a changing marketplace.

“Come gather ‘round people, wherever you roam, and admit that the waters, around you have grown”…  The waters in pharmacy surely are swelling and swirling, and the pressures placed on professional associations are increasing. Demand for services and support has increased, there are large shifts in our membership, meeting revenue is fluctuating, affiliates are busier than ever, and many are losing members. The “Race for Relevance” describes the imperative to change, and it can help state affiliates like ICHP self-evaluate and offer tools to help refocus its resources.

“There’s a battle outside, and it’s ragin’…It’ll soon shake your windows, and rattle your walls, for the times, they are a-changin’”…Here are some of the challenges ICHP and other state affiliates are facing, as described in the “Race for Relevance”:2
•    Time crunch: Everyone is busier now (dual income households have increased from 5% in 1950 to >80% today).     Long work hours and long commutes equal shrinking personal free time.  This reduces time available for volunteering.
•    Value expectations: Members are asking or demanding, “What do I get from my membership dues?” (For example, the number of physicians that join the AMA has decreased from 75% in 1968 to 25% today).
•    Consolidation and specialization have increased: Many organizations have consolidated, but that causes more diverse membership with members having different goals and objectives, at a time when specialization (demand for specific, more relevant information is increasing). Consolidation may work for hospitals and the airline industry, but does it make sense for professional associations?
•    Generational differences: Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) have different needs than Gen X’ers (born 1965-1979) who have different needs than Millennials (born 1980 or after). Do all organizations understand that? What is being done to address the needs of these different members? Or do we communicate with and treat all members the same way?
•    Competition: Associations are competing with one another now, as specialized organizations are growing (e.g., AACP vs. ASHP).  When time and money are limited, members will narrow their membership to those organizations that they feel provide the best return on investment.  How is ICHP positioned in this competitive space?
•    Technology explosion: As we all know, there has been an exponential growth in web-based and electronic communications.  Have affiliates invested sufficient resources to keep up?

So what do we do about all this? Here are some of strategies Coerver and Byers recommend, and these specific strategies were discussed in detail at the leadership retreat:2
•    Overhaul the governance model: Associations should consider being “leaner and meaner” with a smaller executive board to facilitate action and decision making.  Streamlined organizations can react more quickly to membership needs and respond to important market conditions.  Does the current House of Delegates structure provide an adequate mechanism for timely discussion of important practice issues or is there a better alternative?
•    Overhaul committees: Associations should prioritize projects and consider focusing divisions and committees on important, meaningful projects.  ICHP should look at which divisions and committees are working best, which divisions and committees may not be needed any more, and explore which additional divisions or committees may be needed.
•    Empower the CEO and enhance staff: Associations should re-evaluate its executive staff to make sure they are empowered appropriately, and that open, honest communication is occurring.  We believe ICHP is in good shape in this area, but what can we do to improve?
•    Rationalize the member market: Associations should re-evaluate who its members are, what its core mission statement is, and then focus on a definable market segment.  It may be difficult to be everything to all segments.
•    Rationalize programs, services and activities: Experts suggest looking at the laundry list of all the things an organization does and consider focusing on those activities that matter the most. Over the years, the list of services an association provides typically increases, and often these additional services may not be utilized by many members.
•    Bridge the technology gap: ICHP needs to carefully evaluate the technology needs of the organization.  If gaps are observed, we need to find ways to fund technology improvements.
•    Strategize for success: After reviewing and discussing these issues, ICHP must define and finalize an action plan to move forward.

In addition to these discussions, the group did a “deep dive” on a few topics and conducted workshop exercises to help identify and prioritize ICHP’s core market segments and key ICHP projects and services.  Results on how these activities were prioritized, and what specific action plans were identified, will be discussed by the leadership team and be published in future editions of KeePosted.

I wanted to thank everyone that attended the retreat for their time and participation. I know it is hard to be away from home and family, and your personal time these days is shrinking. Your input on these important topics is most appreciated. Thank you for caring!

“The line it is drawn, the curse, it is cast; The slow one now, will later be fast. As the present now will later be past, the order is rapidly fadin’...
And the first one now, will later be last, for the times, they are a-changin’.”

1.    Sony Music Entertainment.  The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan. (accessed 2012 November).
2.    Coerver H, Byers M.  Race for Relevance.  Washington, DC: ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership; 2011.

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