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Become Leaner and More Agile to Future-Proof Your Association

Become Leaner and More Agile to Future-Proof Your Association

We can all agree that the world is changing very quickly, and it keeps changing faster and faster. To be able to cope with the pace of change, you need to be able to move quickly and change strategies on a continual basis. It is important to be able to stay on top of changing trends and optimize all resources. For continued success, focusing on strategies and effort that will deliver the highest value work is critical.

In this article, I am going to introduce two of the most relevant movements from the software development world that will help any association stay on the cutting-edge. Both movements drive the highest value while eliminating waste of both time and money.


Lean Start-Up Movement

A key aspect of future-proofing is incorporating elements of the Lean Start-Up. What does it mean to be Lean? For the purpose of building and growing your association, it means making sure you are creating the highest value for your members.

First, map out your business model on the Business Model Canvas. This is based on the work of Alexander Osterwalder. On one page, you can answer the nine key questions for any business, organization or product.



  1. Identify your customer segments. All your key stakeholders beyond your members should be represented.
  2. What is the Value Proposition? – how do you uniquely add value to your member and customer service?
  3. Channels – how are you going to deliver this value to your members and customers?
  4. What type of relationship is it? Is it personal or automated? This is also your cost of acquisition for your members and customers.
  5. => This will outline how you generate revenues.
  6. What are the key activities that will help you deliver value?
  7. What resources do you have or need to deliver value?
  8. Who are the key partners in delivering value?
  9. => This will outline the costs you will need to incur.

Your initial Business Model canvas will include several assumptions you made, especially around what products or services your membership values the most. You must test those assumptions before you move forward. The feedback you get will generally influence your model. This is what is known as a “pivot”—when you change your model to reflect validated information.

As you continue to validate these assumptions, your association may pivot several times before it agrees to the best business model. Now, you can begin the execution of the model with an Agile approach.


A business model is like yogurt – it has an expiry date and you need to update it often.


Agile Project Management (APM)

Planning on a short-term basis while still driving towards a long-term goal is known as an Agile approach to project management. This is about planning a project in short iterations (usually 2-week sprints) and focusing only on those items driving the highest value for members, customers, and the association.

It is key to include a storyboard of all the finished products' or events' elements. Next is the planning part. It is recommended that you spend one full day planning all the work for the next two weeks. There is a task board that breaks out all the work that needs to be done and provides a way to track what is in progress and what is complete. Then, have a daily standup meeting at the beginning of each day to answer the following 3 questions:


  • What did I get done?
  • What am I working on next?
  • What is standing in my way?


At the end of the two-week sprint, the team will demonstrate what they have built and then do a retrospective to determine how to make the team better.

Incorporating elements of Agile Project Management can be very effective for associations, especially ones that have a large volunteer component. Now, the efforts of different committee can be tracked in a visual way and progress can be easily monitored, and the process has built-in accountability.



Learn more about how Agile Project Management and other approaches can improve collaboration and innovation within your association by attending my CSAE Annual Conference and Showcase session, Three Secret Strategies of Software Giants to Future-Proof Your Association.


Not any article


Nancy Mayer, Agile Project Management


Guest Contributor, Governance / Leadership, Communications



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