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Affiliate Road Map...How to Travel from Mediocrity to Excellence

Author(s):

Dolores Avezzano
Dolores Avezzano, Purchasing Agent, Pepsi-Cola International, Valhalla, NY 10595, 914/742-4716
Richard J. Ross, C.P.M.
Richard J. Ross, C.P.M., President Consult US, Inc., Peekskill, NY 10566, 914/736-3337

81st Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1996 - Chicago, IL

OBJECTIVE.
The Workshop is designed to provide affiliate leaders with guidance on how to challenge themselves individually as well as the membership with the objective to improve the value of the local affiliate.

BACKGROUND.
It is our belief, with proven results that members would be more eager to participate if they were prouder of their local affiliate and if they understood more about the service provided by the District and the National Organization.

When we looked at NAPM Seven Counties in 1990, we observed that we were not meeting the membership needs. NAPM Seven Counties was an affiliate in need of change. The programs being offered were in need of professional enhancement. In addition, it was noted there was a reduced level of volunteerism (many Board members had to assume multiple tasks), the number of members at monthly meetings was diminishing and we were having a difficult time attracting new members as well as retaining our existing membership.

IMPROVEMENT FACTORS...HOW DO WE MOVE TO EXCELLENCE?
A few critical actions must take place before this process can begin:

NEW BLOOD. New Blood is required to bring ideas and change the synergy of the group. A small number of people can be the catalyst which is required to attain your objectives.

A strong and aggressive core of leaders is necessary. This group must share mutual concepts and a willingness and eagerness to develop an affiliate of which they can be proud.

EXCITEMENT. Excitement must be generated throughout the leadership. In order to do this, each person must be sold on the concept that change is necessary. Once this happens, anything becomes possible. This energy called excitement very quickly carries forward to the general membership and becomes a great motivation for volunteerism.

COMMITMENT. Leadership must become more committed to do "just a little more" to help improve the organization. For example, Directors must take a more active role and should be willing to work on Committees and do more than simply attend monthly Board Meetings. The Board may wish to harness the talent of past Presidents. This Ad Hoc Committee may be used to come up with ideas or an Action Plan. In addition, they may be able to advise what was tried already and why the previous efforts failed.

One idea may be to set up a Phone Committee to pass along some of the excitement the Board is trying to generate to the General Membership. Last year our Program Chairperson sent out our Meeting Schedule during the summer on special paper which was printed with colored confetti. On the top of this paper was a Gold Seal which said "Quality Programs". Of course, the programs which are scheduled must be better to start, but once these are organized, you should make a big effort to publish this information.

This really caught the attention of our members and the President received several phone calls from members who were extremely impressed with our efforts to improve. At that September meeting, we had more members than at any previous meeting.

LOCATION-LOCATION-LOCATION. This is one of the most difficult problems to resolve. In the Seven Counties Affiliate, our members are spread across approximately a 150-200 mile radius. We made a decision to maintain our meetings in the central Westchester area. In the past, we had meetings on the second floor of a restaurant.. The noise from the first floor often distracted our members attention and detracted from the quality of our speakers. This was unacceptable.

We made a conscious decision to move our meeting to a more "professional" location and have continued to hold our meetings at the Westchester Marriott. The cost was not too different, and we found that our members were willing to pay a slightly higher price in order to have a more professional meeting location.

HONESTY. Affiliate leadership must be willing to say, "what we're doing just isn't good enough:". It's easy to keep things as they are and people, in general, dislike change, but change and facing the necessity for the change can be very powerful in helping to improve the affiliate.

ORGANIZE. It is critical to hold "Brainstorming Sessions" (more than one) with the Board of Directors, some past leaders and a few members who consistently attend monthly meetings. At first, come up with as many ideas as possible.

Once the list is made, divide it up into four segments:

  • Easy To Do and can begin immediately.
  • Possible To Do with specific individuals assigned to pursue each item along with a time period for completion.
  • Difficult But Possible in the future.
  • Totally Ridiculous and/or Impossible.

Out of these segments, you should determine whether any are critical to the future success of the organization and attempt to pursue then immediately.

A Mission Statement, Strategic Plan and Action Plan must be developed showing each of the Activities, person(s) responsible, timing and issues.

Remember that before you eliminate any item, so not use phrases like "we can't do that", rather use phrases like "how might we do that?".

POSITIVE ATTITUDE. At first, go for small easy wins. Each success will make the group want to pursue the next. If you fail, don't allow the group to give up or become discouraged, rather ask your group, "How Might We Have Done This Better?". Once you've come up with the data, maintain this list and use them as "Key Learnings" for the next effort.

NETWORK. Generally Board Meetings are a few hours long in duration and held monthly. Use the time between meetings to sell your ideas and gain support prior to the Board Meeting. At the actual Board Meeting, the time may be so limited that the Board may pass on what may actually be a very good idea.

If you speak to your counterparts one-on-one with time to explore concerns and answer questions, you may be able to get your idea approved. In addition, this gives you an opportunity to think about the resistance you may receive and how best to address the resistance.

In reality, after a while, each of us knows how people think and how they'll vote on an issue. Use your friends to Lobby your idea and become a Lobbyist yourself. One of the best ways to sell an idea is by saying, "let's try it and if it doesn't work, we can always go back to previous way of doing this action".

STRATEGIC PLAN. A Strategic Plan is critical to the success of the organization. If you already have one, you must be sure it includes specific and achievable actions. Set guidelines indicating the Action to be taken with the results expected.

Once this is done, the Strategic Planning Committee should meet at least quarterly to review how well you are doing against Plan. The results should be published along with comments on what went right and what went wrong. Basically, don't be afraid to report failures. Often our failures help us to gain support to try harder the next time.

ORIENTATION PROGRAM. An Orientation Program should be offered at least twice during the year. New members should, of course, be invited. However, publish the time and date and encourage all your members to attend.

The Orientation Program should have one leader, but each Board Member and Committee Chairperson should take an active part in explaining their responsibilities and successes. This Presentation should be presented in a professional way with Overheads and a specific plan so that everyone understands what will be expected of them.

COMMUNITY ACTIVITY AND SUPPORT. Our leadership decided to make a concerted effort to support the local community. In the past we have made food contributions to "Food Patch", a local organization who feed the poor and homeless and distribute over 8,000 pounds of food daily. This year we are supporting "Midnight Run" and organization who provide clothing to the New York City areas homeless population.

We were recently approached by a member of our affiliate who is also on the staff at a local community college. Seven of our Board Members presented a unique three part educational programs entitled "Proactive Purchasing in the 90's.

EMPOWERMENT & TRAINING.
Affiliate leadership should allow Committee leadership greater latitude. By being empowered, these Chairpeople will feel less inhibited and will be more willing to move forward with their ideas rather than waiting an entire month for the next Board Meeting.

Developing an effective leadership team is critical to the success of the affiliate. At Seven Counties, at our first Board Meeting of the year, we had a consultant come in (free of charge of course) to help us face and tear down any barriers we were experiencing. It also gave us an opportunity to know each other better which made us more effective.

BLOW YOUR OWN HORN. Be sure to publish your efforts not only within your own affiliate, but within your District. The better your group feels about themselves, the more they will want to do. The communication should be in several formats, written, verbal (at your monthly meeting) and word of mouth (person to person).

We have now begun to a have our meetings and seminars shown on the local cable station as well as the local newspaper.

We have had other organizations come to us because of our success and now have several joint meetings with these organizations each year.

COMMENTARY. We believe that "Success Breeds Success". At one point in time, we had no volunteers for leadership positions, rather, people had to be "talked into" taking a particular position. Since we've been so successful, we've had far less difficulty finding volunteers. Because of our success, volunteerism increased significantly.

For example, at one point, Seven Counties had a serious problem finding and encouraging qualified members to take over the position of Treasurer. The Board made holding the position of Treasurer a condition of being President. Since this change, we have had far less problem filling this critical position.

One of our main objectives is to Educate our members. However, for several years, we experienced financial losses with each or our seminars . Because we have become so successful, we have been able to receive support from major corporations in financially supporting our Seminars.

During 1993 we held a "Power Breakfast" and "Panel Discussion" which was financed by Pepsi Cola North America in Somers and Iona College of New Rochelle, NY. This was the first ever of it's kind. We charged a minimal fee which we donated completely to the CAPS Program.

In 1994 NYNEX agreed to support our seminar. They, too, provided a speaker, a meeting location and eliminated any financial risk on the part of our affiliate. How it worked was that NYNEX employees could attend free of charge, however, any NAPM members were required to pay for attendance. Once again, we used our profits to donate to CAPS, and experienced no financial risk.

In 1995, Ciba Geigy provided our location and speaker. This Seminar was successful and allowed us to donate $1000 to CAPS and money to our "newly founded" Patricia A. Scalzo Scholarship Fund.

During December 1995, IBM in Somers has agreed to provide the support we require. As of this writing, we have several individuals registered and are certain that we will be able to duplicate the efforts of previous years.

Is the affiliate road from Mediocrity to Excellence an easy one...absolutely not! Is it worth the trip...absolutely!!!


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