From the Executive Director


An area of critical importance for any organization is reviewing the tools used to develop and deliver benefits to members. Over time, organizations tend to become more dependent on the processes and procedures used in the past. While familiarity can be a strength, it can also become a weakness and a barrier to progress. An example is the screwdriver. You can effectively drive a screw with a manual screwdriver. It works, with a little effort, every time! Over the years, you can convince yourself that this manual screwdriver is the absolutely very best way to drive a screw. You are completely convinced right up until the time someone introduces you to a battery-powered, cordless drill/driver. Oh my, what a difference a 19.2-volt battery can make!

So whose job is it to make sure AASV is using the best tools? The easy answer is everyone in the AASV, including officers, directors, committees, staff, and of course members. But does the old adage ring true that if it is everybody’s job, then nobody does it? Accountability and responsibility are keys in the efforts that lead to a better organization. Perhaps this is what drove the early organizers to establish the governing structure that includes an executive committee (president, president-elect, vice president and past president) and a board of directors (from 12 geographic areas in the United States, Canada, and Mexico). It does not let the individual member off the hook, but it does assign a higher level of accountability and responsibility to the leadership.

For AASV leadership, fall is the time of the year when a great deal of the review of the past year and planning for next year takes place. The budget committee met in September to develop a proposed budget for 2009. The board of directors met in October to finalize plans for 2009 and to approve the budget. During this meeting, the directors and officers also take time for an informal strategic discussion. They spend time discussing what tools have worked for AASV in the past and new tools that may have utility for the future.

The purpose of the board’s strategic discussion is to provide a venue where ideas, opinions, insights, perceptions, and issues can all be brought to light without taking binding formal action. The board members discuss a wide range of subjects that relate to the AASV in the past, present, and future. It is part of the learning process for the members of the board as they plan for the future. It is an excellent tool to prepare the board for the formal meeting on the next day when motions are made and resolutions are approved. The strategic discussion allows more flexibility in the planning process and more efficiency in the board’s actions.

The chairs of the AASV committees also met in October in conjunction with the board meeting to discuss issues pertinent to how committees function and succeed. These committee chairs also participate in the strategic discussion with the board. This participation is a result of the goal to strengthen the committees and enable them to contribute more effectively to the mission of the AASV. By including the committee chairs, the board is able to broaden participation in the planning process. The chairs come away with a better understanding of the board’s actions, leading to more effective and focused work within the committees.

The overall goal for AASV leadership is to provide benefits that are of value to members. What AASV does for members and how we do it are fundamental to continued success. The leadership of an organization must evaluate both what and how. We need to stop doing things that are not valued by members or do not work. We need ongoing feedback from members on what they want from AASV and how they want it delivered. This can be through the board, the officers, the committees, and the AASV office. The tools we use today may not necessarily be the best to accomplish our mission in the future. The challenge is discovering today which tools we need before the future gets here tomorrow.

So the next time you are using that old screwdriver and someone offers you a cordless driver, don’t hesitate to utilize that new tool!

--Tom Burkgren, DVM