Subscribe to my newsletter EDM News
Did you expect them to just KNOW how to do it?
4 February 2013, by , in Data Management, Executive, 4 comments

I was once on a tour of a plant where conveyor belts were being manufactured. I noticed that one of the machines had several people standing around it, and the machine did not seem to be working well (if at all). I asked the tour guide what was going on, and she replied “Oh, we always have problems with this machine. It never works right.”

So being a nosy type, I said “It looks like the people running the machine don’t really know what they’re doing.” And she replied, “Oh, that’s because they’ve never really been trained. When we hired them, we just put them on the machine, showed them how to turn it on and off, and had them get started.”

“Well what about documentation? Surely there’s a user’s manual for the machine…”

“No,” she replied. “The one they gave us didn’t make sense to us. So we’ve just been trying to figure it out as we go.”

This story is a complete fabrication, of course.

But if you substitute the word “machine” in this story with “AMS” or “database,” this is a story I hear repeated again and again in association after association. Associations invest thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars into their data management systems, only to short-change the staff by not providing the kind of documentation and training that would allow  staff to be really successful with the database.

If you ran a manufacturing plant, would you run the machines without proper training and documentation? Then why are you running your association that way?

About author:
  • Very true. We once did a two day workshop with a client to help them develop a manual that combined their internal procedures with the workings of their software into an integrated new staff training. When we were done the prevailing view was “well this is all well and good but its not realistic that we will give a new hire more than a 30 minute orientation before we turn them loose on the software.”

    • Wes Trochlil

      Michael, that would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.

  • David Janes

    It can be hard to document exactly what you do, when you have no idea of the base level of computer knowledge of the reader. If you make it too detailed, you lose people who “know what they are doing” and start to try to anticipate what the document will say (I plead guilty in this regard) but if it is not detailed enough, “it doesn’t make sense” and people muddle through as you described.

    Of course, the classic fix for this in the factory system was the unions. Apprentices Did What They Were Told and did not advance until longer term employees were satisfied with their performance. In the modern economy you a pretty much expected to hit the ground running without any period of apprenticeship to learn your craft.

    • Wes Trochlil

      David, good points. But clearly faulting to the side of “too much information” is better than what I’m seeing, which is little or no information.

Archives

Sign-up for EDM News

 

 

Testimonials

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

“We came to Wes because we were very frustrated with our existing AMS and we wanted to improve our capabilities as soon as practicable. Wes very quickly helped us through a process of identifying our needs, identifying potential vendors, and selecting a new system that we’ll be able to move into very quickly. I especially appreciated Wes’s candor about our processes as well as the systems we were looking at. He was a great resource to have in a period of high anxiety for our organization. I would highly recommend Wes for any similar project.”

Jack Chiasson, CMP Executive Director
National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
%d bloggers like this: