Conference Sparked 'Best Practices' Goals

The success of the recent 2007 Leadership Conference held in Tulsa -- and particularly the focus groups on best practices -- stems from what one might call a personal and organizational willingness to learn.

From the first e-mail request to share examples of “what’s working in your Section, Region or affiliated society,” AAPG leaders around the world were quick to respond with a sense of curiosity and a desire to learn from their colleagues.

The Need

But why the need to gather examples of successful practices? Why the need to come together to talk about such common practices as how meetings are run, how new members are recruited, how revenue is generated?

Indeed, most Sections and many of the affiliated societies have been organized for many years, and their annual meetings run like clockwork.

But AAPG members, in general, are an aging group. Contrast member demographics with a boom time for the industry, and the need to recruit new members and encourage students to pursue a career in geosciences. And when the industry is booming, volunteer time is scarce, so the need for more efficient methods is more important than ever.

The Regions, however, formed during the 1990s, have accomplished much since their inception. Leaders have faced up to the challenge of members within their Region who may not share a common language; whose membership spans vast geographic distances; and whose economic situations vary broadly.

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The success of the recent 2007 Leadership Conference held in Tulsa -- and particularly the focus groups on best practices -- stems from what one might call a personal and organizational willingness to learn.

From the first e-mail request to share examples of “what’s working in your Section, Region or affiliated society,” AAPG leaders around the world were quick to respond with a sense of curiosity and a desire to learn from their colleagues.

The Need

But why the need to gather examples of successful practices? Why the need to come together to talk about such common practices as how meetings are run, how new members are recruited, how revenue is generated?

Indeed, most Sections and many of the affiliated societies have been organized for many years, and their annual meetings run like clockwork.

But AAPG members, in general, are an aging group. Contrast member demographics with a boom time for the industry, and the need to recruit new members and encourage students to pursue a career in geosciences. And when the industry is booming, volunteer time is scarce, so the need for more efficient methods is more important than ever.

The Regions, however, formed during the 1990s, have accomplished much since their inception. Leaders have faced up to the challenge of members within their Region who may not share a common language; whose membership spans vast geographic distances; and whose economic situations vary broadly.

The Leadership Conference offered AAPG officers, officer candidates, Region, Section and affiliate society leaders an opportunity to learn from past experiences and benefit from new perspectives, while becoming reinvigorated and rededicated to the work of AAPG.

Define ‘Best Practice’

“Best Practices” is a management idea that asserts that there is a technique, method, process or activity that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, etc.

The idea is that with proper processes, documentation and testing, a project can be rolled out and completed with fewer problems and unforeseen complications -- in other words, with greater efficiency and a greater chance of success.

The notion of ‘best practices’ does not commit people, companies or organizations to one inflexible, unchanging practice. Instead, “best practices” is a philosophical approach based upon continuous learning and continual improvement.

The Process

Understanding that learning and the transfer of ideas is an interactive and dynamic process, the focus group sessions were designed to do four things:

  • Start from a basis of 99 best practices submitted in advance by e-mail.
  • Invite participants to add to or build on identified categories or themes.
  • Brainstorm and discuss as a group.
  • Prioritize and document the resulting ideas through a voting process.

Participants also were encouraged to identify areas for linkages between Regions and Sections, as well as areas where the AAPG headquarters staff could assist or facilitate.

Conference attendees chose to attend one or both 1-1/2 hour focus group sessions. Of the 147 people who attended the Leadership Conference, 133 came from 19 U.S. states and 14 hailed from Canada and seven countries within the Europe and Asia-Pacific Regions. Thirty-eight people participated in the Sections & Regions group; 26 in the Affiliated Societies group, including departmental representatives of AAPG staff.

AAPG officer candidates and yours truly facilitated the focus groups. Candidates for vice president of Sections, John Armentrout and John Curtis, together with candidates for vice president of Regions, John Hogg and John Kaldi, led the Best Practices of Sections and Regions group; candidates for AAPG secretary, Ted Beaumont and Terry O’Hare, led the Best Practices of Affiliated Societies focus group.

A final report of discussion results and voting priorities for both focus groups may be found on the AAPG Web site at www.aapg.org.

An Example

Space does not permit including all the best practices in this article, but here are three ideas prioritized by the focus group that are all related to making the job of Section/Region leaders more efficient and effective through on-going opportunities for sharing proven ideas:

AAPG headquarters capture Section and Region operations information and place it on a Web site, where Regions and Sections can evaluate “best practices” for improving their respective operations: include organizational chart; procedure manuals and forms, especially for meetings and training programs; accounting/finance practices; insurance policy, especially for field programs; member services offered; outreach practices; and awards programs.

Establish a Regions/Sections Operations Information Web site, so Region or Section officers can quickly access the data and select and implement “best practices.”

This Web site should include links to Sections/Regions programs, newsletters and general bulletin board information.

Provide an online discussion forum within the Regions/Sections Web site, providing an opportunity for sharing issues across the leadership community.

What’s Next?

Reports from the Leadership Conference will be circulated among the conference participants and posted for viewing and comment by all AAPG members. Specific recommendations and action steps will be submitted to the AAPG Executive Committee for their consideration and implementation.

The sharing of experience and transfer of knowledge is a people-to-people process, but meaningful relationships precede sharing and transfer. Best practices within AAPG’s Sections, Regions and affiliated societies will continually evolve.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

Look for descriptions of other best practices in this column each month -- and if you have a “best practice” to share from your Section, Region or affiliated society, or if you would like to receive a copy of the 99 best practices compilation, contact me.

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