I’ve been a fan of Jim Collin’s Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t for some time and was excited last year to see the publication of 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t, a book that applies the Good to Great lens to associations in an effort to determine what sets great associations apart from the pack. In the study reported on in the book, nine associations emerged as having demonstrated remarkable performance over time, and—as the title suggests—seven key factors seemed to contribute to this success. These were:
- A Customer Service Culture
- Alignment of Products and Services with Mission
- Data-Driven Strategies
- Dialogue and Engagement
- The CEO as Broker of Ideas
- Organizational Adaptability
- Alliance Building
It is interesting to me that seven out of the nine organizations studied in the book have active online learning programs and one is in the process of launching a program. Is the adoption of e-learning symptomatic of remarkable organizations? That may be pushing things a bit too far, but nonetheless, it is possible to see a strong correlation between some of the factors noted above and the adoption of online learning. Four of the measures stand out:
A Customer Service Culture
For most organizations, the decision to offer online learning reflects a desire to expand the range of education options available to stakeholders and/or to make access to the available options as convenient as possible. Caveat: Great customer service must be part of the e-learning initiative for it to ultimately be successful.
Alignment of Products and Services with Mission
Education is a critical part of the mission of most associations. (According to the ASAE, membership training and education is the single largest budget item for associations.) Offering online access to educational opportunities is thus a natural way to support an organization’s mission. Caveat: The actual content delivered online must also be supportive of the organization’s mission. Simply offering a catalog of off-the-shelf courses, for instance, may or may not fit this requirement.
The ability it can offer for easily capturing a variety of data about learner activity is one of the strengths of online learning. Combine this with other data captured in an AMS, CRM, or e-mail marketing system, and an organization may have powerful business intelligence for making strategic decisions. Caveat: Data, of course, is only as good as the minds that analyze it and put it to use.
The move to adopt online learning may, in itself, be a sign of an organization’s ability to embrace change. And the ability to provide just-in-time knowledge via e-learning tools can greatly enhance an organization’s ability to lead change across its stakeholder base. Caveat: Organizations have a tendency to try for too much change at once when they head into the world of online learning.
As for the other measures—Dialogue and Engagement, the CEO as Broker of Ideas, and Alliance Building—there may not be as strong a correlation between these (at least as they are treated in the book) and the adoption of online learning, but certainly it is not difficult to imagine the first two helping to drive the adoption of e-learning and the last occurring as a result of efforts to implement a successful e-learning initiative. In any case, it seems likely that organizations that pursue the adoption of online learning within a framework like the 7 measures are significantly more likely to meet with success than those that view it as simply another education or technology project.
P.S. – I now do most of my writing related to e-learning and the association world over at Tagoras, where I also provide a range of consulting services to help organizations develop and implement a successful e-learning strategy.