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"Get up early. Work hard. Find oil." (author Nancy Austin speaks at American Society of Association Executives' Second General Session)( ASAE Official Convention Daily)

"Get Up Early. Work Hard. Find Oil."

--Wednesday, August 14, 1991

Innovation. Quality. Excellence. Everyone has heard those words, but as the threads that ran through yesterday's Second General Session, they took on life and meaning.

Nancy Austin spoke brilliantly and passionately about innovation, quality, and excellence. Michael Moschen--with a spellbinding performance of illusion, dance, and juggling--showed us he embodies it, as do the 128 new CAEs recognized at the session.

Said Austin, who co-wrote with Tom Peters A Passion for Excellence: The Leadership Difference, "You are in the imagination business, as are Nippon, Canine, even TV Guide," three companies the author used to illustrate her point.

Nippon, for example, has invented a "smart toilet," as Austin termed it, that will tell you such things as your pulse, blood pressure, and even your cholesterol status. You can display the data on a screen, print it out, and if you buy the modem option, you can send it at lightning speed to your physician's office. Nippon, said Austin, believes people are becoming more health conscious, and they're capitalizing on that.

Catherine the Great said, "A great wind is blowing and that gives you either imagination or a headache." Austin used that and a number of other quotations to animate her points.

Achieving excellence means pursuing the perfect potato chip, and there is a perfect potato chip, as Austin has been assured by potato chip makers. "Whatever your perfect potato chip is is your strategic objective for the 90s," she continued.

Another quote Austin shared was this, from the chair of a British automobile manufacturer: "I believe the new trends include the requirement that the vehicle will work." She said it doesn't matter what product or service you provide, the question you have to ask yourself is "Does it work?"

More importantly, according to Austin, you have to ask your customer if it works--and you have to listen. Austin said a floor-cleaning-machine manufacturer listened to its customers. It seems machines being sold in Japan were leaking oil. The company could not understand it. Only the machines in Japan were leaking. "It must be something in the air," the company thought. But it listened to its customers, and it's a good thing it did: All the machines leaked. Only the Japanese customers said anything about it.

"Do we support our members' best aspirations? Can we do it better?" Those are but a few questions Austin said association executives have to continually ask themselves.

Harley Davidson, said Austin, used to sell motorcycles. Now the company sells legends. During a 20-year period the company lost nearly 80 percent of the heavy-bike market it once dominated. For years, the company blamed foreign competition. Its lament: "It's not our fault." But Harley got smart, said Austin. It changed everything, not the least of which was its manufacturing operation. It once took Harley a month to build a machine; now it takes five hours. The company no longer has a manufacturing operation; now it has a continuous improvement operation. With 63 percent of the market reclaimed, the company is looking toward a vast new market: women.

"They sell excitment," said Austin. "There is nothing quite like a Harley, just like there should be nothing like the Healthcare Forum, the American Association of Pharmacists--you name it."

Amidst several other examples, Austin left the audience with these key messages:

* "You can't get to a new organization

without facing up to the hard truth." * A quote from J. Paul Getty: "Get up

early. Work hard. Find oil." And

experts in that business tell Austin the

best way to find oil is to drill more

wells. To innovate, you "have to try a

lot of things," pointed out Austin. * "Promise is followed by performance." * And, borrowed from a military

commander, to succeed, "You have to

care." That you do, said Austin.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Association Management
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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