“If you are not a project manager, then find one quick.” This is the very first piece of advice Stephen Lake offers leaders of non-profit and/or community organizations. As a professional management consultant/project manager and active committee member of a number of community organizations, Stephen Lake is something of an expert on coordinating people to work towards a common goal. “The challenges,” he recognizes, “are many. Changing technologies, the constant pressure to cut costs, leaders who lack vision, the nature and politics of voluntary organization, I could go on…” Yet Stephen manages to meet those challenges, whether he’s consulting for Governance Today and Advantage International or volunteering for The Rotary Club of Melbourne or the Institute of Management Consultants.
One of Stephen’s tenets of good management is never letting yourself become indispensable – to do so, he explains, creates a risk for your organization. Which is why it was so important to use management software that is accessible and easy to use. It is a testament to Stephen’s thoroughness that he only decided on GroupSpaces after completing “a detailed analysis of 15 vendors found on the internet or from past experience and word of mouth. GroupSpaces ticked most of my ‘boxes’.”
Of all his groups, Stephen has been especially pleased with the success of the Herreshoff H28 Association of Australia, Inc, an association which supports a fleet of classic wooden and modern fibreglass yachts throughout Australia. Stephen was tasked with implementing a website for the association when he joined the Committee. He began with a Google Website but quickly made the upgrade to GroupSpaces where he is able to maintain a website, a membership system, a subscription system, and event management system from a single place. “GroupSpaces has revolutionized the organization. We have gone from a state association, struggling to get subscriptions in, with multiple versions of membership records, to a simple-to-manage and efficient organization which attracts members whose yachts we never knew existed. We started with 70 known yachts and now have over 150 in just 12 months.”
Although GroupSpaces is a big help, Stephen has many years of experience to aid him in managing organizations well. What are some of the insights he’s developed over the years? “Be clear on the benefits you expect to realize,” he begins. “Actively practice risk management, check your assumptions regularly in case they change. Never run an implementation longer than 9 months – by then the world will have changed. Don’t forget to document – wiki’s are great for this. No matter how much you have emotionally invested in a solution, be prepared to listen to and learn from all criticisms.”