Several months ago, I began preparing for the upcoming AGA year and thinking about the opportunity and privilege that I have to serve the members of AGA as its 44th National President. At the PDC in Orlando, I will be briefly highlighting my goals and objectives for the coming year. In this article, would like to share with each of AGA's members the details of these goals and objectives. My hope is that these will become the basis for a shared vision for the future of AGA and would like to hear from you as to your reaction.
In one respect, the times could not be better. Today, our Association is very strong, vibrant and on a sound financial footing, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our members. During my three years as a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC), I have had the privilege of working with four National Presidents --Virginia Robinson, Dick Kusserow, Clyde Jeffcoat and Charles Harrison--whose dedication and leadership have been critical to positioning us for the future. My approach is to build on what has come before, since only through continuity and a long-term commitment will we obtain the results that are possible and move AGA to even higher levels of excellence.
The future promises interesting challenges to ACA and its members. Government at all levels is going through a major period of reevaluation and reflection which promises profound changes or, as the popular refrain calls it, "reinvention." Change brings with it tremendous opportunity but only to those who grab the opportunity. Excellent organizations, such as our Association, rise to the challenge, and we should all look forward to the opportunity that reinvention affords us to expand the horizons of AGA and the importance of government financial management.
With that said, the remainder of this article details my goals and objectives for AGA for the coming year. These thoughts were provided to our National Officers, the Regional Vice Presidents, the National Committees and each Chapter President in April so that they could begin planning for the coming year. I wanted each of you, the members of AGA for whom our Association and I as your National President are dedicated to serve, to be aware of this thinking and hopefully take an active role as AGA faces the challenges of "Reinventing Financial Management Excellence in a Changing World." Whatever we have achieved in the past and will achieve in the future depends on you and your strong support of our profession and AGA.
PROACTIVE FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT LEADERSHIP
GOAL 1. Expand AGA's role as national leader on government financial management issues. Over the years, AGA and its members have played a major role in a wide range of financial management improvement initiatives, most notably the promotion of operational and performance auditing, the Inspectors General concept, the Single Audit, the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act and the Chief Financial Officers Act.
Today the world is rapidly changing, and our country faces a period of major transition in the way government operates. President Clinton spoke in his inaugural address about "Reinventing America." State and local governments have for several years faced change as they have experienced budget limitations, coupled with increasing demands for services. And the federal government is beginning to face up to the realities of its huge deficit and the public perception that government is not working as it should.
At the same time, people at all levels of government are beginning to better understand the importance of having good financial and program performance information in making tough choices and providing accountability.
AGA needs to play an important role in "reinventing financial management" to broadly encompass financial operations, systems, financial analysis (which includes the measurement of performance and the development of cost information), reporting, budgeting, auditing, program evaluation and investigation. AGA's continuing role should be one of a catalyst for reform by providing our perspectives and strongly advocating changes needed to promote "everyday excellence" in financial management and service to the public at all levels of government and in the private sector where government funds are involved. We need to promote the importance of financial management and a better understanding by government managers and leaders as to what financial management can do to strengthen government management and accountability.
1A. Through the Emerging Issues Committee, position the Association long-term to be able to be a catalyst for change by proactively addressing the major issues facing government financial management at all levels, with a primary focus on six integrated areas: (1) financial operations, (2) internal (management) controls, (3) systems and technology, (41 financial reporting, (5) budgeting and (6) auditing.
1B. Initiate at least six emerging issues projects and provide overall views on any needed actions identified by the Emerging Issues Committee.
1C. Establish policies and procedures for preparing and issuing emerging issues reports, papers, briefing documents and correspondence which would provide for (1) frequent, timely and effective response to issues and (2) adequate NEC oversight.
1D. Focus, where applicable, the work of other AGA National Committees to support emerging issues. For example, in addition to commenting on specific standards proposed by the various standard setting bodies, the Financial Management Standards Committee could expand its role to provide AGA's views on the future direction of standard setting and where AGA sees opportunities for the profession to expand its thinking.
The State and Local Government and International Affairs Committees could also play a major part of the Emerging Issues Committees' future work.
1E. Target research work of AGA's Education and Research Foundation to tie into emerging issues initiatives to the extent possible.
1F. Explore, in conjunction with the Education and Research Foundation, the feasibility of obtaining assistance through the federal government's executive exchange program, whereby a senior financial manager would work with AGA on emerging issues and the Education and Research Foundation's initiatives.
1G. Devote at least one issue of the 4GA JOURNAL to a major emerging issues theme.
1H. Request that the National Awards Committee consider recognizing "Excellence in Emerging Issues" as part of the national awards program.
EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
GOAL 2. Enhance AGA's educational and professional development programs and the Association's ability to use technology to expand training and development opportunities to a larger number of its members and to nonmembers who represent a growing potential customer.
The bywords for AGA are education and professional development. With the evolvements we are now seeing around the world and in our country in reinventing financial management and ever changing technology and expectations, education takes on an even greater importance. At the same time, with increased competition for government funds and ongoing efforts reduce spending at all levels of government, we can expect what may well be a prolonged period of ever shrinking training and travel budgets.
In work requiring technical professional knowledge, as is the nature of the work of AGA's members, training is a key means of increasing people productivity; and all of our organizations can expect to have to do more work with fewer people. That is reality a certainty, though we do not yet know the form it will take.
Thus, in the face of declining budgets, one of AGA's key roles will be to aggressively champion the need for investments in training to build a more efficient and effective financial management infrastructure through a highly trained cadre of professional financial managers. This is a tough sales job that an independent professional organization like AGA can champion well, since training has traditionally been one of the first items on the chopping block as it is an easy budget reduction target without a clear constituency.
A senior government program manager remarked to me one day, that "while conceptually training may be important, in government you can more easily afford not to train people than to train them." The challenge is to dispel the common notion that organizations are not harmed by reducing training and that governmental units can afford worker obsolescence.
AGA's current compliment of educational events is excellent. National President Charles Harrison's 1992 survey showed that by a 10 to 1 margin our membership considers the PDC a strength of the Association. Education and training at the chapter and national levels also received high marks; and not too surprisingly, members viewed opportunities for education to be much greater at the chapter level.
We need to build on this strength and success and strategically plan for the future. We need to look at how we deliver training and whether we can better use technology in expanding our audience, especially for national events where the bulk of our members and others in our profession may not have an opportunity to participate because of limited training and travel dollars.
Among the issues to be considered will be the development of videotapes of high level speakers, seminars, etc. that would be provided to the chapters free of charge and the use of videoconferencing for national events and training conducted by the Education and Research Foundation. Also, we need to continually evolve the role of the Education and Research Foundation and its ability to support a wider range of our members and chapters.
Further, we need to be proactive in urging the need for training of government financial managers as called for in AGA's Blue Ribbon Task Force report on Attracting and Retaining Financial Management Personnel. We need to think of training not only our members, but those in our profession who, for whatever reason, may not be a member of our Association. One priority will be to push for a mandatory CPE requirement for accountants and other financial managers similar to the requirement now in place for auditors.
2A. Ensure the continued excellence of AGA's National PDC to be held in Washington, D.C. on June 13-15, 1994, through a first rate program that includes international participation. Among the objectives for the 1994 PDC will be to increase sponsorship and to explore new concepts for delivering selected sessions to an expanded audience.
2B. Build on past successes in enhancing the Federal Leadership Conference to be held in Washington, D.C. on January 13-14, 1994.
2C. Institutionalize as a premier national educational event the highly successful State and Local Government Leadership Conference, which was held for the first time in September 1992, The second annual conference will be held on November 1-2, 1993, in Seattle, Washington, and plans will be finalized for the third annual conference, tentatively scheduled for Columbus, Ohio at about the same time period in 1994.
2D. Determine who are our customers for the PDC and other major educational events by developing much better defined baseline and trend data as to who attends AGA conferences, how often and why they attend, and vice versa, who does not attend.
2E. Establish a task force, in conjunction with the 1994 National PDC Planning Committee and the Education and Research Foundation, to explore and, to the extent practical, pilot test the use of readily available technology, such as videoconferencing and videotapes, to expand the ability of AGA to provide educational opportunities to all of its members, This will require careful study and planning and a multi-year commitment, but is necessary to position AGA for the future.
2F. Working with the Education and Research Foundation, explore ways of making training available to larger groups and targeted audiences, such as a specific agency, possibly at less cost, while still maintaining AGA's continuing financial viability.
2G. Through our emerging issues initiative, explore aggressively the advisability of, and best strategy for, advocating mandatory CPE for accountants and financial managers similar to the requirement now in place for the audit community.
2H. Encourage all regions to hold regional professional development conferences or technical symposiums, This year, seven regions held such conferences, The long range goal will be for every region (with the possible exception of the regions hosting the National PDC and State and Local Leadership Conference) to hold such a meeting each year as a regular part of their education programs. This would be done in consultation and with the strong leadership of the RVPs, who will have to be a catalyst for expanding this program, and with the help of the Chapter Programs and Assistance Committee.
2I. Set as an expectation that each chapter provide at least 16 hours of quality continuing professional education annually, with a goal of 24 hours for chapters already at this level.
GOAL 3. Foster a strong network of AGA chapters.
The lifeblood of AGA is its chapters, made up of our members. Our elected officials, the NEC, the National Office, our National Committees and the Education and Research Foundation, all should have the same goal: to serve our members by providing a structure within which members can enhance their professional development and promote excellence in their chosen profession in order to better serve the public. We need to do all we can to support efforts of our chapters to expand their horizons and to support their members with quality education and professional development opportunities.
While the vast majority of our chapters are strong and vibrant, unfortunately, some chapters are in trouble. Also, even our strong chapters can grow professionally and must strive for continuous improvement. We must be ever-vigilant of our chapters' needs during a period of likely reductions and changes in government programs and operations.
Our chapters are doing a number of innovative things to make their programs interesting and responsive to their members' needs and to strengthen their operations and membership. For instance, in the past two years, seven regions have held regional educational events, attended by thousands of AGA and non-AGA members.
There is undoubtedly no shortage of good ideas and things that have worked well for individual chapters or regions. We need to share what works well and provide a clear mechanism for responding at the national level to the current and emerging needs of our chapters. We need to be able to help a chapter, not just when it becomes troubled, but before serious problems arise, and to strengthen even our best chapters.
This year, the National Chapter Programs and Assistance Committee was established to assist chapters principally in the areas of(1) rebuilding troubled chapters, (2) establishing new chapters and (3) education and capacity building. The work of this important National Committee is just beginning, and for this reason, I agreed up front that the committee composition and leadership put in place this year by National President Charles Harrison will remain intact for the coming year.
3A. Identify troubled chapters, assess their particular needs and problems and develop and aggressively carry out an action plan to provide the type and level of support needed from AGA.
3B. Make educational expertise available to chapters and regions to enhance the quality of educational programs.
3C. Maintain a speakers bureau. Based on input from chapters as to their needs, work to expand over time the number and mix of speakers and develop a commitment of availability.
3D. Focus on the sharing of best practices: for instance, by publishing information that highlights planned AGA regional and chapter educational events and other activities in a manner that provides meaningful ideas and approaches that might be useful to other chapters.
3E. Conduct, through the RVPs, a survey of chapter assistance needs, which would be updated annually.
GOAL 4. Expand AGA's membership by retaining a greater percentage of our current membership, and over a three year period, energizing each member to recruit at least one new member to AGA.
Hand in hand with ensuring the continuing strength of our chapters and the Association overall, is expanding the base of membership. This is easier said than done as AGA has been at a plateau of about 12,000 members for a number of years, despite a lot of hard work and innovative ideas.
In one respect, we should be pleased. We have maintained our membership base, while a number of professional organizations have not been so fortunate. But we must intensify our efforts to reach out to others in the financial management community. National President Charles Hanison said it well--"If AGA is to become an outstanding and effective national organization, it must 'blast off this membership plateau and achieve new and significant membership heights."
In membership, we have to look long-term. And we have to understand that a growing membership is critical to carrying out AGA's important role of fostering "everyday excellence" in financial management. It also has important implications for our long-term financial situation. The Association has probably never been in better shape financially. We now own our building outright thanks to the support and hard work of our members, and our cash reserves are solid. But as Treasurer-elect Tom Sadowski has pointed out in looking at our budget long-term, we cannot rest on our laurels. With a projected membership level that is unchanged and educational revenues that have remained stable over time, AGA's financial condition will begin to erode as our costs rise with the general cost of living.
We may face the undesirable consequences of having to reduce services and/or increase dues or fees in order to balance our annual operating budget. Increasing our membership base will help us deal financially with the future.
How do we break through the magical 12,000 member ceiling? Attracting new members and retaining existing members is largely dependent on (1) aggressive recruiting, (2) fostering members' participation in Association activities at the chapter and national levels and (3) providing interesting monthly chapter meetings and educational events that are well attended.
Well attended monthly chapter meetings are critical to a chapter's well-being, and vibrant chapters draw members. Declining meeting attendance generally leads to a deterioration of meetings, a decline in membership and ultimately, a chapter's demise. Thus, good attendance at monthly meetings is essential to long-term chapter health and membership growth.
We must effectively use the 12,000 AGA ambassadors we now have on board. We need to energize each of our members to be active in AGA and to recruit at least one new member over the next three years.
We must strive to increase the participation of our current membership in AGA activities. In doing so, we have a much better chance of retaining our present members. We have been losing upwards of 2,000 members annually which offsets our 2,000 new members each year. Members who become active in AGA stay with our Association. Chapters provide the greatest number of opportunities for member participation. Some chapters report having 25 percent or more of their members active in important chapter activities, such as education and community service, and effectively involve members who are early in their professional careers.
Greater diversity is important for the long-term health of our chapters. Some chapters are primarily comprised of auditors; others are mostly accountants; and still others are essentially all federal or all state and local. A member's natural tendency (or at least I can speak of my own experience) would be to recruit new members from their work environment. It is a lot harder to branch out, but perhaps that offers the greatest potential for long-term growth of the Association. By expanding its membership diversity, the foundation of the chapter is broadened and there is a better chance of expanding the membership.
Effective retention and recruiting requires that we determine why people join AGA and why they do not join, what causes them to be active in the Association versus simply paying their dues, and why, after joining, people drop their membership. We need to obtain good demographic information as to our potential membership pool. For instance, it would be helpful to know the total number of accountants, auditors and budget analysts employed at the federal, state and local levels, arrayed by geographic area, job category and employer. Such data would enable us to determine the proportion of the market in each geographic area, employment category and employer that AGA has attracted as members.
This will answer questions such as who belongs and who doesn't belong to AGA. A separate portion of the study could answer why the people who are members have joined AGA, and it may also be helpful to know how many members have multiple memberships in other professional organizations and the names of these organizations.
This type of information should be helpful to our chapters in targeting potential members and in developing both our national and chapter marketing plans. Finally. surveying people who leave AGA can help us determine what to do to encourage them to return and then stay with us.
4A. Increase AGA's membership to 13,000 by the end of the 1995-1996 program year (three year goal). This nine percent increase equates to a three percent growth per year, net of losses. This objective recognizes that retaining and attracting members has been a long-standing challenge that realistically will not be addressed by short-term actions during the term of one National President but will require a multi-year strategy.
4B. Commission a special study by the Executive Director, with assistance of the RVPs and others as needed, and in consultation with the National Membership Committee, to determine the demographics of AGA's potential membership to be used as a tool in marketing and membership.
4C. Establish a National Marketing Task Force. with the Chair of the National Membership Committee and AGA's Executive Director serving as the Co-Chairs. The task force. Using the results of a recently completed marketing study. together with the vast experiences of AGA members, would recommend to the NEC and help implement a marketing strategy for the Association, which would eventually translate into marketing plans tailored for each chapter.
4D. Continue the program established this year to award a free registration and transportation to the 1994 PDC or establish some other form of recognition and incentive for the person who recruits the most new members during the year.
4E. Present to the NEC a proposal for establishing a National Early Career Activities Committee whose charter would be to create and sustain initiatives at the chapter and national levels that encourage new financial management professionals to join and become active in AGA. Getting people involved in their formative years will be key to the growth and long-term vitality of AGA.
4F. Encourage chapters to strive to have 25 percent of their members participate in chapter leadership and activities. The Membership and Chapter Recognition Committees will be asked to consider the merits of awarding chapter recognition points for member participation.
4G. Continue efforts to foster a strong community service program.
4H. Encourage chapters to broaden the diversity of their members to include a rich mix of agencies and professional specialties (for example, audit, accounting and budget) and all levels of government. The Membership and Chapter Recognition Committees will be asked to consider the merits of awarding chapter recognition points to chapters that further diversify their memberships.
4I. Develop a questionnaire to be sent to a sample of members that have recently allowed their AGA membership to lapse. The sample should include a cross-section of AGA's membership by job category, type of employer, years of membership and geographic area.
GOAL 5. Ensure continuous improvement of the management of the Association and "everyday excellence" in member service.
I think we can all point with great pride to the improvements in the management of AGA over the past few years. The entire AGA National Office staff is to be commended for their outstanding efforts and excellent results. We now need to build on this success and strive for continuous improvement and "everyday excellence" in member service.
The elected officers of AGA, the NEC, the National Committees, the Education and Research Foundation and the National Office are there to serve AGA's members and the government financial management profession as a whole. Customer service and responsiveness to concerns and problems should be at the top of our list.
We need to survey our customers each year to see how well the Association is doing in meeting the needs of its members. And the customer survey need not be onerous. It should be simple to administer and complete, while at the same time meaningful. Also, we need to ensure that we encourage ideas for change and have mechanisms for easily surfacing potential improvements and suggestions and for ensuring appropriate and timely action is taken. Only through continuous improvement will AGA retain its place as a preeminent professional organization.
5A. Conduct an annual survey of each chapter to measure satisfaction with the level of service and to elicit ideas for the future. The Executive Director will be asked to present to the NEC, for approval, at its November 1993 meeting, a draft survey. The survey should be simple and user friendly and in an automated format if possible. The survey will be sent to the chapters in March 1994, and the results published.
5B. Formalize a proactive program in the National Office focused on continuous improvement. This program should continue to encourage grass roots suggestions for operational improvements and future initiatives by (1) ensuring prompt, responsive decisions, one way or the other, on all ideas, and (2) determining whether member recognition is appropriate.
We must foster an environment where our members provide their best thinking and where Association management has a responsibility to aggressively pursue and be accountable for action on ideas for improvement.
5C. Perform a volunteer operational study of the National Office to identify any opportunities for increased use of computer technology to make AGA's operations more efficient and effective.
LONG RANGE STRATEGIC PLANNING
GOAL 6, Positioning AGA for the future.
The long-term vitality of AGA is dependent on a strong and continuous strategic planning process that dovetails with planning by our individual committees and the National Office. Excellent organizations must constantly look to the future and make changes, some bold, in periods of relative strength and not just if a crisis hits home.
We need to continue the important work begun this year by the Long Range Strategic Planning Committee. The committee's mission is to develop overall goals and a strategic plan to chart the future direction of the Association's programs and activities. The work of this committee is critical in positioning AGA for the next decade.
The committee expects to present its initial ideas to the NEC around June 1993. The committee's work will form the foundation for the development and ultimate adoption of a long range strategic plan by AGA's leadership. The plan will be used to achieve continuous improvement.
6A. Continue the work of the Long Range Strategic Planning Committee to help position the Association for the next decade.
6B. Finalize a long range planning process that ensures continuous reevaluation and improvement.
6C. Present to the NEC, a proposed long range strategic plan or elements of such a plan that are ready for consideration. Once agreed upon, this plan will be used to help chart AGA's future direction.
I am most honored to be able to serve the members of AGA as their National President during the coming year. I pledge to you my best effort. Hopefully, my vision for AGA makes sense to you. Because when all is said and done, what is important is not so much what I think or do, it is what you think and do. It is only through our members, the 12,000 outstanding financial management professionals that comprise our Association, that AGA derives its greatness. I look forward to working with each of you in the coming year, and am confident that by working together we can bring AGA to even greater heights.…