Membership associations, some of which are represented in the soup bowl above, mean well. They really do. Out of the hundreds of associations, I selected the 10 most effective associations now or coming down the line, and listed them below at the bottom of this blog post.

 
In the scheme of things there are several issues that we need to be aware of.
 
The existence of the association may be more important than real progress.  We view it from a subcontractors' perspective but it's the same in all disciplines.
 
If an association's executive director doesn't understand, which many don't since often they weren't subcontractors or, at best, they were maybe failed subcontractors, it leads to ideas stalling out and even squashing of ideas. As one industry participant recently said to me, if an association head feels that he or she is out of "understandability" range, they then feel "irrelevant." They will fight that perceived powerlesness at all cost since their relevance and primacy in the industry must in many ways be paramount to open, frank discussions about the right way forward, with real follow-up.  
 
Association Executives are not owed retainage money, not worried about a job that's gone south, and not looking to close a bid to stay in the game.
 
Under the Lowest Common Denominator (LCD) theory, the association head serves all, but makes sure the LCD is intact and continues to be a paying, fundraising "loyal" member. Unfortunately, we live in a lowest common denominator society and you can win as long as you have the lowest bid to secure the project (change order it later of course).
 
This is not dissimilar to what happens in companies until the leadership realizes that a lot of this kind of effort is actually to enhance their powers, not diminsh them. They have to see it through to the other side though, and it takes awhile. Patience is apparently not our strong suit. It's the new reality for the construction business: regular change and adjusments as processes improve and more clarity appears.
 
What's up with the endless golf outings? Too hot and too predictable, the same old same old.  Dinners and fundraisers honoring similar type people who play the game and can put "the arm" on people to go and take tables are still the norm. Often these fundraisers are for good, charitable causes, so let's do more than this, please.
 
Associations should come up with a stated "raison d'etre," a reason for being, since many have the same constituents--in New York the Building Trades Employers' Association (BTEA) is no longer administering the N.Y. Plan of jurisdictional disputes with the Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC)--so now move on. Let's think about creating information exchange standards with the various trade disciplines. We must find a new reason for being.
 
There's endless focus on minority requirements, isn't there? Yes, we want minorities, women, veterans etc. to succeed. But first let's bring up the so-called "majority" with the latest means and methods to properly mentor these compaies. Too often the mentoring is no more than window dressing and a number to fill in to meet a requirement.
 
Many committees, little action--more window dressing--an issue was raised at an associaition meeting by a government agency speaker about changing procurement stategies. Then afterward, nothing.  
 
Someone said to me, (a person with a leadership role in the group hosting the event): "You're the only one with a "clean record." Uh hello, is that bad?
 
Here's a story of the "name." I suggested at one conference, where I was the opening speaker, that company names in any database would match federal, state and local cross database references so a company in one is the same as another (eureka!). I was pulled aside by a seasoned industry veteran sub in the back of the room who said to me, "We don't agree wth that." (I like the "we" part).
 
I was floored, who would not agree to be called the same thing across agencies, bidding opportunities, etc. This is data 101. No, apparently as an associated group we want to divide, confuse and conquer, while our tax dollars and the "public fisc," as Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. put it, continues to get squandered. 
 
This isn't best practices, it is "known practices," which really hurt us all, even the companies protecting the past. They just don't know it, but will find out soon enough. Their way of working will not cut it anymore soon. Techniques like proper import-export of data and open source information exchanges, in a timely and accurate manner, will be paramount. 
 
Don't expect your "dudes" to have you ready for this in most cases. 
Effective information exchanges is where they should be focused, how can we move information in a reliable and accessible format to drive accountability, quality and reliabilty?  This is not happening now really and yet it is the linchpin of our future success.  Focus on true earned value management systems (EVMS) as part of an integrated set of processes, practices and applications.
 
One example is compliance with the ANSI/EIA-748 criteria (ANSI--American National Standards Institute). The EVMS is a documented set of policies, practices, and disciplines we all can enhance going forward.
 
We had one instance where a powerful group of construction industry decision-makers funded a productivity study researched and written by students only to keep the paper under wraps and not release it to the rank-and-file membership.
 
Apparently, the gatekeepers said their membership "wasn't interested."
 
Who is not interested in learning how to be more productive? That is the essence of what a society, association or congress should be promoting and enabling!!
 
How can goals be truly laid out on the table and discussed, with action items? Trade associations have the most potential since they are closest to the means and methods at the attachment of data with the largest depth of knowledge through its membership ranks.
 
So, Alphabet Guys (& Gals), we need at this important moment to collaborate, innovate and make this soup we pay for taste good, even if it's out of a can!  We'll give you a high five and say "Job well done" when we get there.  Thanks!
 
Okay, as promised above, here's my current list of top 10 associations based on influence:
 
AGC--the most muscle and reach.
 
NECA--the best studies year after year.
 
AWCI--my home group, the drywall guys have a say in this.
 
ASHRAE--heading up industry coalitions on the Hill.
 
SMACNA--knows its place with excellent leadership. One to watch.
 
CSI--it's not a TV show, it's what we are installing.
 
AIA--update the E202 document to today and move up.
 
ANSI--proper standards are everything.
 
AACE--cost engineers will be in demand.
 
ASC--the most unknown but potentially powerful group.

ASPE--this is an 11th group but it all starts with the estimators!