Volume: 133
Issue: June - July 2011

Innovation Committee responds to member survey

Story by Jerry Beutel
Photos by Jerry Beutel

On April 16th, ten members of the Woodworkers Guild dedicated a day to discuss the future direction of our organization.  This group, known as the Innovation Committee, had a simple goal – to identify short and long term actions to keep the Guild vibrant and relevant.

Why a special meeting?  Currently the Guild’s board of directors meets once a month for 2 to 3 hours and nearly all that time gets consumed talking about the status of each board member’s current activity such as the NW Show, the Fall Seminar, membership, financials, electronic communications, etc.  Oftentimes at the board meetings someone mentions an idea for something new or different we could be doing.  These ideas get bounced around, expanded, modified and all of that, but unless they are really easy to implement they often get set aside for lack of time to pursue them.  We felt it was necessary to really dedicate time just to discussing improvements without all the distractions of the day-to-day business needs.

In preparation for the Innovation Committee meeting we wanted to know how our membership felt about the MWWG.  Why did you join, why do you stay?  What services do you use, which ones aren’t you so crazy about, and what ideas do you have for improvements to the Guild?  To answer these questions we created and distributed the member survey (sent to all members) and we received 217 responses – nearly 70 pages of data. 

Each Innovation Committee member did some pre-work, analyzing and summarizing data from several of the survey questions.  As a group we then discussed the results and prioritized the ideas.  Our goal was to identify a manageable number of improvements that could realistically be implemented.

It was a spirited meeting!  We brainstormed, discussed, argued, lobbied, cajoled, and agreed to disagree sometimes.  But in the end we achieved a list of action items and a plan to implement them.  Some of these ideas we came up with were termed “quick hits.”  In other words no further planning is necessary, we can implement the idea immediately.  Other ideas require more work to implement.  Following is a list of both sets of ideas.

Innovation Committee—Top Priorities
(Name in bold is the lead on the committee.)
Top Priorities
1. Implement a second seminar/bazaar/swap meet/social in January or February…(Mike Jeff and Ed)
2. Vendor/Sponsor care and feeding …(Charlie, Denny, and Mark)
3. New Space (for meetings, workshops, etc.)…(Jeff and Mike)
4. Education/training catalog…(small group workshops, classes, skill building, hands-on, demonstration)…(Al, Rich, Mark, Richard, Jerry, and Craig)
5. Special interest groups (training catalog/committee)…(Ed and Al)

Action Planning
Action plans should contain:
1. Specific description of activities to complete
2. Target dates to complete the activities
3. Roles and responsibilities (e.g., assignments)
4. Resources required (people, money, etc.)
Deadline:  Submit action plans by May 15th to Jerry

Quick Hits
Mark:  Re-evaluate the tuition/scholarship program by talking to the board 

Richard: Make it easy for people to easily give feedback on NW exhibits (Richard will suggest that exhibitors have a journal by their works for comments).

Charlie: Explain to members why there will not be a paper version of the newsletter

Bob:  Provide more advance notice on meeting topics/times/locations.
Bob: Meeting topic for the 1st meeting after the Fall Seminar should be on a related topic

Jerry: Include more photos in the newsletter
Jerry:  Get more contributors for the newsletter


These are the members who participated in the April 16th meeting: 

  • Ed Neu
  • Richard Tendick
  • Mark Laub
  • Craig Johnson
  • Al Frank
  • Jeff Hand
  • Rich Gotz
  • Mike Siemsen
  • Charlie Kocourek
  • Jerry Beutel


Many more volunteers are needed to implement these top ideas.  I encourage you to find out how you can help out - you’ll find the Guild is even more interesting when you are a volunteer as well as a member. Contact Jerry Beutel to discuss further.