Change For The Better

Change is the only constant in business. This adage also rings true for associations with one caveat: change must revolve around the benefit to members, not the organization itself. That’s why recent changes in Produce Marketing Association’s governance and leadership structures have been spurred by our members, for our members.

PMA’s new strategic plan, approved by its board in late 2008, defines a bold vision for PMA to strengthen and lead the global community, and a mission to connect, inform and deliver business solutions that enhance members’ prosperity. To ensure we could achieve this bold course of direction, the association’s governance and volunteer leadership structure required realignment. The result is a new volunteer leadership structure that will provide greater opportunities for PMA members to participate in their association than in the past — from across the supply chain and around the world, from produce and floral, to participate in their association to grow leadership skills and to grow their businesses.

For clarity, “governance” refers to the system used to make policy and strategy decisions; governance is the role of an association’s board. “Leadership” speaks to the volunteer structure created to deliver value through programs and services. To ensure these critical components of an association match directives of the new strategic plan, PMA assembled a task force of industry leaders to evaluate our current structure and our future needs, and best close that gap.

They were aided by leading association management consultants who brought to the table their knowledge of association industry best practices. The task force’s work included conducting environmental scans, reviewing standard association best practices and gathering input from current volunteer leaders and grassroots members. Young professionals in the industry were also surveyed.

Three key changes resulted from this effort. First, the responsibilities of PMA’s board of directors will shift from a “report and review” body to a more strategic, proactive, long-term, direction-setting body. New board committees will be established to specifically address key topics. Second, the current constituency-based division board and council leadership structure will transition to content-based committees. These initial “committees of the enterprise” will include membership; government affairs; produce safety, science and technology; and supply chain efficiencies. Other committees will also be established relative to PMA events, including Fresh Summit. And third, as new opportunities are identified or emerge, the board can weigh adding other committees and subgroups.

A recent survey of member needs also validates the need for a shift to more volunteer involvement. PMA members told us they want more opportunities to contribute and build their leadership skills, and to build business relationships in the process. Our new structure will do just that: create more opportunities for all PMA members to participate in their association.

This association’s history has been shaped by the wisdom of early volunteers who planted seeds that grew into our core values of community, character, and courage. Now, as we work to achieve the goals of our new strategic plan, that same volunteer wisdom will be employed at greater levels to shape PMA’s future. By the time you read this column, PMA will have contacted members to provide more information and educate them on how they can volunteer. You can learn more by visiting

What isn’t changing, however, is PMA’s longstanding commitment to our core values — especially the core value of courage to change when that means better serving our members.

Another change is also in store, specifically involving this column. You’re reading PMA’s last Research Perspectives column in Produce Business. When Jim and I began this series back in 2005, our goal was to help our industry stay on top of important consumer trends and to encourage our readers to be more marketing-focused and less sales-oriented.

Over the years, our dialogue has provided Produce Business readers with valuable food for thought, which hopefully has encouraged some of you to change your thinking. The series has now run its course, and just as PMA governance task force has done, it’s time to look forward into the future.

I thank Jim Prevor for the opportunity to stimulate this conversation; I am grateful for the friendship built over these years. The staff and I look forward to continuing to work with the Produce Business team to bring our voice elsewhere in the magazine.