Friday, August 15, 2008

Creating synergy in the student organization

Creating synergy in the student organization
I have seen so many challenges and problems within organization run by university students, so I would like to share with you, my experiences concerning this issue. Below are the four main points:

• Personal & organizational goal alignment
• Education plan
• Job Description
• Culture of learning & Empowerment

Personal & Organizational goal alignment

It is important that both the individual and the organization have the same goals. Let me give you a comparison. Let’s observe a sports secretariat. Ali is an individual who is athletic in nature and loves to participate in sports. At the same time, Abu is the head of Ali’s sports secretariat who wants his secretariat to win all inter-college sports activities. So naturally, these two people will meet together, and Ali would join the secretariat. Ali and Abu (individuals) would then practice and compete in sports, which if they win would achieve the goal of their college’s secretariat (organization) to win all inter-college activities. So, you see there is a symbiosis between the individual and the organization. So what does this mean for other clubs and secretariat? It means before you are to start any activities, you must make sure that what the organization wants is the same as what the members want. If you do not, this will happen. Amirul wants to be an entrepreneur, he wants to learn how to make business plan, look for opportunities and network with people but the entrepreneurship club he joins only sells snack and refreshments or do car washing as their main activity. So there is a clash of expectation.
So what can you do as the president of the club can do? I would suggest conducting an expectation setting session. Basically, it is just a session where you survey what your members expect of the club. This way you know what your members want. I believe are biggest asset or customers are our asset. So we must listen to them first and not are advisors or higher management in our colleges because they are the ones who will continue our efforts in the future. Without them, your club will die because there is no one to run it.

Education plan

A club or a student organization is represented by what activity that the club or organization does. And people judge that organization by judging the activity that the organization has. For example, if I were to go to a competition held organized by college X and I find it boring and useless, my impression of college X will also be bad. So, your activities must me of reasonable quality. How do you know your activity is good enough? I will soon write an article titled “ciri-ciri aktiviti kelab/persatuan yang cemerlang” Please refer to it. If the activities are not good enough, then members will see it as a waste of time, they would not want to join, then people have to force them, then the management and the members will fight.
An education plan is basically, a series of activities that are planned for the whole year (at least a semester) way before the semester stats. One problem with organizations especially MTP, is that they lack consistency with their activities. And also their activities are not impactful and worthwhile for members to join. This is because a lack of planning. A good education plan must be long term. It must be consistent and relevant to want the members want. If I am joining an entrepreneurship club, I want to learn how to make a business plan, network and etc. I don’t want to jual kerepek, do carwash and stuff like that.
One very simple model is this. One: Is you teach and share with your juniors. Two: The juniors are given an opportunity to practice what they learn in a project. Three: Finally, the juniors are experienced and will be able to teach and share with their juniors next year. . For example, my college activities were always consists of speakers who were not student. No one was capable. So, if there is no speaker, so the club dies? We must learn to teach ourselves, so that we can teach other. Do not rely on others too much.

Job Description

If somebody from a leadership club come ask me whether I would like to join or not, I would ask why. Then he would probably answer, “So you can sharpen your leadership skills”. Then I would ask how? And he would answer, “By joining our camps and projects”. The thing is we all have been to hundreds of camp. But I would like to talk about the projects. How would joining a project sharpen your leadership skills? You don’t see everybody joining leadership club become leaders like Mahathir or sumthin like that. This all depends on the job description of the organization. It’s important that what they do is what they want to learn. For example, ajk makanan for an annual dinner, what would they learn, how would that experience contribute to their professional development. Another thing is that MTPs always have so many posts. Naib president satu, naib president dua and so many more. T there is no clear difference in the Job Description. At the end of the day, you hear president passing their work to their naib presidents. And they fight, and then the organization crumbles.
The biggest problem with the MTPs is that they are not educated about team management and conflict management skills. They would go to all kinds of camps but I just see no improvements. The system is training politicians and talkers but not thinkers and leaders. You see, the system is not educating what the students need. This brings me to my final point.

Culture of learning and empowerment

At my first of Year University, I went to an entrepreneur secretariat meeting. And one of the suggestions was to do a car wash, which I think is absurd. And even till now, you see people churning stupid ideas like that. But the saddest thing is that these people are people who are majoring in entrepreneurship at FEP. This is their field, their course. They should know better but alas their definition of entrepreneurship is selling snacks and doing a car wash. Pathetic. I am a student of FEP, business, management and leadership is our field. We should know the best in UPM. We would know what to do in our activities, our projects would be the best one organized by students. This happened because a lack of the culture of learning. We don’t take an effort to find knowledge; we are lazy and easily satisfied. We are living in the information age, a lot of things we can find on the internet. For example, a human development secretariat can do a personality test as one of their activity which is easily obtainable on the internet. It just needs some time and patience. It’s not much different from doing your assignments.
For those who do appreciate the culture of learning, however, they are not empowered to use them. Meaning they are not given the power or resources to do so. One entrepreneurship secretariat I knew was forced to do an agrobio carnival or sumthin like that. The issue had no relevance what so ever with students. And the intended program was battle-of-the-bands and longest cake record breaking activity. The carnival was never made a reality. You see, youth must be given the freedom to do what they are interested in. The most successful projects in UPM are done by those who are relatively free from bureaucracy, and UPM helps them rather than the project asks UPM for help. Only when the members are empowered, they would do a great job, be proud of their work and come back for more.
As a closing, creating synergy in an organization is about understanding your members and organization, creating a compromise with the two and fulfilling those requirements. It is the people who make the organization. Hope this helps anyone who is reading this. And for those who helped teach me in the past. My gratitude is eternal.

“Stay foolish, Stay Hungry”, Steve Jobs

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