Monday, October 31, 2011

Peer Advisory Groups, Some Differences

In the last post, I highlighted some of the common themes among successful groups. Now, I want to address some of the differences. The point of this is to emphasize that each group must develop their own identity and their own guidelines for operation.

One peer advisory group is made up of businesses that must have a about 200 miles separation to avoid appearance of collusion. In that group, members meet twice a year. A different member hosts the meeting each time and the group meets for about 3 days. The host member shares the books, finances, and employee structure with the group. The group interviews employees, surveys the facilities and takes a lot of time to develop a set of improvements for the host. This is a type of group that goes very deep. The host is open to a lot of criticism. But, of what value would it be to you to have colleagues (peers) evaluate your system and provide you honest feedback, absent from selling a product or service? Would your operation improve from this kind of feedback?

Another group was centered in a city and owners from different businesses met together. These members had businesses that were roughly of similar size, but were not competing with each other. These groups meet once a month for a day at a time. One member will present an issue and the others will provide feedback. Even though they have different businesses, they find that some challenges are common. Like the first group mentioned, these members ask questions that can go very deep into their business. One example given was that a member of the group had a son who had a drug problem and he was driving a company car. The other members had to say that this was a big problem ... for the family and for the business. The person in question said that he had been blind to the issue because it was his son.

A third group was farmers who met once a month to discuss technology. All of these producers lived close to each other. They decided to only share technology with each other. What's the latest GPS technology and who is trying it? What is the best corn population in your soils? Members of this group were satisfied with the technology that they learned. They brought in speakers from industry and extension to provide more insight. However, this is a group  that did not go deep at all. Things stayed very "safe" and the return was not perceived to be as beneficial as members of the first two groups.

This group needs to decide what type of group it wants to be. Do we simply share technology or do we strive to share more with the goal of learning more? Do the members know each other well enough (i.e. trust each other enough) to go into deeper issues. 

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