Hijacks and hybrids seem unrelated to associations. In this article, they have an impact regarding recommendations by a hired consultant.


An aircraft hijacking is the unlawful seizure of the vessel by an individual or a group. The pilot is forced to fly to an alternate destination, according to the orders of the hijackers.

An association hijacking is the consultant who disregards the culture and politics of the organization in favor of making changes he or she prefers.

For instance, a facilitator is hired to develop a strategic plan. The facilitator begins with group hugs (for which the board rolls their eyes) and then insists the mission statement should be lengthy by including all the goals in the statement.

When challenged, the facilitator explains no plan is complete without having at least 20 pages of text, including an environmental SWOT analysis and identifying who said what.

The association's strategic plan becomes 33 pages that few people understood and fewer will read. It has been hijacked.


A hybrid is defined as something that has been developed using different components to function. A vehicle using two or more types of power, such as an internal combustion engine to drive an electric generator that powers an electric motor, is a hybrid.

In an association, a hybrid solution may be taking the advice of a consultant and then adapting it to fit the organization, sometimes known as fitting a square peg in a round hole.

In this example, a governance consultant recommends using a consent agenda whereas all non-controversial reports will be received in advance. At the board meeting, a motion will be made to accept all reports as presented.

The directors consider the idea but suggest an alternative. The board suggested a hybrid solution.

Some directors felt it best to allocate a little bit of time to the consent agenda, uncertain that all directors would read them in advance. They decided the reports would be distributed with the agenda but at the meeting up to two-minutes per report would be allowed.

Not all ideas and recommendations have to be adopted "as is." Hybrid solutions are acceptable.

At the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Tiffany McGee, CAE and CEO explains, "We applied the consent agenda differently for our distinct Executive Committee and our Board of Directors."

"Our board only meets twice a year, and the recommendation seemed too big and too abrupt. We opted for a hybrid that combines some of the old way and some of the new. It is what works best for our unique structure and culture," she offered.

Preventing a Hijack

Understanding that every association is unique, and building a relationship with the consultant, can avoid a hijacking.

  • Be clear about the assignment and desired results. If you seek a 3-page report, you'll be dissatisfied receiving 30-pages.
  • Build a relationship by phone or a personal visit. Reduce any anxiety of not knowing the person or style.
  • Share the culture of the organization. Culture may influence whether the pace is fast or slow, or the board's resistance to breaking into small groups.
  • Understand the agenda and how the process will flow with the consultant. Make adjustments before the session to avoid any surprises.
  • Provide enough information about the association so the consultant knows details about past, present and future. For example, a recommendation to buy a headquarters building when funds are limited or restricted would be futile.
  • Though the consultant may suggest an agenda, be sure to maintain control. If process or discussion seems askew, make a suggestion to get back on track, for instance, "That sounds nice, but this board doesn't really like starting with game playing."
  • Secondary issues may arise during the process. Examples may include awareness of a particular board member with a personal agenda or a retreat intended for training but really needing a sense of board healing and unity. Provide the consultant with information about board or staff challenges. Hidden issues may diminish the results.

Bill Pawlucy, CAE and CEO of Association Options, "It is important to appreciate that not everything is black and white but there are gray areas. This understanding allows me to serve every association although they all have a unique DNA. It is okay to work in the gray areas to avoid a cookie-cutter solution."


Executives will glean a lot of ideas from workshops, sharing and consultants. Consider the advice and whether or not it applies to the association.

Every organization is unique and improvements can be adapted. Avoid the hijacks and adapt hybrid solutions.