The majority of my HPO research has been performed in profit organisations. But occasionally I get access to a non-profit organisation which is very interesting to me as the non-profit sector is quite different from the profit sector. Therefore, an HPO Diagnosis is always special as the context of non-profits forces me to get out of my comfort zone and to be on top of my game. Especially as, in this case, the non-profit in question is not based in the Netherlands but in Abu Dhabi!
Thanks to Meerna Mroueh, our HPO Associate in the United Arab Emirates, we were invited by the Emirates Insurance Association (EIA) to conduct an HPO Diagnosis at its members. The EIA has 99 members comprising 59 insurance companies and 40 insurance brokers based in the UAE. The EIA wants to develop cooperation among association members in all insurance related subjects, works to guarantee appropriate representation of the interests of all members and defend their rights so that confidence and trust in the insurance field prevail, fosters exchange of ideas and experiences to benefit all members, prepares statistics and issues bulletins about the insurance market, and provides educational opportunities for its members through sponsoring and managing conferences and seminars.
Like many other associations, the EIA was facing a lack of interest from its members. Cooperation of members was not high, and the resulting shortage of funds was posing increasing difficulties for the EIA. The chairman of the EIA showed an interest in the HPO Framework to help identify improvement opportunities in the association such that it would become attractive again for members: “The HPO diagnosis will give us an overview and understanding of where we are at. Nowadays we are facing problems with the cooperation of the members, their mutual knowledge sharing, and their commitment to regularly attend meetings of their committees. Such a mentality reduces the effectiveness of the association and can be a contributing factor to a failing continuity of the EIA. We believe that the HPO diagnosis will bring out these and other problems and thereby give us the bigger picture. We are looking forward to shape members’ attitude in a positive way with the results of the HPO Diagnosis, which will lead us to shape not only the association’s but also the industry’s future. We care about our members and we are willing to do our best to satisfy them so they can focus on what is best for the insurance industry.”
What made this HPO Diagnosis so interesting was the fact that the HPO Questionnaire, used during the diagnosis, had to be adapted. After all, we didn’t deal with employees but with members, so changes were made in the wording of the questionnaire statements. For example, “the organization” was replaced by “the association” and “employees” was replaced by “association members”. The questionnaire was then distributed to the members of the association with a request to participate in the research. Of the 99 members of the association, 42 completed the questionnaire. Also interviews were conducted with 13 members and the chairman of the association. Finally feedback was given to the chairman, secretary-general, and finance director during a presentation in which Meerna and I discussed the results of the HPO Diagnosis and suggested possible improvements to the EIA.
The EIA’s HPO score, compared to the average HPO score of a UAE organization as collected in the HPO database of the HPO Center, is presented in Exhibit 1. The association scores an HPO average of 6.7 whereas the average score of UAE organizations is 7.5, which is 0.8 higher. This result is not surprising because, as outlined before, associations are wrestling with less interest and involvement from members, fewer financial funds, and no clear improvement guidelines; unfortunately, the EIA does not seem to be an exception in this respect.
Based on the HPO data Meerna and I were able to make many suggestions for improvement. I like to recall the most interesting one in the light of improving an association: increase the level of member involvement. The EIA’s scores on its communication, dialogue, and knowledge sharing processes were average because the association did not have formal mechanisms to support these processes. Consequently, it was difficult for the chairman and the secretary-general to understand the individual needs and desires of the members and committees. This also made it difficult to secure the involvement of members in activities of the EIA wants. The EIA could improve its communication, dialogue, and knowledge sharing processes by first identifying the type, purpose, and frequency of meetings needed and which members needed to be involved. In addition, the EIA should seek to find a way to make these meetings essentially mandatory, for example by incorporating participation in its “ethical agreement”. This “ethical agreement” is an understanding between the association and its members and among the members themselves about how they should behave toward each other in the context of the association, and it implores each person to behave ethically.
After the feedback presentation, which was given in the hyper modern environment of Masdar City, at the HPO Center representative office of Trireme consultants, the EIA’s chairman had some kind words for us: “We are looking forward to benefit from the HPO recommendations, we will take them very serious and we will be implementing all of them to the dot. The HPO diagnosis has a significant added value to us, because of the rigor of the framework and the capability of the HPO experts and we are looking forward for more cooperation with the HPO Center to achieve our ambition in performing on a higher level in the future”.
So we were able to show that the HPO Framework – when adapted to the circumstances of an association – was able to accurately evaluate the situation within that association and yield targeted recommendations to improve its performance. And we did this in the very inspiring environment of the UAE, a place I very much look forward to visiting again in the near future!
Meerna Mroueh and André de Waal (2017), “Applicability of the HPO framework in non-profit organizations: the case of the Emirates Insurance Association”, International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. 25 Issue 3, pp. 468-484