The crowd rose to their feet as, decade by decade, they were acknowledged for their membership in the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) on Monday. As the longest-standing members were applauded for their important role in the organization, Howard Dunne Memorial Lecture speaker Dr. John Waddell, DVM, reminded the crowd of the ways AASV is “Built to Last.”
Referencing the book by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras titled, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” Waddell, senior professional services veterinarian at Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, shared six fundamental reasons why the organization is still running strong after 50 years.
The Ultimate Product
The original mission of the organization was simple: to increase the knowledge of swine veterinarians. “The org was built by swine veterinarians, for swine veterinarians. It has always been about the members,” Waddell said.
This core group of veterinarians with a passion for pigs decided to create an organization of veterinarians with the goal of making themselves and anyone else interested in pigs more informed on everything related to swine.
Build Around a Core Ideology
To be built to last, an organization must be built to change. Waddell discussed how the Veterinarian’s Oath serves as the foundation of a veterinarian’s core ideology. From doing what’s right for the pig to serving as the link between people and pigs at the farm level, veterinarians are eager to learn everything they can to move the swine industry forward, he said.
“Timeless core values and an organization’s enduring purpose should never change. However, operating practices and strategies are more likely to change constantly in response to a changing business climate,” he said.
Build a “Cult-Like” Culture
A “cult-like” culture is driven by those ideals that bond a group together. Waddell said an organization built to last is devoted to an ideal or common cause, coming together personally and professional to promote common interest and goals.
By opening the doors to networking and building relationships built on common causes, the organization gave practitioners involved in swine practice the opportunity to improve their skills and increase their knowledge of swine medicine and production.
“You might be a swine vet if you convinced your children and spouse that three days at the World Pork Expo was better than Disneyworld,” Waddell joked.
Home-Grown Management and Leadership
From day one, the organization embraced home-grown leadership to develop from within. Waddell said promotion from within helped assure continuity.
For example, the first management and leadership positions were filled from among those first members. The early executive secretaries operated the AASP out of their homes or university offices. The only “outside employees” were spouses or administrative assistants from within their institutions.
Through “big hairy audacious goals,” experimentation and continuous improvement, Waddell said the organization has been able to flourish through challenging times such as the eradication of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) from North America.
“Our organization has never been shy when it comes to this fundamental,” Waddell said. “Imaginative goals literally seep out of the minds of AASV members. Experimentation and continuous improvement describe our org. An environment that encourages members to experiment and take risks is a learning environment.”
From the beginning, the organization has taken risks, he added. Those risks have ranged from starting a peer-reviewed scientific journal devoted to swine health to tackling issues that impact veterinarians and the swine industry such as antibiotic resistance, pseudorabies, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, PRRS and African swine fever to name a few.
“Has everything attempted worked? Nope, some things that were attempted didn’t persist,” he said. “Needs change, issues evolve, and some ideas may not be quite ready for prime time, but even failures are opportunities to learn.”
Embrace the Genius of the “And”
A veterinarian’s ideology is the “true north” and must be preserved, Waddell said. As long as the core ideals are conserved, any idea is fair game. He urged veterinarians not to give into the “tyranny of the or.”
“The concept of preserving the core while embracing change stimulates progress in everything except the core ideology,” Waddell said. “The core ideology is the true north of any organization and must not be compromised.”
The pig may be the common link between every member at the conference, but Waddell said members also share a desire for leadership, communication, purpose and commitment.
Looking ahead, Waddell encouraged AASP members to remember why the organization exists.
“Our founders aspired to create something bigger and longer lasting than themselves. AASV was created on core values to stand the test of time by virtue of ability to continually renew itself from within,” he said. “The gifts our founders gave us (and to the future) were their time and efforts to pass it on and pay it forward. We must do the same!”
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