If you are like me, the day to day tasks can get in the way of the overall big picture for an organization. Thinking strategically is very important for every association – but how to make it top of mind?
Strategy itself is really a way of thinking about, and planning, the steps you will take to accomplish a purpose. If you are like most organizations, you spend at least one board meeting a year on strategic planning. Usually this session involves an overview of your Vision, Mission and Values, as well as accomplishments from the past year.
I recently took a two-day refresher course on strategic planning, which not only gave me some new tools, but helped to solidify why Strategic Planning is so important. Like that famous saying “Those to fail to plan, plan to fail.” Certainly we want our associations to succeed, so strategic thinking and planning become of paramount importance.
There are four main steps in the strategic planning process:
1) Analysis/Assessment – looking at the current state of the organization and doing an internal and external environmental scan. Familiar tools for these environmental scans is the SWOT and PESTEL Analysis.
2) Strategy Formulation – looking at the current mission, vision, values and strategic goals and objectives help us know if we are on the right track.
3) Execution – coming up with and operational plan, which includes your tactics and action plan, is a key component to success.
4) Evaluation – how do we measure, monitor and adjust in order to be successful?
For the purposes of this blog, I want to focus on step #1 – Analysis/Assessment.
I have often used the SWOT analysis in my strategic planning, however, I confess to not always knowing what to do with it in order for it to be the most valuable for the organization. In the refresher course I took, we looked at how to map the different categories – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity and Threats – in order to come up with goals and objectives. For instance – if a strength is accreditation and an opportunity is membership growth, a SO Strategy (Strength/Opportunity) might be “to strengthen messaging around accreditation and create a marketing plan to get the word out to potential members.” This little tip was worth the price of admission.
The other tool that was introduced to us was the PESTEL Analysis. This analysis looks at the Political, Economic, Socio-Demographic, Technological, Environmental and Legal issues that surrounds your association. I had not used this tool before and loved the way they laid out questions to help you consider ramifications you may not have looked at before. For example, a political question could be “what are the trends and key players at the Federal, state and local levels, that could affect us during the next 3 years?” Or under Socio-Demographic, the question of “what are the demographic and social trends that affect our members” would be a good question to ask.
Another great thing to do during strategic planning is doing some Scenario Planning. Outline a couple of scenarios for each area we identify as top initiatives. Brainstorming these scenarios can lead to surprising goals and objectives, including sometimes realizing the initiative is not important and should be scrapped.
Bottom-line: strategic thinking and planning is a must. If your organization hasn’t done a strategic planning session in more than a year (or ever) SCHEDULE IT NOW! An annual board retreat is a great place to start. Hiring an outside consultant always works well, but if you have the expertise on your board or staff, use them. Putting on your strategic hat and working to come up with goals and objectives that will propel the organization into a stronger, more resilient future is worth the time and effort to get it done.