By Stevie Kernick, owner emeritus, account manager
We’ve all been through it…the highly anticipated Strategic Planning Meeting of your association’s board of directors.
The facilitator has been retained and has conducted the necessary due-diligence. The board and, perhaps, other members of your association’s leadership, have committed the compulsory two-days (or more) for a face-to-face meeting requiring them to travel to and from the meeting site. The staff has printed lists, exported membership and conference attendance metrics from the association database, updated financial histories, done five-year budget projections, prepared the opening PowerPoint presentation and is well-prepared to answer those inevitable, random questions that will surface during the planning process.
Everyone has done their homework. They have reviewed the association’s governance documents and attempted to commit to memory the mission statement and goals which will provide a reference point throughout the planning process.
Everyone arrives at the planning meeting eager and anxious to begin planning. Depending on the facilitator, the process will take different forms for different associations but the objective is the same – a roadmap for the association’s future spanning two-, three- or five-years; hopefully not more than that.
A skilled facilitator will keep the discussion within bounds while still allowing the creative ideas to propagate. Day one tends to involve visioning for the future of the association, while day two defines the nitty-gritty of the strategic priorities, goals and action steps.
Everyone leaves the planning meeting inspired by the cohesiveness of the group throughout the process and enthusiastic about what the future of the association.
And then reality hits.
Members return to their offices and the bulging in-box. The staff returns to headquarters and is submerged in the day-to-day activities of managing the association. Enthusiasm dissipates…not from lack of desire but for lack of time.
When the board looks at the new (or updated) strategic plan two weeks later, they begin to consider critically the results of their effort and question how all of this can possibly be accomplished within the established timeframes!
Without budgetary support and operational resources, strategic priorities will languish incomplete or not even launched.
Each time the board reviews progress on the strategic plan those same deliverables will not show progress. The concept might have merit but without a concise directive, financial support and staff resources, it will never have the traction needed for action.
How do you avoid this all-too-common syndrome?
Frequently, this question is lacking during the excitement of the planning process, “Is this idea/goal/strategy fiscally viable and operationally doable?” This is not a rhetorical question, but one that needs to be asked and answered each time a strategic initiative is proposed.
Yes, it can be a bubble-buster in the midst of the euphoria of planning, but reality-checks are an important element of the development process and can prevent unrealistic goals and strategies from being included in the final strategic plan.
Staff should not hesitate to ask the all-important question, “Is this fiscally viable and operationally doable?”
To get from development to accomplishment we absolutely must have doable goals that are supported by the association’s resources.