At its most basic level, strategic planning is about making choices. This sounds simple enough, but with numerous stakeholders and moving parts involved, things can get pretty complicated, pretty fast. In our work with industry and association leaders, these five principles have kept us on the road to strategic planning success:
- Know why. Begin with a thoughtful assessment of the environment and your industry or association’s current, and optimal, position within. Why is it better – for your members – to do something instead of nothing?
- Answer how before what. Keep planning on-track by periodically asking yourself: “Are we answering how the goal will be achieved, or are we mostly talking about what we need to do?” If it’s the latter, back up a few steps and make sure the “what” (tactic) serves the “how” (strategy).
- Encourage member engagement. Build members into the planning process.—it helps with buy-in, in addition to valuable input. Interview key players to get their read on key opportunities and barriers, and keep the conversation going throughout the planning process, so there aren’t surprises come budgeting time.
- Use a simple scoring system to evaluate tactics. Develop ‘strategic imperatives’ by which all activities must be measured. Involve agencies, staff, and committee members in scoring all tactical proposals against these criteria. This will ensure your plans are lined-up with the agreed strategy.
- Tap into your brain trust. Some of your Association’s most valuable resources may not be staff or members, but outside partners like lobbyists, researchers, economists, and other consultants—even experts in strategic planning. Make one team out of your brain trust. It’s one priority that should not be delegated.