Upping the Tempo on Your Association’s Rhythm of Strategic Planning

The days of associations gently waltzing through strategic planning every three to five years must end to keep pace with today’s rate of change and imperative to remain relevant.

This does not mean strategic planning is archaic. It does mean associations need to up their planning tempo and continuously engage in aspects of strategic planning to keep plans fresh and on track.

The association’s strategic direction and general strategic framework may stand up to a three- to-five-year time horizon. Indeed, truly bold goals take time to achieve.

But associations need to be ready to update the objectives and initiatives supporting these longer-term goals as their analysis of the current situation and future context suggest revisions are needed. This might mean a few objectives are changed each year.

Signature i’s Forward Design approach to strategic planning recommends regularly reviewing and analyzing how the association is doing and what members value as well as scanning the environment for drivers of change that could require new responses and solutions.

Many associations aspire to make better use of current data in decision making.  All these associations need to do for a better rhythm of strategic planning is to connect this data analysis to an ongoing review of their strategic plan.

Associations are less likely to keep a sharp eye on changes in the environment. Now the ASAE ForesightWorks program provides a straightforward way to routinely monitor these changes. ForesightWorks launched with a collection of 41 drivers of change that associations can analyze and prioritize for their potential significance and impact on their associations. In 2018 ASAE ForesightWorks will update a quarter of its existing drivers of change action briefs and introduce six new drivers.  The ASAE Foundation is committed to making this an ongoing resource associations can rely on to stay future-focused.

Too often annual budgeting disrupts a fast and smooth rhythm of strategic planning. Important priorities are kept in a holding pattern until they can catch the next budget cycle. Budgeting does drive the pace of implementation; however, it should not constrain an association’s strategic direction and responsiveness to new challenges and opportunities.

Associations need to find a rhythm of strategic planning that ensures they have the insight and foresight to make wise decisions and the forward momentum to drive their plans into action. That rhythm may be much faster than many associations now follow, but falling behind the rate of changing priorities and expectations can turn into a rapid descent into irrelevance.