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The Value of Strategic Planning

Posted By Kate-Madonna Hindes, Monday, May 11, 2015
Updated: Monday, May 11, 2015

Have you ever learned a valuable lesson by trying to fit a large easel into the backseat of a Mazda6?  I have.  And I’d recommend you just learn from my experience rather than trying it on your own. One of the organizations I work with was going through a full-day strategic planning session that particular day and I had agreed to bring the easel and large notepads so notes could be taken and hung around the room.  One problem; the easel was too long to fit in my car, or so I thought.  I tried everything.  It was too wide to lay in the back seat, it wouldn’t fit diagonally from front to back, and I couldn’t get it in far enough to lay it parallel with the length of the car.  I tried every angle, every seat adjustment possible, and even came close to tearing up the interior of my car.  All this was taking place in plain view of the windows of many of my co-workers and I was on the verge of giving up.  Frustrated, I draped myself on the easel and gazed toward the ground not knowing what I was going to do.  And then I saw the buttons on the easel legs.  So much frustrating effort and all I had to do the entire time was simply push the button to fold the legs in half.   Needless to say, it fit in the back seat with room to spare.


Sometimes associations find themselves in a metaphorically similar situation as I was in.  They know what the association needs (the easel needs to be in the car) but they are trying all the wrong strategies to accomplish the mission (trying to force the easel to fit in the car).  That’s the beauty of a successful strategic planning session.  Not only does it draw out the necessary end goal, but it also brings clarity to the necessary steps of accomplishing the mission (identifies the buttons on the easel). Every strategic planning session will be different, but it should have three primary parts: data gathering, an efficient and effective session, and a plan for follow-up action. 


Firstly, gather data.  The better the data gathering the better the strategic planning will be.  Research the target market, know the members’ needs (surveys are helpful), understand the competition, complete a SWOT analysis, review successes and failures, and collect reports from the committee chairs and board members.  Board members and committee chairs should answer questions such as “What is ABC missing as an organization?”, “What is the biggest obstacle facing ABC in the next 3 years?”, “What are three things ABC should be doing as an organization that is currently missing?" All of this information should be gathering, compiled, and given to strategic planning attendees with ample time to review and digest.


Secondly, hold an efficient and effective meeting.   The strategic planning process is bound to unveil conversation topics and debates that could go on for hours if time allowed.  Some of these topics need to be flushed out, but having long conversations without structure can lead to an unproductive strategic planning session.  Set an agenda, overview the agenda with board members, and stick to it.  This will keep the session on task and better ensure the best use of everyone’s time for the betterment of the organization.


Lastly, set a plan for follow-up action.  A good phrase to go by is “Plan the work and work the plan.”  A strategic session takes a lot of time and effort.  Don’t put it in all the planning work only to be unclear on the strategies to accomplish the defined goals.  I’d recommend creating a strategic matrix that identifies the established goals, defines strategies to accomplish the goals, assigns responsibilities to appropriate board members/volunteers/staff, and sets a time frame for which to accomplish them.


Strategic planning is an important and valuable initiative.  Take the time to do it right and you’ll enjoy the benefits you were hoping for.  Proper preparation, meeting organization, and follow-up with give you the best chance at successful strategic planning.



This post was written by Monte Abeler, Account Executive at Ewald Consulting.


Tags:  association management 

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