Strategic Planning
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A strategic planning session consists of a highly defined flow of events which is designed to direct the committee through the strategic planning process in an orderly fashion. The facilitator works closely with management prior to the meeting, to ensure that all critical topics are covered, and that each committee member has adequate resources to prepare for the day's event. Following the welcome and self introductions, the session will flow along these lines.

Strategic Planning Overview - The facilitator will provide an overview of the strategic planning process, including what is expected of each committee member, and the goals and objectives which are to be met during this day's session. The session is intended to be kept informal and input from every member is valued. Committee members will be asked to use examples from their own interaction with the association, and share their honest feelings about their experiences.

Strategic Planning Process - The committee will spend a portion of the morning developing a mission statement for the association or reviewing and updating the current mission statement. This process is designed to challenge committee members to define precisely why the association exists and determine what it intends to provide to its membership and the community. The mission statement should be expressed in broad terms, and be process oriented, not goal oriented. It is the cornerstone of all activities which follow for the remainder of the strategic planning session.

Following the successful development of a mission statement, the committee should review the most recent member survey or focus group results which have been compiled. The purpose of this exercise is to bring input to the table from those members who have opinions about the association's current practices and future direction, but are unable to participate in the strategic planning process. By utilizing focus group results or a member survey, each membership faction is assured that it has a voice in the strategic planning process, and as CEO or a board member you are assured that your strategic plan properly represents your entire membership. The committee also reviews the current financial status of the association. If necessary, the committee reviews several financial ratios to isolate areas in need of improvement.

Organizational Analysis - After reviewing current membership opinions and attitudes, the committee will undergo a SWOC analysis which consists of reviewing the association's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Challenges (sometimes called threats). The committee will be asked to review the financial strength of the association, educational offerings, member services, the image of the association, the attitude and professionalism of management and staff, as well as provide an evaluation of the future environment in which the association must operate. This committee exercise compliments the information provided by the member survey or focus group sessions and sets the stage for the next planning step.

Once the SWOC analysis is complete, the committee will be asked to generate a "wish list" of services, or other features they would like to see in the ideal association. This exercise is known as "futuring" and permits each committee member to literally reinvent the organization by communicating what services and other features they desire in an ideal situation.

Prioritization and Implementation
Following the development of the "wish list", the committee will be asked to prioritize the wish list into organizational goals and objectives which should be met over the next 1-3 year period. These goals and objectives may be categorized into member services, education, administrative or organizational areas and assigned to a task force of several individuals from the committee. Each task force is assigned the responsibility to develop an action plan to implement the goal or objective, establish a time frame for implementation, determine what budget impact the implementation process will have, establish a measurement criteria for determining the success of implementing the goal, and finally, establish who within the association is responsible for the ultimate achievement of the goal or objective.

Responsible parties for these action plans will likely be a combination of management, staff and board members. By keeping all three groups involved in the implementation of your plan, you are assured that interest in the plan will remain high and that goals and priorities will be met. Following the implementation of your finalized strategic plan, an annual review should be held of the progress made to date within the strategic plan. Goals which have been met should be dropped from the plan, new goals or objectives should be added and additional action plans should be developed to implement any new goals. By keeping the plan current and functional your strategic plan will remain a fluid document which is valid for years to come.


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