How to conduct proper strategic planning

Dean West, president and founder of Association Laboratory and FASAE (Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives) offers tips on how to develop a strategic plan that can help the association reach its long- and short-term goals.

Effective strategic planning is a never-ending cycle

The pandemic is the absolute perfect time to do strategic planning because it forces the leadership to think about the future.

A lot of historical and legacy relationships have been disrupted which allows associations to think differently about the role they might play in members’ lives.

Effective strategic planning is a never-ending cycle

Assumptions are different hence associations have to do things differently. What’s maybe important a year ago is suddenly not that important and the things that might not have been considered a year ago are suddenly important.

The concept of doing a big strategic plan every three or five years then reviewing it after a few years is going out of favour. What’s becoming more common and more practical in drawing a trend line is a three-year strategic plan, that is discussed in every board meeting.

Generally speaking, the larger and complicated the audience and organisation, the more a substantial integrated research process benefits the association. But if you’re a small association or simply a small number of people, a lot of sophisticated research techniques don’t add any value.

The head of the association should be part of the strategic planning process although not necessarily leading it. If a critical person is left out, then the door is open for them to decide that they didn’t like the research conducted, the process organised and the outcome because their voice is not included.

Also, take time to address these potential challenges and common pitfalls in strategic planning – having the wrong reasons, wrong people, wrong roles, wrong process, wrong help, wrong outcomes, and wrong implementation.