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January 7, 2020

Creating an Open Minded Strategic Plan

The most impactful and lasting organizational change happens when you expand your perspective. My colleague and McKinley principal Jon Hockman, CPF, FASAE, recently wrote about the steps to take to begin the rigorous but essential process of developing a new strategic plan. The first step of which involves thoroughly assessing your organization’s realities.

This element is known as the situation assessment — a research phase made up of both qualitative and quantitative data exploring:

  • Perspectives of members, customers and other stakeholders.
  • Staff and leadership insights.
  • Organizational trends and performance.
  • Macro trends for the field and society at large, including economic, political and social changes.
  • The competitive landscape.

There are several things to keep in mind as you navigate the complexities of this multifaceted evaluation. With the help of our friends at the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), we put together a few tips for tackling your assessment.

Trust the process

The phrase “trust the process” has become commonplace in our work, but for good reason. Associations must balance changes in their respective industries while always honoring their commitment to meeting member needs. This often induces a reliance on traditional and legacy approaches and, as a result, makes committing to a long-term plan feel intimidating. But rest assured, to embark on a new strategic planning effort is to reaffirm your dedication to your organization’s goals and reinvest in its longevity. The only way to make this happen is to see the process through to completion and trust that the results will only accelerate your impact. This means prioritizing your plan and investing time in it.

Refreshing your plan is a clear statement that it is a living and breathing document, not a static or stale one. The research justified our work and strengthened the credibility of the overall process, ultimately delivering a platform for us to restate how the plan informs our communication, our evaluation, and our decision making at the board and staff levels.

Michael J. Armstrong, CEO of National Council of Architectural Registration Boards

Facilitators are your friends

Going into a guided facilitation with an open mind can dramatically enrich your experience because, ultimately, facilitators want the best outcomes for your association. My colleagues and I have witnessed first hand how a strategic planning retreat or workshop can inspire action and involvement. Even the most disengaged board members often feel revived by a collective reflection and evaluation of goals.

 Volunteers sometimes have a tendency to get into the weeds of how the work will be done. A facilitator helps keep the board at an appropriate altitude in the planning exercise, focusing on the what and the why.

Lakisha Woods, CAE, President & CEO of National Institute of Building Sciences

From brief, but packed, half-day retreats to full-day sessions tackling every aspect of your strategic foundation — facilitation is designed to inspire a leap of faith and help keep the group on track toward an aspirational visualization of where an organization wants to go.

Welcome outside perspectives

Expanding beyond the vantage points of your board and leadership is paramount in building a strategic plan that will endure. Involving outside perspectives — from staff and stakeholders to members and volunteers — will construct a brighter future built on firmer ideals. Stakeholder buy-in guarantees a plan deliberately designed to appeal to the foundation of your organization. And, most importantly, it will give you a new understanding of strengths and weaknesses you may have been overlooking and, by default, not utilizing or correcting.

New insights underscored that our existing language didn’t fully resonate with how we have evolved as an organization. Validating our level of maturity gave us permission to use language that is broader and purposefully aspirational.”

Michael J. Armstrong, CEO of National Council of Architectural Registration Boards

A key piece of organizational change lies in getting your team on board. Individuals who feel heard are more likely to feel inspired to contribute to a collective.

Don’t rush the results

This last tactic reinforces all of the above. From establishing trust in the process to leveraging facilitators to embracing a larger pool of insights — you can’t rush the steps or the results. Quick fixes are tempting, especially when leveraging efficiencies has served your organization well in the past. But to achieve the next level of growth for your organization, you need to allow room for genuine reevaluation and fresh ideas.

Rather than rushing the development of a plan and risking another untimely overhaul, allocating the time, resources and energy into your strategic plan will pay dividends of lasting change and sustained growth.

Contact McKinley Advisors to get started on your next strategic plan.

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