Customer expectations are high and change faster than ever today. While consumers may expect an Amazon approach to every interaction they have, most associations either don’t have the technology or the robust data sets (or both) to bring responsive artificial intelligence systems to life. However, there are ways that you can get ahead and increase your relevance with customers and members. How can you tell if your strategy implementation approach is on track?
Here’s an overview of key steps to integrate:
- Conduct research to make data-driven decisions. Integrate a disciplined approach for staff and volunteer leaders to conduct research and get insights that can help make decisions more objective.
- Do a culture check. Create an environment for success that allows for learning and continuous improvement.
- Develop metrics dashboards. They should be created to help you report regular progress to your board and used by staff for operational decision-making.
How do you get there?
We’ve outlined some ways to get — and keep — your strategy implementation approach on track:
Continually assess and adjust based on qualitative and quantitative research.
Scanning, learning and applying new information is a key component to successful strategy implementation. You, your team and your volunteers have a wealth of information about the environment that often goes untapped by the collective organization and therefore is not applied to refine the implementation plan.
Constantly assess your environment to course-correct quickly. Baseline research around programs and services can help you understand member preferences, needs and the competitive marketplace. Be vigilant in keeping up with what others may be doing in your space, and pay close attention to their inputs, outputs and outcomes.
This isn’t a one-step process. Continue to scan the environment around you and listen to your members, stakeholders and partners. This doesn’t always mean formal research—it can simply mean paying attention. Sometimes, people spend so much time focused on their own tasks that they miss what’s right in front of them. Incorporate new information iteratively into your multi-year plan.
Remain nimble, agile and look ahead.
It’s critical to be flexible, iterate and adapt during the implementation phase of your strategic plan. Organizational agility is the ability to sense and respond quickly to changes in the environment through a deliberate and continual learning process. The qualitative and quantitative data points you collect through monitoring the external environment and conducting more formal research will help you see the signals sooner.
Take in that information and don’t be afraid to adjust your action plan based on new information. While the goals and outcomes of the plan should remain solid, your approach to achieve them may change based on what you are learning during the implementation phase. Actively engage your senior team and staff in conversations about how to ensure you have your pulse on the shifting landscape and look ahead to anticipate impacts on the association. Incentivize new behaviors around nimble decision-making that allows resources and attention to flow to the area of greatest need.
Metrics tell the story.
Rely on data and metrics to objectively show where you are making progress. However, while we should celebrate success and recognize teams that do great work, we can sometimes get too focused on metrics and experience analysis paralysis. It’s important to employ a balanced approach of measurement and movement forward with decision-making.
Push to measure hard things. These include those metrics that are qualitative and go beyond the traditional association KPIs like membership retention or annual meeting attendance. But know that there can be real tension in these concepts of being flexible and identifying metrics that are tied to outcomes rather than outputs. One way we’ve done this is by using a “logic model” to document inputs, outputs and outcomes.
Regularly check in with the senior team and staff to ensure the dashboard is being used for decision making. If a metric isn’t working because it isn’t yielding results or the data is too hard to collect, let go of it and find something else that works for your team. And remember that if you don’t have the data you need, creating a baseline metric from which to measure in the future sets you up for success.
With sound research, metrics and a culture that embraces both, it’s possible to remain disciplined and pivot quickly in your strategic implementation.
Get in touch to find out how we can help you employ a flexible, data-driven and effective strategic implementation process.
Learn more about strategic planning and implementation and data strategies here:
- The Portfolio Approach: Is your Association’s Portfolio Aligned with its Strategic Plan?
- Why Associations Fail at Strategy Implementation
- 8 Tips for Strategic Plan Implementation
- McKinley’s Strategic Guidance Services
- Data and Analytics Report
- How to Develop a Data Strategy that Fits your Association’s Culture
- And watch for the rest of our strategy implementation blog series!