My colleague, Jon Hockman, CPF, FASAE, recently authored a great post about the beginning stages of the strategic planning process. We find that while most volunteer and staff leaders can engage relatively quickly in conversations about where they would like to take the organization, deciding on an appropriate way to measure results is often a more challenging exercise.
However, if you’re serious about making real change through your strategic plan, as most successful associations are, then you must have a reliable and data-driven method to keep a pulse on your progress.
A promising approach that we use frequently in our strategic planning work is based on a classic planning “logic model.” It assigns measures into three discreet categories:
Inputs represent the time, talent and treasure your organization will invest in driving specific elements of the strategic plan. Clearly identifying the inputs that align to each area of the plan can help avoid “unfunded mandates.” It also ensures that you have allocated the right levels of human, financial and technological resources to your key priorities. One specific reminder: don’t forget the important contributions that will be made by committees and other volunteer structures. This will help members both drive accountability and see the importance of their implementation of the plan.
Outputs are the specific deliverables that can be directly tied to the investments made in the input category. Examples of outputs can be new programs, services, meetings, publications, online communities and so forth. Another way to think about this: if the inputs are the “means” of a plan, the outputs represent the “modes” of how the organization chooses to pursue its goals and objectives.
Outcomes, of course, represent the ultimate aims you hope to realize through the strategic plan. Defining realistic, reasonable outcomes is a significant challenge. But to have an honest conversation about the impact your strategic plan has driven, you must measure the essential “ends” that your organization has been chartered to pursue. It’s easy to get caught up on measuring dozens of tactical data points. However, years of experience has taught us that the basis for a solid outcome measures should be firmly grounded in an association’s fundamental reason for being – its mission. In many ways, measuring mission impact is not easily accessible or intuitive. But we feel that it is essential that our sector continue to enhance its ability to advance societal progress by regularly asking “what impact do we want to have on the world?”
Contact McKinley Advisors to sharpen your approach to strategic plan measurement.