Having a clear sense of the future you want and putting a plan in place to get there is an essential responsibility of a professional association. So why do so many strategic plans end up abandoned or collecting dust in a forgotten drawer? Cynics will tell you it’s because strategic planning doesn’t work. I don’t agree with that. My experience is that many strategic plans fail because of simple, avoidable reasons. Here are 6 reasons I’ve seen that association strategic plans don’t make it:
1. You have a non-representative planning group. Your stakeholders are broader than you think, for certain broader than your board. Strategic plans created without member, staff and other stakeholder input are destined for trouble.
2. You’re out of sync – with current trends and the future of the industry, and/or you don’t give your competitors enough credit and/or you overestimate your market opportunity. Some day you will cry “unforeseen external developments”.
3. You don’t have adequate buy-in at the executive, staff and member levels because stakeholders don’t understand the plan, the plan doesn’t reflect your association’s values or mission, or the plan doesn’t accurately reflect your core competencies and capabilities.
4. You’re a poor financial planner. The association is inadequately resourced – financially and/or operationally – to execute on the plan and the plan has no connection to current or future budgets.
5. There is no responsibility and accountability for implementation of the plan. You’re so worn out from the planning process and creation of the plan that you don’t have the energy to assign responsibility for specific tasks, and you don’t follow-up to measure success.
6. You’re not flexible enough. You’re so dogmatic to the plan that you can’t respond or adapt to a changing environment which means you lose new opportunities and/or fail to make necessary adjustments.
Anyone can plan. But being strategic about planning requires inclusiveness, complete information, a results-oriented focus, and flexibility. Associations that think carefully about these challenges before starting the strategic planning process will be more likely to create a plan that leads them toward the future they envision.
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