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Living the Strategic Plan

"Strategic Planning Made Simple"
By Stella R. Sytnik, Account Executive

If there is one thing I learned during my career in the manufacturing industry it is the importance of having a comprehensive and clear strategic plan to be able to run a successful operation. What is a strategic plan? Strategic plan is a document that clearly defines the most important goals of an organization (usually three to five) and identifies tactics to achieve them.

So, it did not come quite as a surprise when I was presented with the same message from a "guru" of the association management business that any successful association should have a solid strategic plan. What is more important is that this plan has to be designed by the leadership of the association and reiterated to all levels of volunteers who are active in association activities: committee chairs, co-chairs, directors and members at large.

I recently attended a session tailored to associations and organized by the New Jersey Society of Association Executives (NJSAE) that was particularly valuable to me. I learned about planning terminology and key elements of a successful strategic plan.

The one question that I posed to myself after the session was: "If my main role as a staff executive is to be "a broker of ideas" for the association, isn't it vital for me to make sure that the association's strategic plan is up to date and working?" I particularly wanted to make sure that the current plan reflects and addresses all the key new trends and issues for associations and nonprofits.

Needless to say, right after the seminar, I rolled up my sleeves and dug into the most recent strategic sessions of the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America (WMMA) Board to find the basis on which our strategic plan is built.

My goal was to review both content and format of the strategic plan. Here are the trends that I used as my benchmarks (Reference Stephen C. Carey, Ph.D. CAE and AMMR's Research Staff Creator of the 2008 edition of the "Association Strategic Planning and Research Guide with Benchmarks, Best Practices and Practical Templates"):

  • Branding remains a top priority deliver your value proposition
  • American associations are seriously "going green"
  • Increased social responsibility
  • WEB 2.0 is catching on quickly
  • Associations must develop methods to attract and retain younger members
  • Finding how to manage intellectual property in the global world
  • New dues structures and industry consolidations
  • Develop and manage in-house research functions to keep the revenue within the association
  • Succession planning
  • Focus on fewer goals and objectives by conducting more segmented market research and simplifying strategic plans

Key goals based on strategic initiatives outlined in a simple format. It couldn't be any easier.