Strategic Thinking Articles

Planning Achievement - Where the Rubber meets the Road

This article is the sixth in a series on "How to be a Futurist"

Time to get the lead out.  Up until now, we’ve been discussing ways to create a preferred future through identification of trends and issues; consideration of potential implications/impacts of those issues; creation of alternative scenarios, and formation of a vision.  Now it’s time to put those elements to the test by developing the plan that will guide your association along the path towards its vision. 

Planning achievement is where the organization creates a detailed plan of resources, allies, and milestones to realize the vision and to monitor whether the organization is having an impact.  To begin, an organization must ask what businesses it is in (this gets to a mission), who its customers are, and what those customers consider to be of value.  To ensure success, the plan should:

·        Focus on core customer needs

·        Be a process, not an event

·        Be continuous

·        Address outcomes

·        Be based on research

The purpose of the plan is to set priorities for getting work done.  The work is intended to move the organization towards its ultimate vision.  It is crucial that the plan be achievable, measurable and time-sensitive.  It must also be flexible and responsive to changing needs.  Though it should be a guidepost for the organization, it should not be set in stone.  Keeping the plan short and simple will facilitate its usefulness – if it’s easy to understand and becomes part of the culture of the organization, that’s much better than a three-ring binder collecting dust on a shelf. 

Two final things about a plan I cannot stress enough – it must be a unit, not a menu and it must be a means to an end, not the end itself.  A plan should not be something that is “cherry-picked.”  Staff and leaders must view the entire plan as the driving force for accomplishing work and not just select a hodge-podge of pieces they may like better than others.  Planning must be a continuous process rather than a day-and-a-half event.  It truly must be a living entity that is continuously updated as trends and issues arise that change the association’s environment.

Implementation is the final step in the process.  Here, the plan is translated into a detailed set of programs with budget allocations.  The plan is evaluated regularly to ensure that it is accomplishing the goals and meeting customer needs. 

There are myriad resources to help with the construction of a planning process, including a wealth of articles on the subject here on The Forbes Group website.  Other resources include Applied Strategic Planning by Leonard Goodstein, Timothy Nolan and J. William Pfeiffer; Leading Change by John P. Kotter, and Winning Through Participation by Laura J. Spencer.


This article was published in the May 3, 2002 issue of Association Trends magazine

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