As we head into the new year, each of us has a set of organizational priorities for 2020. For your association, those priorities may be guided by a strategic plan and related formal work plan, or they may simply be a list of important deliverables you’ve jotted down based on your experience. Either way, successfully accomplishing the items in your plan is not as easy as it might seem under the glittering lights of the new year. Following are five reasons your current plan might fail, and what to do about it.
- Reason No. 1: It’s not a plan, it’s a wish list.
Let’s be realistic, is your plan really a plan, or just a list of things you’d like to accomplish? Setting goals is important, and it is the first step in accomplishing great things. At the same time, goals don’t turn into realities unless you break them down into smaller, actionable steps. A real plan identifies what you want to accomplish and then sets out reasonable, time-based steps for achieving it. I won’t lose 15 pounds in the new year unless I eat less, exercise more and regularly measure my progress. You won’t attract 20% new members without a specific plan for attracting them, actions to capture and keep them, and measures of success along the way.
- Reason No. 2: It’s not a team effort.
Where is your plan? Is it in your personal notebook or on a file somewhere on your computer? That’s not good enough. It should be on the desk or, better yet, the wall, of every person on your team. Making your plan a reality requires the focus of your full team, and that starts with great communication. Share your plan. Talk about it in every team meeting. Track the actions you are taking to achieve it, and review progress with the team regularly. Nothing beats the power of a group of smart, dedicated individuals once you get them focused on what really matters.
- Reason No. 3: You don’t have the resources you need.
When I do strategy sessions, I tend to decouple outcomes and resources. After all, there are often many different ways to achieve a desired outcome, some that require a lot of resources (a national multimedia ad campaign) and some that don’t (a grassroots effort to tell your story). But, by the time you get to your yearly plan of action, you need to have considered, and allocated, the appropriate resources. Make sure your plan is aligned with both your budget and your human capital. If not, make adjustments now. There are only two ways to move more quickly toward your goals, either add more resources, or reduce the number of goals. Which leads us to …
- Reason No. 4: You’ve added, but not subtracted activities.
No organization has unlimited resources. Even an association growing by double digits each year needs to really prioritize the way it spends time, energy and money to ensure it doesn’t outgrow its ability to deliver. With passionate members, most associations are not at a loss for exciting new ideas. The challenge is usually managing those ideas and choosing the best ones to pursue. Before taking on anything new, ask yourself what role the new project or program plays in your portfolio of activities and look to see if there is something you can eliminate at the same time. Think about the expert advice that says every time you put a brand new sweater in your closet you should identify an old one to remove. Likewise, shedding old programs and activities to make way for the new is a critical element of keeping your portfolio right-sized and manageable, setting up your association for long term success.
- Reason No. 5: You’re too close to it.
It’s your plan, you know it best, right? Yes, and as a result, as time goes on and it gets more and more familiar, you can easily twist what you had initially envisioned into what you are already doing and call it done. Suddenly, “create an online course to advance our profession” becomes two webinars held live with 20 participants each. Goal complete. Check. But is that what you really intended when you added that goal to the plan? Probably not. Combat this temptation by enlisting the help of an accountability partner outside your team or even outside your organization. A third-party partner keeps you honest, helps provide fresh, unbiased perspective, and pushes you to stay strategic.
Turning your plan into a reality is possible with a bit of structure, communication and accountability. Take time now to lay the groundwork by adding clarity, aligning your resources, including your team, eliminating less important tasks and finding a strategy partner to help keep you and your association on the path to successfully achieving your 2020 plan.