by Robert C. Harris
“What’s measured improves,” said Peter Drucker, management consultant and author.
Identifying metrics improves the strategic planning process. Metrics are the expected outcomes, data, timelines and assignments to carry out the mission.
“How will we measure success?” should be a frequent question at planning and board meetings. Recommendations without metrics will be difficult to gauge achievements.
“Performance measures should not be considered an optional add-on for the strategic plan. They are essential for excellence. Without metrics the plan is only a process document. By integrating expected outcomes, we are moving from process to results.” said Bill Pawlucy, CAE, Association Options.
During strategic planning, ask leaders to consider performance, including measurables, assignments and timelines. Nothing is worse than leaving a meeting having no idea what the strategy or motion intended.
Who Sets the Metrics?
Volunteers may not be the best persons to set the metrics, especially if they don’t have all the facts. Though successful in their own work settings, they probably don’t know every aspect of the association.
At a discussion on membership someone offered, “We can double the number of members in three years.” Groupthink took over and the numbers varied from 30% to 70% growth.
This was pie in the sky. If facts are unknown, guessing performance measures is dangerous and bound to fail.
At the Planning Retreat
Add metrics soon after the planning retreat. Identifying expectations increases traction and likelihood of success.
Input for setting the specifics comes from different groups: Executive Director, Officers and Committees.
Executive Director: When the strategic plan draft arrives on the desk of the CEO, he or she will consider how to best accomplish the objectives. The executive has the knowledge and data to add realistic trends and timelines.
For example, if the board recommended an educational workshop, the CEO knows it cannot be planned this year but there will be time to design and implement it in the next calendar year. Staff already have a full load, without adding new courses that reduce resources.
The executive knows how to spread the work over several years. The common format for tracking is a horizontal spreadsheet identifying details, accountability and resource allocation.
Officers: The board officers may have knowledge to add performance measures. For example, the treasurer will adjust revenue and expenses associated with recommendations. Officers should intentionally spread the work over the three-year span of the plan.
Discuss implementation as a team. Avoid these two mistakes: 1) trying to do everything in the first year, and 2) putting the plan on a shelf to collect dust.
Committees: Align committees and task forces with the plan. Goals without volunteer workforce may fail.
Committees should add the tactics. Ask them to identify economic impact and expected outcomes for all proposals to the board.
At Board Meetings
Outside the strategic planning retreat, recommendations and motions are made at board meetings. It is critical to agree upon what will define success.
Tie motions to a timeframe for periodic review, for example annually. Add a sunset mechanism, a date when the program will be reviewed to retain, revamp or drop.
The strategic plan should be a part of every board meeting. Include it on the agenda.
Add the mission statement and goals on agendas. All reporting should align with the goals. Keep a copy of the plan on the board table.
Transform the strategic plan into a spreadsheet. Committees and staff will use the spreadsheet or grid to monitor progress.
List the goals, followed by the strategies and priorities. On the right side add columns detailing accountability, and notes.
A strategic plan champion can be responsible for monitoring and reporting, using the grid.
Setting metrics improves outcomes. If specifics are not added at the retreat or board meeting, rely on the staff, officers and committees to identify specifics that improve understanding and expectations.