I once heard someone say, “Your organization is only as strong as its strategic plan.” Looking into the future with purpose, priorities, and resources to get the job done is essential to all associations and chambers. A cohesive plan helps employees and stakeholders stay on common ground.
However, if you’re only looking at the plan through one lens, it may not give you the best picture. Look through three different lenses when creating and measuring your organization’s strategic plan. These three lenses will ensure you successfully articulate where an organization is going and the actions needed to make progress, but most importantly, how to know if you’re successful. Identify your internal, external, and member lenses to set your organization up for success.
Internal: Looking through the internal lens is a great place to start, even before you bring your Board or members together to begin outlining a new plan. Collect outcome data from previous plans and analyze internal operational metrics and your financials for at least the past five years. Most importantly, interview your staff and executive committee. Go beyond the data or a survey tool and ask them about their experience or what may be missing.
External: The external lens will allow you to compare yourself to your peers. Benchmark yourself against a large number of chambers or associations. Identify 10-12 “best-in-class” organizations to conduct a deep-dive into their operations. But don’t stop there. Think about your community and collect data from peer cities, not just the chamber or association located there. Look at the socio-economic landscape of several peer cities compared to your own to help identify what is needed to increase prosperity and what role your organization could play to impact it.
Member: The member lens may be the most important for any member-based organization. When I think of member feedback, the first place my head typically goes is to a survey. Surveys are very important to help gather large amounts of feedback quickly. Go even deeper and identify at least 35-50 companies you can meet with to do an in-depth interview. These companies can primarily be members, but remember to identify 5-10 former or potential members to interview as well. This step is crucial. You cannot rely solely on the verbal feedback of your Board because they are the most engaged members you have.
The information you gather by looking through the internal, external, and member lenses will help you identify what your community needs, what your members prefer, and the capabilities your organization has to get the job done. Once you have those in focus, your strategic plan will come together as a clear, cohesive picture.