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Make No Small Plans: Post Pandemic Planning

Kickstart Your 2021, Part 4

Alice A. Martin, RCE

We are approaching mid-2021 and it’s time to get moving before it’s over! Part 4 accompanies the first three – 1) I’m Tired (of the pandemic), 2) Give your association a physical, and 3) Prepare to Prepare.

Part 4 addresses the strategic planning session itself.

Daniel Burnham, a famous Chicago architect said it so very well:

"Make no small plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood..."

Make this your planning mantra, especially for 2022 and beyond.

Ginger and I have probably read every planning session blog/article we get our hands on and have picked up some tips from several. What we’ve learned has led to improvement in our processes but mostly has resulted in the formation of some questions for you to pose prior to and at your next planning session.

1. Will 2022-2024’s plan look like the past plans? That is, will it take into account the pandemic pivoting that worked (or didn’t), and important lessons learned. My guess is your new plan should look different to the degree it includes some of those big hairy audacious goals we always hear about.

Example: discard those old “orthodox beliefs” like short term concerns matter more than long-term thinking. As hard as we all try to encourage longer-term goals, many plans address objectives that associations want completed in 6-12 months. Explore all plausible futures and then Include those longer term objectives and work toward them!

2. Consider both real estate and association trends. Evaluating trends will help you look at those plausible futures, too.

Example: Systemic racism is an ongoing challenge in the country today. Is this an issue that has impacted your community in any way? If yes, how you deal with your community in outreach activities could be affected by how the community looks at your members and association. Addressing this could also help you with the DEI activities mentioned in #4 below.

3. Knowing the changes you made to make things work in 2020 (and probably still for a while more), what will you continue? What will you stop?

Example: some of your members really love the virtual classes you’ve been offering. And some of your events have more attendees than ever because they can participate in their jammies! How do you blend the digital environment with the actual?

4. Will your plan include your association’s values? This COVID-19 environment has required both staff and volunteers to work on improving their soft skills like empathy, social awareness, compassion, and so much more. Your association’s values are more important than ever to help guide your moral compass as you move to a more unknown future. Most associations we’ve worked with for years have not created values or value statements. It’s time!

Example: social awareness: the need to address diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is yelling at us loud and

clear. Have you addressed it in your planning? If not, it’s past time.

5. Is your pre-planning work analyzed as closely as it should? That means your member survey, your SWOT analysis, more? Do you review of your member survey’s results with the planning group; have you developed clear objectives to address some of the concerns or ideas expressed in your survey? Have you drilled down into the member segments to help improve or build programs or marketing? The plan should address these.

Example: How you evaluate the SWOT analysis can lead to some very cool ideas. I recently read an article from the Harvard Business Review that is titled: Are You Doing the SWOT Analysis Backwards? I loved it. Many association planning groups don't give the SWOT analysis enough attention. A quote: “Our natural instinct is to jump to solutions, particularly when we list opportunities.”

In fact, the real understanding of the external opportunities and threats is missing. Here’s the article’s suggestion. Instead of looking at the strengths and weaknesses first, start with opportunities and threats and put together recommendations that make sense. For example, one of the external threats in your SWOT’s results could be ‘the lack of housing inventory.” And a cited internal weakness could be “lack of member involvement.” How do you blend those to look for a possible solution? Try this:

"Given the current lack of housing inventory and the increased competition it creates, members are busier than ever and lack the time to volunteer, leading us to create more short term micro-volunteering opportunities.”

See how that works? We are beginning to help associations come up with similar analysis of their external threats and opportunities by tying them into their internal strengths and weaknesses. We’ll let you know how it works.

Stay tuned for the last topic on this series – making sure your plan creates NO dust by sitting on a shelf.

In conclusion, here are so many more ideas for you to think about for your plan. For more information on a productive session and a great finished produce, please contact us to brainstorm some solutions.

And make no small plans!

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