Where’s the Strategy?
Association Trends did a survey of association executives and reports on it in a recent issue. It talks about their confidence in their industries, in the U.S. economy, and their projections about things like upcoming meeting attendance.
I first learned of this report from Jeff De Cagna, who I fully expect to post on this topic, because he and I were both a bit surprised at some of the data that they reported on the association executives' response to the economic crisis.
Case in point: 45% of those surveyed said they expect "across the board" budget cuts. I run the risk of interpreting these results too much, but wouldn't across the board cuts imply that everything you do is strategically equal in value? If you cut EVERYTHING, then you're cutting the programs/effort that brings in the most net revenue or value to members, along with things that contribute less to the bottom line or member engagement, right? Or does everything contribute equally? It surprises me that nearly half are planning on across-the-board cuts. It makes me wonder about how clear they are on strategy and the impact of their various programs.
Of course when the executives were asked about what management areas were the most important to focus on during 2009, the number one answer was strategic planning to provide 'value.' Thirty-five percent named this as the most important management area to focus on.
What does "strategic planning to provide value" actually mean? Why did they add the "to provide value" clause? Were the execs in the survey only allowed to choose one area to focus on? Is that why only 7% are going to focus on new product development (how are you going to provide value in a changing world without introducing new things on a regular basis?)? Even better, only 3% are going to focus on organizational structure/culture/governance. Seriously, am I the only one who thinks that structure, culture, and governance are likely to be major factors in why an association is in a tough spot right now? Strategic planning is what they do anyway.
As I said, I may be over-interpreting the results of a survey where I don't know the details of the design and implementation. But survey results aside, dear readers, how is strategy REALLY playing a part in your decisions right now? How did you used to have strategic conversations? How do you have them now?
It's not only that the economic landscape has changed dramatically. We don't ONLY have to retool our programs or change our marketing tactics. We might have to change the structure or process of our strategic conversations. Going back to "strategic planning," even if we were good at it in the past, might not work today. Leadership is the capacity within the system to shape its future. That capacity is not static.