How Do You Strategic Plan During a Pandemic? Answer: Sprint Strategic Sessions.

Normally, when we facilitate a strategic plan for our clients, we do them in a 4-hour period.  Some facilitators do them in a full day, but we love 4 hours.  They are quick but very efficient.  But during this pandemic it’s impossible to get people on a 4-hour Zoom, nor do you really want to.  When people are on Zoom, they multitask.  Check emails, text friends, etc. right?  We all do it.  But when you do a strategic plan you need participants to be focused and dedicated to the task at hand.

Our suggestion? Sprint strategic sessions.

Check out our Founder, Dot Miller, talking about how to do this effectively.

Here’s what we mean.  Take the next four board meetings and reserve time beforehand to conduct a sprint strategic session.  Try for 90-minute chunks; the first 45 minutes to talk about the survey data you’re going to collect (more below) and another 45 minutes to create your SMART goals. Do these four times in a row (assuming you do monthly board meetings). Pick one topic per session (example: membership, training and education, advocacy, etc.).

Here’s an example:

If you plan to start your sprint sessions in a few months.  Here’s what to do in your lead up.

#1. Survey members.  All of them.  Ask about the organization.

#2. Define stakeholders.  Take all members and categorize them into colors = green, yellow and red. Green = you know them by name. They are active and loyal. Yellow = you’re not really sure. You don’t know them personally, but they have engaged in some respect.  Red = you have no idea who they are OR they could be longstanding members that simply renew their dues and are happy with a few key programs.

#3. Engage stakeholders. Take your yellows and reds with less than 5 years of membership and call them first. They are most critical for you to engage.  Group them into 10-15 and host stakeholder meetings.  You need to find out the information AND it’s a win-win because you get info and getting them engaged. They feel heard. They feel ownership.

Stakeholder and Member Questions

Now, what do you do with this great information?

Take it to the sprint strategy sessions and prepare thought provoking questions for the board.  What surprised them about the survey data?  Challenge them to think critically about the value you offer to members.  Then, come up with the SMART goal. Example – 6% membership growth and 80% market share in 2 years.  Decide how is the goal is going to be accomplished and who is responsible.  What are the dollar amounts? What is the timeline?

Important advice: don’t let the board say, “we will let our exec director decide on the plan to get the SMART goal done.” Don’t leave the meeting without making this plan. You want buy-in from the people in the meeting or else it is doomed to fail.

Do this again and again until you’ve covered all the major topics and created all your SMART goals.

Here are tips to leave you with:

Think long term but plan for short term.
Decisions need to happen quickly.  Get systems in place to enable your board to be nimble.
Check your bylaws to make sure you’re not handcuffed. Put emergency operations in place.

Finally, don’t be afraid to purge!

The pandemic has given association professionals a unique opportunity to get rid of programs and services that simply DO NOT WORK for your association.  Now is the time to make the changes you’ve been wanting. Now is the time to question programs that you’ve had for years and years (think: a publication with decreasing subscriptions? A tired out award program? An unprofitable event?).  Use your sprint sessions to focus exclusively on relevant, revenue-producing, problem-solving, mission driven items.

Want to learn more?

Do you need advice on how to bring this to your association?  Call or email us.  We provide consultations for no cost. We also have a ton of examples and sample worksheets to share.