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by Callie Castro, CAE, KCSAE President-Elect

One crucial governing document for any association is its strategic plan which helps to guide leadership in making decisions with a long-term vision and goals in mind. It is important for your leaders to have a clear vision for moving the organization forward so that staff can take that vision and actualize it in a purposeful way.

The days of associations having a strategic plan sitting on the shelf collecting dust are over. Organizations must live the strategic plan and everyone on staff must own it for it to be effective. As the environment changes, so must the plan. And, as a result, the goals of the strategic plan must cascade throughout the organization so that each and every person is working to achieve these goals.

It is important as the plan is adopted that it be communicated throughout the organization and as changes and milestones occur those updates are shared as well. The strategic plan is not just a governing document of the board; it provides direction and guidance for the entire association.

The board must ensure that staff leadership is equipped with the knowledge they need to lead and inform other staff of the strategic plan. Regular dialogue must occur up and down channel to ensure that goals are understandable, action items are achievable, and adequate resources are available.

It is crucial to keep leadership on task to ensure that they are looking at all their actions with the strategic plan in mind. And staff must have actionable items incorporated into their annual goals that tie into the strategic plan. It is important to remember that everyone is working toward the same mission.

Leaders and staff must be innovative as they take action, offering new ideas and accepting the possibility of failure from time to time. Working with a creative mindset toward plan implementation will only prove to benefit the organization and its members. Staff output will be more proactive, and the organization will be forced to move outside its comfort zone.

Owning It
Staff must be involved with the plan in order for the association to accomplish its goals. And by allowing everyone to have a direct role in the plan, it creates ownership and accountability. Engaging staff members in the execution of the strategic plan is the responsibility of the board and staff leaders to ensure everyone is supportive and can see themselves as an integral part of the outcome.

As such, we should all be trying to figure out where we belong. Will we be the one to make things happen; will we sit by and just watch things happen; or will we be lost in the process and simply wonder what happened? The strategic planning session in February will help us become more equipped to actually make things happen! I hope to see you there for a discussion led by Stacy Brungardt and Dede Gish-Panjada.

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