It Might Be the Right Time to Do Strategy If…

Lowell Aplebaum
April 27, 2021

In recent weeks a number of clients have approached me asking if “now” is the right time to take a look at their strategy. While strategic practices should be incorporated into everyday routine, a targeted initiative of strategic visioning and planning is not an activity to be undertaken lightly. Whether a strategic cycle (3, 5 or even 10 years) is up for renewal or in the midst of such shift a strategic refresh would be a helpful focus, here are some reflections on the timing of strategy.

Now might be the right time to do strategy if:

The last time you reviewed and made any changes to your plan was prior to May 15, 2020.
Even if your industry has remained consistent, the environment around it has not. An effort to step back, confirm that your guiding vision still speaks to the future your membership and industry needs, and that your organization is investing in the right efforts to get there will be key as we start to transition to a post-pandemic world.

You are still functioning with a crisis leadership Board.
For most associations, in 2020, the Board of Directors had to shift into a pattern of crisis response. Sudden meeting cancelations, members experiencing new and unforeseen challenges, budgets thrown out of whack. As we recover from crisis, leadership needs to reform patterns of working with a recommitment to future focus and foresight. Has dedicated time for foresight and innovation made its way back as regular Board agenda items?

If your vision and mission have become irrelevant.
Your vision should be describing the future you are trying to create in order because of your organization’s unique contribution. Your mission is how to get there. If the description of that future is no longer the one your membership, industry, or society needs, then a strategic refresh can help you reset the vision.

If your future focused vision and mission is not guiding leadership decisions.
With a vision, mission and direction that feels pointed in the true north of need and opportunity, it is being used as an active tool by leadership? At the top of every Board agenda, should be your vision and mission. If leadership have stepped away from using it as a litmus test for resource investment, it’s time to reorient.

If the narrative of leadership to membership is reactive instead of projective.
During the past year, many organizations have instituted more frequent and intimate spaces for leadership to connect with membership. Town halls, fireside chats, they have been opportunities to keep members in the loop on how the organization is responding and what is happening. As these opportunities for a greater connection continue, the narrative underpinning these moments should shift toward building pathways to the future, with strategy at its core.

Ultimately, we are just about at a year (in the US) into the onset of a pandemic and subsequent societal shifts that have changed the landscape. At some point in that year, you have had a transition of officers. New board members coming in must see within the strategy of the organization an inspirational, robust, and innovative pathway to a better future. #Leadership needs to be able to bring a narrative of the meaningful tomorrow your organization is creating – and, if that narrative is wanting, now is the right time to do #strategy.

Lowell Aplebaum, FASAE, CAE, CPF is the CEO and Strategy Catalyst of Vista Cova – a company that partners with organizations on strategic visioning and planning, creating stronger governance models, and reimagining value and engagement. Lowell frequently provides dynamic sessions to organizations – conducting deep-dive interviews and getting members and volunteers involved through experiential learning approaches. He is the creator of a master-level learning series called Through the CEO Lens and Association Charrette – a co-creation retreat experience. His work on global efforts for associations has included experience across five continents, hundreds of volunteer groups, and all 50 states in the U.S.