Key Trends for Strategic Planning in 2023

Key Trends for Strategic Planning in 2023

Are you ready to formulate and implement your strategic plan for 2023? While your association’s leadership team may be well versed in creating a plan for your future strategic direction, there could be emerging trends and considerations that you haven’t factored into your planning process. We take a look at the key trends that should be on your radar.

Incorporating emotional intelligence into strategic planning

While it is typically the Board and the executive who decide on strategic direction and formulate a plan, everyone in the association – including staff, volunteers, and, to a lesser extent, members – will be involved in implementing it. Especially if the new strategic direction is a significant shift or pivot from what your association was doing before, it is vital that leaders consider emotional intelligence and the human side of the equation when strategic planning.

Emotional intelligence essentially means understanding that people are complex beings who will have an emotional response to events. It is not uncommon for people to not like change, but when this change affects their working life, it is especially vital that they understand its purpose and what the change will mean for them. Resistance can cause serious challenges for an association’s leadership, and can even derail the strategic plan altogether. 

Instead of allowing change to feel like something that is happening to your association’s people, leaders need to use emotional intelligence leadership skills to make them feel that it is happening with them. This means being consultative and collaborative, keeping lines of communication open, and being aware of how the new plan affects people.

Using data analytics in strategic planning 

Too often, leaders will make decisions about strategic planning based on what might “feel right”, or what they have seen other organisations do with success. This untargeted approach can result in wasted time and resources, and a plan that lacks direction.

Instead, it’s important to use analytics to quantify and support all strategic decisions. Using data collected from the previous year can help to measure a range of key indicators of success, including operational risks, the success of different marketing initiatives and membership drives, financial situations, and more.

Factoring macro and environmental trends into the strategic planning process

No association exists in a vacuum – we all need to operate within the dynamic spaces of our industries, our geographic locations, our political climate, and many more macro spheres. It’s vital that the strategic planning process takes all of these factors into account, as well as the internal environment of the association.

Some of the trends to consider when formulating your strategic plan include:

  • Economy. Are we in a strong or weak economy? The plan you make during a recession will be very different to the one created during a time of economic expansion. This will influence how much income you are likely to generate and your profit margins.
  • Technology. Is the emergence of new technology affecting your industry? Maybe some of your members are facing redundancies or dramatically changed working environments? Maybe roles are getting easier?
  • Legal. Is there a need to lobby for law reforms or changes that will benefit your membership?
  • Political. Who is currently in government at a federal, state and local level? Are they aligned with your association’s goals?
  • Media. Is your industry or sector facing public scrutiny or a period of mistrust? Or is there high public confidence? How is this being portrayed in mainstream media?

Securing employee buy-in for your strategic plan 

Even the most carefully considered strategic plans requires the buy-in of the organisation as a whole to implement successfully. As well as considering emotional intelligence when presenting your strategic plan to staff and volunteers, some of the other ways to improve employee sentiment towards your plan (and therefore its eventual successful roll out) include:

  • Early and consistent consultation. Employees want to feel like they are being considered and that their opinions are valued within the association. Get them involved early and ask for their feedback and participation at multiple points during the planning process.
  • Be transparent. If something employees asked for cannot be done, or will need to be included in a future strategic plan, explain why and be honest about the reasons. Otherwise, staff can feel that they aren’t being listened to.
  • Make the plan accessible. Using a lot of difficult or technical language that will only be understood by higher level employees and the executive will prevent staff from engaging with the plan.

Incorporating sustainability and ESG considerations into strategic planning

ESG (environment, social and governance) considerations are becoming increasingly important in the operating environment. An ESG framework can help associations to evaluate risks in diverse areas such as climate change, organisational compliance, and cultural trends. All associations should be aiming for better operational sustainability and an environmentally friendly focus in 2023, as members increasingly look to support organisations who are working to reduce their carbon footprint. Additionally, thinking about issues such as workplace diversity and inclusion, mental health of staff, and corporate social responsibility can improve your association beyond your next strategic plan.

Questions? Need Help?

This is just a quick run-down on how to build an effective strategic plan. AES offers comprehensive services in this area. Simply contact us for further information, or book a free consultation.

About the Author: Nick Koerbin (Executive Director, AES)

With over 30 years of management expertise, Executive Director and Founder of AES, Nick Koerbin is one of the most experienced NFP leaders in Australia. He has held positions as the CEO of Materials Australia, the National Parts Code, as well as senior positions in the Institute of Insurance, Australian Quality Council, the Financial Planning Association, the Australian Human Resources Institute, and the Furniture Industry Association of Australia. Nick created AES with a vision of creating a set of management practices that could be consistently followed to ensure success. Over his 30 years in the industry, he noticed that inconsistent management practices often impeded delivery of services to members, which in turn created issues with membership renewal. By establishing AES and creating the NFP Association Best Practice Self-Assessment, Nick has been able to assist leaders in becoming more confident and informed decision makers so that they can create more effective strategies and implementation plans.

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