CEO's Blog

CEO Blog: Strategic Planning

What can businesses do now to get ahead?
Photo Credit: Shannon Rikard

Author: Matt Kormann

I knew going into my role with the ATA that our Board of Directors considered strategic planning a priority. Every business starts with a plan, and great organizations ensure they revisit that plan regularly. Times change. Markets evolve. Designing your future so you don’t become a spectator is a critical element of success.

On a small scale, strategic planning can be as simple as gathering key participants and hashing out next year’s goals. On a large scale, it usually involves a facilitator – someone not tied to the business, who comes in without baggage – and a broad range of experts. The process can last hours, days, or months. When it’s finished, a roadmap should emerge for the team, business or organization.

To achieve a goal the right way, we must mutually define our core values. Beyond staying on track, those well-defined values can give staff a little more autonomy. Photo Credit: Shannon Rikard.

The first element of strategic planning is a mission statement: “Here’s why we exist.” That might sound simple. It often isn’t. In my first six months with the ATA, I’ve heard many unique takes on our mission from all sorts of folks – all of whom are passionate about the ATA and our industry. That’s not unusual. It’s common to hear differing opinions on who an organization should be. I saw that in my previous work and with former clients. An organization that recognizes it must define that mission is on the right track.

Once we agree on who we are, we must define where we want to go. Often, this is the Big Hairy Audacious Goal. The vision statement that emerges can be the team’s rallying cry. It also acts as a long-range bull’s-eye we’ll target the next several years. If we pound X’s all those years, we’ll be a great organization accomplishing lofty goals!

To achieve that goal the right way, we must mutually define our core values. How do our members expect us to do our business? Beyond keeping us on track, those well-defined values can give our staff a little more autonomy. If a team member identifies an opportunity to do something new, and it serves our mission and vision while adhering to the way we expect them to do business, it’s likely they can just go do it! With solid expectations in place, we can go a whole lot further a whole lot faster.

With those tools defined, we’ll build a couple of strategic plans. A one-year plan will guide us right out of the gate. The Board and staff will know what’s expected, and how to measure success. If something new surfaces, we can check it against all of the above. If it fits, it’s wise to try moving it forward – quickly. If it doesn’t fit, we have an opportunity to see whether we should consider it at all.

The vision statement that emerges can be a team’s rallying cry. It also acts as a long-range target for the next several years. Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo.

For the long-range effort, we’ll come up with a five-year strategic plan that guides us toward our vision. This is more of a framework than a fixed plan. When we get beyond the first year or two, it’ll have to be revised – maybe heavily. But given the nature of our business, that should be easy. We’re used to change, especially recently.

When do we start? Right now.

We began surveying our members this week. We’re asking who you think we are and where we’re going. We’ll analyze that data and bring it to our kickoff meeting in mid-April. After that, we’ll spend a few months working in small groups. We’ll tackle the hottest topics we agree need the most attention. Then, around the time of our usual summer Board meeting, we’ll reconvene and dial everything in.

It’s likely we’ll reinforce some things we’ve been doing a long time. It’s just as likely we’ll identify some brave new courses we must chart. But we’ll do it together, and we’ll expect ongoing input from our membership. When those opportunities arise, please use your voice to help guide our future! Keep tuned in here, on Facebook, and Twitter for more news as this major effort begins.

And, as always, thanks for your membership and support of the ATA!

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