For many of us, our world revolves around making lists: priority activities for the day, grocery lists for the big meal, a daily to-do list to make sure it all gets done. Lists help us focus on what’s most important and establish order. With that in mind, here’s a list of what I call the organizational “Big Five”—five guideposts that help to provide a strong foundation to guide your organization.
The Big Five are: Strategic Planning, Vision, Mission, Brand and Value Proposition. These are words that represent what you do and how you do it. You may not think much about them on a day-to-day basis. This list will help you better understand the big five, their unique purpose within your organization, their relationship to one another, and to question if yours are in good order.
Strategic Planning is your commitment to the future. It’s your chance to take a close and thorough look at your organization and ask what issues need attention – with no predetermined agenda. Strategy includes identifying important long-term issues facing your members and your organization, and agreeing on how to fix them, OR seeking out opportunities that will strengthen your value proposition.
As a basic and simple example, an association I know discovered “networking” and “networking events” are no longer relevant to their target audience. They used strategic planning to re-define networking: Their strategic goal is “Build member engagement by helping members interact and mentor each other”. More detail included “Provide a venue to help members connect with people who are best at what they do. We’ll facilitate building meaningful networks with other like-minded practitioners at specific milestones in their career.”
It has changed the way the board approaches the strategy of connecting members to one another. “Networking” is not mentioned in the plan; instead, mastermind groups, panels, market updates with business owners are tactics to reach the goal through uniting members in the profession.
Your vision is your destination when you successfully execute your strategic plan; it is aspirational and usually bold and even unreachable. When you work to overcome your biggest strategic issues year in and year out, the vision is what the association will be at the end.
As Michael Hyatt, who writes on “intentional leadership” says: “If you don’t start with a lofty vision, you become content with mediocrity and execute even lower.”
Your mission states your purpose. It is short, clear, and gives staff a roadmap to guide them in their daily work. It is 10 to 20 words in length and can fit on the back of a business card. It reminds leaders, staff and members about what the organization does at its core.
Association mission statements are getting shorter and more simple to understand.
Your brand is your promise to members about what they can expect from you over time. Different from your logo, a charismatic brand is a product, service, place or person for which people believe there is no substitute.
One association took a fresh approach to their brand promise. After a good amount of discovery and discussion, they decided their commitment to members (their brand) would be New Knowledge. Through education, in communications, with legal and regulatory updates, learning events, and in all the ways they interact with members over the phone and in email, the staff would convey some element of knowledge or “did you know” to their interaction. The brand helped guide the staff to learn about other departments and learn new knowledge for themselves to relay to their members.
Your value proposition is a short, simple written and spoken message. If vision is your destination postcard, your value proposition is your association’s billboard. In a few short words, you need to convince members that you know what they need most and can answer those needs – today. It is your members’ rationale for choosing to affiliate with your association (versus another association), your educational or news/information source…or none at all.
Your value proposition is not yours to decide internally amongst staff or leadership. You must discover it based on purposeful conversations with your important member segments. Conduct relevant research to uncover members’ worries and needs. Your value proposition links to your strategy as you relentlessly focus on your members, their needs and the solutions you deliver to answer them.
The Big Five should all align, but none are the same.
I challenge your team to review this Big Five list and put a check in the box where you need some help to re-focus, re-energize and/or re-think these important association drivers.