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Mistake #1 – Not Writing a Strategic Plan Each Year
Every annual meeting presents an opportunity to reset, redefine, and reassess your association’s needs, wants, and must-haves. With the election of new board members and new officers, there are new perspectives to shape the coming year. New directors are usually eager to get involved and contribute meaningfully. Taking time to create strategic plan for your association will help new members better understand what the association needs, how the board intends to act, and how those new members can contribute. Most importantly, this will help your board focus its efforts on the right projects.
This is also a time to reflect on pending projects and incomplete objectives. I’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies that struggle to maintain the momentum of a long-term project. Those are paid professionals whose job is to get the right things done right. We often see project fatigue set in with directors after an issue hasn’t moved forward in three months or once it becomes apparent that the objective is requires significantly more work than originally thought.
In the past, we used to excuse this reality among association boards because the directors are all volunteers with families, careers, and other things that they want to spend their time doing. Project fatigue is a natural phenomenon. It happens at all levels within organizations large and small. So the questions is: if it’s “normal” then how do we harness it?
The answer is strategic planning. Revisit your goals, objectives, and projects periodically. Priorities change and it’s essential to be able to pivot to stay ahead of important new issues that will inevitably pop up in your association over time. At a minimum, use the annual meeting to update (or even rewrite) your strategic plan for the upcoming year. You might find that pending projects are not very important. Or you might find that they are important stepping stones to newly realized goals. Either way, stopping to evaluate them will ensure that your association is always moving in the right direction—something your owners will all appreciate.
There are three basic steps to developing a strategic plan.
Brainstorm: get every idea, wish, and whim on the table. WRITE THEM ALL DOWN on paper so that everyone can see them.
Prioritize & Define SMART Goals: assign a number to each item on the list so that you can group them into priority categories. Once you have labeled all of them, your 1’s and 2’s should be reevaluated. Within those groupings, what rises to the top? With your first- and second-tier priorities clearly identified, you need to set SMART goals. These are not general statements of what outcome you’re looking for, like ‘hire new legal counsel.’ SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-oriented.
Assign & Measure: finally, assign your SMART goals to the right director, employee, contractor, or committee and make sure that they know how they are being measured. Then, follow through and measure their performance until the goal is achieved.
Your strategic plan will eventually become a tool that is connected with your budget process. Plans are great, but without resources to complete them, they are useless. When your board has developed a strategic plan, it has determined how the needs and wants of the community will be met. This makes budget season much easier because every proposed expenditure can be filtered through the lens of the strategic plan.
Does this further our first- and second-tier priorities? Or does this impeded, delay, or distract from those priorities? A simplified budget process will make your life easier, but it will also reinforce the board’s leadership mandate by helping the owners to connect your actions with the association’s expenditures.
 6 Steps to a Smart Goal, Tony Robbins, Robbins Research Inc., https://www.tonyrobbins.com/career-business/the-6-steps-to-a-smart-goal/