Monday, May 4, 2015

The Essential Elements of a Strategy Agenda

Last week I wrote about some new terms I have introduced in my association. Our Strategy Agenda, which is determined by our Board and focused on what we want to achieve, and our Operational Plan, which is determined by our staff and focused on how we will achieve it.

This week I want to write more about the elements that make up our Strategy Agenda. As I try to explain each element, it may be best to think of each as forming a kind of outline, or even better a set of nesting dolls, each element living in subservient alignment with the one that came before it.

The largest doll is our MISSION. This is our fundamental purpose, the reason our association exists.

Within the mission are our areas of STRATEGIC PRIORITY. These are the highest of our high-level goals, the things we must achieve if we are to accomplish our mission. Everything we do is in pursuit of one or more of these goals.

Within each area of strategic priority are our ENDS STATEMENTS. These are the specific outcomes that will result if we successfully pursue our areas of strategic priority. Some may think of these as vision statements--expressions of some idealized future state--and they are that, but, importantly, they must also be things we think can be achieved in the short-term. Indeed, in discussing the use of ends statements, our Board decided that they should also serve as the broadest and most compelling answers for a member asking about the benefits of membership and participation in our association. Ends statements, in other words, are the tangible things we're doing to make the world a better place for our members.

And finally, within each ends statement are our SUCCESS INDICATORS. These are the needles we will try to move, the metrics by which we’ll know that we’re making progress towards each ends statement. A baseline and goal is set for each one, and a discipline of tracking, reporting, and taking action to affect each is established. This marshals the attention of both the board and the staff--the board because positive movement indicates that our mission is being fulfilled, and staff because positive movement indicates that we are taking the right kinds of actions. The success indicators, in fact, form the link between our Board's Strategy Agenda and our staff's Operational Plan, something I'll go on to describe in greater detail in future posts.

So in summary, our Strategy Agenda is comprised of four nested concepts, our:

1. MISSION, our overall purpose, from which we derive our
2. STRATEGIC PRIORITIES, how we will achieve our mission, from which we set our
3. ENDS STATEMENTS, the outcomes each strategic priority will achieve for our members, from which we identify our
4. SUCCESS INDICATORS, the metrics by which we'll know that we're achieving the outcomes.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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