Monday, April 24, 2017

Prioritizing Sends a Message

We're beginning to rev up for our annual strategic board retreat. In our process, this is a major pivot point for the organization, when we bring one operational plan to a close, and revise or refresh the strategy agenda around which the next operational plan will be built.

Not sure what I mean by those terms? Check out these previous posts on our Strategy Agenda and our Operational Plan. As a quick summary, the Strategy Agenda is how the board defines the expected outcomes of the organization, and the Operational Plan is how the staff defines the activities we will pursue in order to achieve them.

Anyway, as part of this "revving up" process, I and my senior staff are looking at the sucess of this year's goals and discussing a proposed set of goals for next year. It's opening up a number of great conversations about what we're here to do and how we should and should not go about accomplishing it.

Here's one.

Choosing where to set stretch goals and where to set maintenance goals can communicate a set of priorities throughout the organization.

Ours is an organization with a large number of goals, existing at multiple strategic and programmatic levels of the organization. There are goals aligned with our high-level success indicators, and goals associated with our tactical program objectives. They all need to be defined at the start of each year, because the rest of the operational plan depends on them.

So, deciding which goals are going to be stretch goals (that is, difficult to achieve) and which goals are going to be maintenance goals (that is, in comparison to the stretch goals, relatively easy to achieve), can actually communicate quite a bit about the priorities of the organization in the year ahead.

It's important to keep that in mind. In an environment like ours, where numerous initiatives have to keep steadily advancing for the year to be considered a success, making a handful of goals much more difficult than the others will help give those few areas the special emphasis you may think they deserve.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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