Monday, April 9, 2018

Step Four: Discussing the Strategic Implications

Two weeks ago, in Step Three: Writing Snapshots for Each Scenario, Part 2, I continued a description of a Scenario Planning exercise my Board chair and I decided to conduct at our most recently completed Board meeting. I ended the previous post with a comment that, now that we had our four scenarios and snapshots in hand, it was time to begin discussing the strategic implications of everything we have done.

This is the step of the exercise that we have, in fact, not yet done. Our goal was to complete the first three steps (Identifying the Megatrends, Creating Scenarios Based on Megatrends, and Writing Snapshots for Each Scenario) at our last Board meeting in February, and save the last step (Discussing the Strategic Implications) for our next Board meeting in June 2018. I'm sure I'll write more about prepping for that experience as we draw closer, and about the experience itself when it is completed, but for now, let me simply describe what I think it going to happen next.

The fundamental premise of Step Four is that the association is now in a position to develop four separate contingency plans, one for each of the four future scenarios that the first three steps of the process has helped create. We don't know which of these futures (if any) will come true, but by having a plan for each one, we put the association in a position where it can more thoughtfully react and position itself as the actual future unfolds.

Our discussion will, by necessity, be a strategic one. Trying to plan for the development of new programs, or for specific changes to existing programs, would take too much of the Board's valuable time and likely result in ideas that are out of sync with the actual future that manifests itself. We'll need to stay on the strategic side of the business -- our mission and our core strategic objectives -- if we are to create something that is useful to the organization.

One way to summarize the forthcoming discussion is through the chart included below.

In addition to our mission, NFPA has the five strategic objectives shown in the chart. In previous posts I've referred to these objectives as our "ends statements," because they describe the high-level ends, or outcomes, that, based on our mission, we seek to achieve for our members.

What we need to do at our June Board meeting is discuss the changes, if any, that would need to occur to our mission and these five ends statements in each of the four scenarios that we have described.

"Effective Forum," for example, our objective associated with bringing the industry together for unique and valuable education, networking, business opportunity, and collective action, might mean something very different for an association facing Scenarios A and C than one facing Scenarios B and D. (i.e., an increasingly IoT connected industry vs. one maintaining its advantage outside the IoT space). Similarly, our objectives associated with educating the future workforce (Technically Trained People and University Engineers) would likely each require a different focus depending on the type and level of IoT integration occurring in the overall industry.

The goal will be to develop a short list of strategic actions that would need to be taken in each of the scenarios. Recruit more IoT technology providers into the membership, for example, or increase exposure to IoT technologies in our partner colleges and universities. These lists will then comprise and set of contingency plans that can be activated, in part or in whole, as the future occurs. How we would accomplish these things -- through the development of new or refinement of existing programs -- is what we would then address only as part of that activation process.

So, that only leaves the process by which we'll determine which future is actually occurring, and I'll save that for the next post in this series.

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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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