I was fortunate to have been able to join 6,000+ association colleagues and professionals in Chicago for the ASAE 2018 Annual Meeting this past summer.
My favorite session was led by a diverse four-member association CEO panel that took us on a journey of how to guide a board of directors through future-focused strategic conversations. As a follow up to the March 2018 release of the ASAE ForesightWorks program, the panelists presented their association-tested foresight principles and practices.
Six Practices to Initiate a Culture of Foresight in Your Association
1. Engage the future way your members think
What’s the language of inquiry your members use?
- Scientists use hypothesis
- Corporate real estate forecasts
- Security thinks risk analysis
- Physicians think diagnosis, treatment and prevention
Case Study: The American Association of Anatomists launched an innovation competition and engaged members in developing a new member benefit. The winner was awarded a $50,000 research grant.
2. Acknowledge your association’s maturity and readiness to engage in change
Where is your board in its readiness to lead the future?
- Assess your association’s maturity and openness to new directions
- Seize the desire to become a more strategic board
- Get the governance structure aligned
- Manage your association like the business it is
Case Study: CoreNet Global (a corporate real estate association) recognized the need to overhaul its governance structure in an effort to enable good strategy. The organization re-developed the nominating process and defined leadership competencies.
3. Be brave enough to lead the future for your association
Do you and your volunteer leaders have the courage to engage the future and act decisively to seize opportunities and confront challenges?
- Be the chief listening officer with hindsight, insight and foresight
- Be the chief scout
- Take an aggressive approach toward external opportunities
- Confront how your profession needs to change
Case Study: ASIS International developed a strategic plan based on member feedback. This allowed the board to come to the table with information that they didn’t otherwise have.
4. Identify and equip your champions
Who must champion foresight to create the changes you will need to make?
- Involve your presidential chain
- Find the right home within your organizational structure
- Engage your chapters
- Foster staff and volunteer collaboration
Case Study: The American Academy of Neurology regularly examines staff and volunteer utilization. The organization also maintains and distributes a strategic plan scorecard which is shared with board, committee, and special interest group volunteers.
5. Put your money where your future is
How will you get the money to act on the future you want to create?
- Invest reserves in innovation
- Find your best chance at future revenues
- Use future opportunities as context for evaluating existing programs
- Invest in the experience and capabilities your members say they want
The panelists were all in agreement that associations should spend down investment reserves and create operational budgets that fund the future.
6. Make foresight a habit you keep
How will you prime your board to talk foresight and act for the future today and every day?
- Make it part of your institutional muscle
- Put foresight into your rhythm of strategic planning
- Engage board and committee chairs in creating your association’s future
- Make foresight a broad-based shared experience
The panelists were all in agreement that associations need to continually demonstrate to members and other key stakeholders how they are delivering on strategy.
- ASAE ForesightWorks Complete Collection – includes 46 action briefs and a user’s guide
- ASAE ForesightWorks Action Sets – allows you to explore in a specific area of interest:
- ASAE ForesightWorks User’s Guide – provides direction for practicing foresight and exploring the action briefs with worksheets and other materials.
- Drivers of Change: Summaries and Forecasts – free to ASAE members, provides an introduction to all of the drivers of change. It collects the first page—including summaries, forecasts, and key uncertainties—of all action briefs.