Part 9 of a 11-part blog series on the Rockefeller Habits for Associations.
When we run our culture assessment with associations, the scores that indicate if people understand the success drivers of the organization (or if they understand and can apply the strategy) tend to be more on the “traditional” side of our scale, which means…not so much.
Associations often struggle with outdated processes for strategic planning. It’s not often they invest in processes and systems that make sure everyone across all levels has the strategic clarity they need to drive the organization forward.
Not every team member needs to be a master of strategy, but if you have large groups who don’t see the big picture, you are much more likely to drift in the wrong direction. This is the driver behind Rockefeller Habit #8.
Rockefeller Habit #8: Employees can articulate the key components of the company’s strategy accurately.
As business coaches, there are four areas that we focus when helping our clients attack this problem.
Long-term goals, or the BHAG
Associations like lofty mission statements, but they lack the tangible nature of the BHAG. The Big Hairy Audacious Goal is a target you’re setting twenty or thirty years into the future. And remember, it’s audacious, so it’s not supposed to be a safe, realistic target.
But having a specific number or a specific outcome (even though you probably only have a 50/50 shot of reaching it) is super important if you want people to remember it and articulate it.
And, of course, progress toward this lofty, long-term goal should be tracked and visible.
Who Is Your Juicy Core?
Associations can often be weak on the “core customers” part, simply because they are quick to label them as “members.” This is a problem on two levels.
First, many associations have business models where their non-member customers are actually providing an overwhelming amount of the revenue for the business. Members are still very important, but they are not necessarily the core customer.
Second, even if the focus is on members, the siloed nature of association operations means that each department is focusing on THEIR members, without understanding which subgroups are actually the biggest drivers of success. There are frequently small subsets that have a disproportionate impact on results.
Everyone should be aware of these two caveats and then be able to succinctly describe their customer/member profile(s) in 25 words or less.
A brand promise is not a public statement or a tagline. It’s more like a guarantee that builds a deep understanding among your board and staff about the kind of value they should create and how it should be delivered to your members and the community. Essentially, a brand promise speaks to why a member should join your association or attend one of your events over a competitor.
It’s tempting to promise too many things in an attempt to be everything to everybody. But when you do so, you can end up offering little to anyone. So a best practice is to develop a primary brand promise with a max of two supporting promises.
After all, if you can’t define precisely what your brand promise means, you can’t measure it. And if you can’t measure something, you surely can’t manage it.
That leads us into the next best practice when creating your brand promise: make it measurable and make it meaningful.
A promise is worthless if you don’t keep it. That’s why you need “Kept Promise Indicators” measured on a daily or weekly basis to ensure you are meeting these guarantees. This is where the old saying “actions speak louder than words” really holds true. A brand promise means nothing if it’s not followed up with real action.
But you know what’s scary? We’ve found that most staff can’t articulate what their association is promising. So educating your board and staff about your brand promises is key to ensuring they’ll be kept.
Can your staff provide a succinct, compelling overview of your organizational strategy and why your association is so special? What can your team say in two minutes or less to encourage listeners to take action?
If there are large swaths of your team that can’t speak to the elements of your strategic plan and what makes your organization unique, then the time has come to work on your team’s alignment and strategic planning process.
Once you become clearer about these aspects of your strategy, then double down on the efforts to communicate them to staff. Ensuring your entire staff and board can articulate these key strategy components will empower your association to produce results that are meaningful to the community you serve.
You can then tie communication and fundraising efforts into a deeper theme as well as strengthen your organization’s relationship with stakeholders by highlighting that your actions do indeed speak louder than words.
Learn more about how you can get results in these critical areas with our culture-driven business strategies.
Photo by Jason Cooper