Traditionally, strategic planning involves the board of directors and senior management. The board is entrusted with creating the organization's itinerary, and senior management with driving the bus to the destination. This process, however, omits three other key constituencies-members, non-members and staff-whose views could enhance the outcome.
According to marketing expert Philip Kotler, the purpose of organizations is to build value-laden relationships with customers. From this perspective, an institution can only fulfill its mission if the members' views are represented in the planning process.
In fact, perception prediction exercises demonstrate management and boards frequently cannot accurately predict the results of member surveys. Thus, rather than planning to address key issues, they inefficiently spend time debating what the key issues are. Without member input, SWOT analyses are performed in a vacuum-based on best guesses rather than what member surveys or focus groups would show.
The late management guru, Peter Drucker, said the purpose of a company is to create customers. From this perspective, strategic planning requires input from potential members. Without data from non-member surveys or focus groups, planning in this area again amounts to guesswork. A third opinion of organizational purpose comes from W. Edwards Deming, the father of Total Quality Management. He believed a company's purpose is to provide continued employment for its staff. This demands the inclusion of employees' views into the strategic planning process.
Ideally, strategic planning includes representation from all five constituencies. Insights from staff can shed light on both internal process issues as well as the members' experience. Current and potential members can offer critical feedback from their perspectives. A variety of research tools-from each of the five perspectives-can enhance strategic planning by presenting a more complete picture of where the institution stands so that it can plan where it needs to go.
Neil Goldman is President of Member Research. He can be reached at 310-643-5910 or by e-mail at ngoldman<at>memberresearch.com.