Eleven years ago, Rick Warren wrote “The Purpose Driven Life,” which became the biggest bestselling hardback non-fiction book in history. The book offers readers a 40-day personal spiritual journey. I recently spent two days with 17 current/future leaders and staff from the Southern Maryland Association of Realtors®. I found several interesting (non-religious) parallels between the two.
Just as individuals may ask themselves: “Why am I here; what is my purpose?” association boards face the same question. Executives can give their associations (and board members) a great gift by structuring an opportunity for purpose driven planning to effectively guide the organization. To help understand what purpose driven planning looks like, let me share a few scenarios from the two-day strategic planning session I was pleased to join.
Be together. Our two days together were really together! We traveled to a camp for special needs kids 45 minutes from anywhere. No wifi. The group ate together, bunked together, hiked together and scheduled time to BE TOGETHER. The physical separation from our offices, laptops and assistants resulted in everyone really being there—in mind, body and spirit.
Forget the hierarchy. There was also a high degree of equality in the level of engagement. It was important to have current leaders involved, but also young, new aspiring leaders and key association staff. At the office you can feel the hierarchy. At the camp ground, in jeans and sneakers, the hierarchy quickly disappears.
Courageous questioning. There was a great deal courageous conversations and questioning …”Do we realize old perceptions still exists?” Everyone actively shared; everyone actively listened—especially the association executive. This is critical to purpose driven planning; allowing members to share their vision without the restraints of practicality, budget, resources, etc. If the goal is that strategic, they’ll find ways to accomplish it.
Separate strategic from planning. Strategy implies long-term and visionary (different from day-to-day operations). The concept of planning is intentionally systematic, process-oriented; related to activities and small steps. Both ultimately need to happen but it’s important not to try to accomplish both at the same time.
Get to the root things. The roots of strategic issues can be 10,000 lb. gorillas in the room (or campsite) or sacred cows. Or, they may just be market/membership blind spots that no one’s examined. A simple process to tackling this is to ask “why”…five times. Start with the clearly know problem and ask why. Whatever the consensus reason, ask why again and so forth. Generally within five whys you’ll be at the root of the problem. here’s an unrelated example:
- Why don’t we have more young professionals active in the association? Because they don’t see the value of involvement.
- Why don’t they see the value of involvement? Because we don’t offer nor do we communicate to them in the way that meets their unique needs.
- Why don’t we offer programs that meet their needs? Because we don’t know what’s important to them.
- Why don’t we know? Because we’ve never asked.
Root of the Problem: The association hasn’t engaged an important member segment to understand their needs and worries. SMAR took on three of their own big issues.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn says: “Don’t wish it was easier; wish you were better.” Purposeful planning is not always easy, but it WILL make your board and the organization better!
Before our two-day “camping trip,” this association didn’t even have a vision statement. They do now, and a whole lot more.
Be purposeful in your planning and your planning will deliver a great deal of purpose.