This guest post is from Jeff De Cagna FRSA FASAE, chief strategist and founder of Principled Innovation, and author of Associations Unorthodox: Six Really Radical Shifts Toward the Future.
I find it remarkable that it is February 2013, and I am still reading magazine articles advising associations to create strategic plans every five or six years, and encouraging leaders to review those plans just once a year.
Do association leaders still believe we live in that world? Really? That’s remarkable.
As I wrote in Associations Unorthodox, the era of strategic planning is over. For decades, the practice of strategy has been about the application of static planning frameworks to the task of solving mostly understandable business problems. Today’s strategic landscape for associations could not be more different. As social, mobile and related technologies continue to drive deep and accelerating societal transformation, associations will continue to confront increasingly complex strategic challenges that will require fresh mindsets and more dynamic approaches to address. Consider just three ways that technology is irrevocably shifting the nature of strategy, and thus how association leaders need to think about the work of strategy-making in the years ahead.
1. Technology creates on-going disruption – Technology is the most powerful disruptive force driving transformation in every field of human endeavor. This disruption is proceeding unabated, and no industry or profession is exempt. In this volatile and uncertain environment, the real work of strategy is not the supposed certainty of more planning, but the invaluable serendipity and discovery of purposeful and rapid learning. Designing strategy as learning enables associations to imagine, anticipate and capitalize on technological disruption, instead of always lagging far behind it.
2. Technology creates new openness – Technology has created an unprecedented level of global connectivity, with a growing number of people participating in online interaction, conversation and sharing. This digital openness sheds new light on the orthodox beliefs and insular thinking at play inside all legacy organizations, including associations. Through the work of strategy, leaders must take responsibility for shifting conventional mindsets away from the entrenched prejudices of the organizational core, and toward the diversity and creativity of the more technologically savvy edge.
3. Technology creates radical value – Technology is not only undermining traditional ways of doing business, it is also a catalyst for experimentation with new business models that can integrate purposeful action and the pursuit of profitability. Most associations, however, have struggled to make this kind of strategic innovation an on-going priority because of an inability to embrace risk as an essential precondition for creating the radical value the stakeholders of the future are demanding. Technology offers associations a platform from which to launch the development of novel business model concepts that are both adaptive and resilient.
To thrive in the years ahead, associations must challenge the assumptions and end the practices of years gone by. Technology is a game-changing force that has forever redefined the work of strategy for associations. Boards, CEOs and other leaders must now reimagine the practice of strategy if they are going to build truly remarkable organizations for the future.