Does your association have a clear purpose? The clearer your purpose, the easier it is to engage members and successfully deliver mission and vision.

Clarity of Purpose

The purpose of associations is to provide a lasting benefit to members and markets. This chapter is a strategic route planner of why you exist, where you need to go, how to get there and what to do about roadblocks along the way. The clearer your purpose, the easier it is to engage members, and successfully deliver mission and vision.

Create and communicate absolute clarity of purpose to members.

Decades before Tom Cruise took Mission: Impossible to box office billions, Jim Phelps was the secret agent in the 1960s TV series. Every episode began with Jim receiving a message from the secretary of the Impossible Missions Force on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, outlining a seemingly insurmountable task against incalculable odds. ‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it is …’ states the secretary, before promising to disavow any knowledge of Jim’s actions if he fails. The tape self-destructs in five seconds, and Jim is alone with his mission at hand.

Similarly for associations today, the task of achieving mission, vision and strategic objectives can seem impossible. The threats, challenges and pace of market change can appear overwhelming. The key is being crystal clear on your purpose – why your mission is critical and where exactly you need to go. Once that’s defined in the light of changing markets, how to get there becomes so much easier.

The association of today usually has general, passive goals. Click ‘About Us’ on association websites and what do you find? Statements like … we are the peak body, we help support our members, we are the voice of the industry, we represent the interests of, we grow the market for, we are an employer association and/or our membership covers all sectors. These statements describe what the association does. Some associations also include broad aspirations, aims or actions that outline how they operate.

But very few inspire members and markets by clarifying why they do what they do, and how specifically they are going to achieve it. Why is this important?


Professional marketeers know that people buy into why you do things, not what you do. Members want to feel your passion for a cause, so they can share in the dream and buy into it themselves. It helps connect your cause with what they want for themselves. It inspires and interests them because it answers two questions – what’s in it for me, and why should I care? Think about your own preferences. What engages you more – a factual statement or an inspirational message close to your heart?


The specifics change what might be viewed as a shallow motherhood statement into a powerful vision for the future. A purpose without details is often little more than a sign on a wall. A specific, measurable objective changes a passive statement into an active intention, gives members confidence that their association is serious about generating outcomes, and provides a benchmark for the association to stretch its performance. Clear objectives create an agenda for tomorrow. They move you forward.

  • Fit for Purpose – Ideologically, every association must have a purpose, be fit for that purpose and be accountable to its members to achieve that purpose.
  • Uniting Vision – The very act of defining the objectives helps articulate an association’s value proposition based on exactly what members need. This can be invaluable in bringing diverse stakeholders together under one vision.
  • Future Strategy – Clear objectives set an association’s strategy for the future, so it knows exactly where it needs to go, and how to get there.
  • Benchmarks – Measurable objectives provide the benchmarks to keep an association on track, and serve as an early warning signal if it deviates from them.
  • Active Progress – By necessity then, if an association is to progress, it is forced to tackle the threats and challenges blocking its way. It creates action on the very thing(s) holding it back. What could be more powerful?
  • Continuous Improvement – Updating objectives and striving for improvement year-on-year creates a cycle of performance and results.

Measuring progress towards clearly defined objectives greatly increases the likelihood they will be achieved. Clarity provides direction, boundaries and accountability. Without it, problems can compound.

  • Wasted Energy – Without clear objectives and the processes to support them, the same issues can circle round in endless loops, creating a cycle of wasted energy. It makes it easy for associations to coast, which is when complacency can take hold.
  • Uncertain Performance – Without benchmarks, an association can never know if its performance is excellent or poor, reducing the desire to improve.
  • Over Confidence – Without measurement, it is easy for associations to believe they are performing well, when they may not be. A dangerous mindset.
  • Stagnation – Without progress, objectives can remain unfulfilled leading to stagnation.
  • Implicit Messages – The implicit message of not having measurable objectives is that it is acceptable not to achieve them, which virtually assure they will be missed.
  • Inefficient Activity – When activity is measured instead of specific outcomes, it creates more activity. A cycle of being busy without making progress.

The complacency that arises from vague goals eliminates the force for change, which stifles innovation. But innovation is essential for survival, progress and relevance. Without the impetus for improvement, complacency can create bureaucracy. Insidiously, systems, processes and employees can become inefficient. Associations with vague goals may be blissfully unaware of the dramatic consequences of the complacency this engenders – and vicious cycle it creates through the entire association.

In the future, association success will be dependent on outcomes. Members and markets will reward association performance against measurable objectives, not on activity. The competitive nature of the network economy means members will increasingly pressure their associations to deliver results. They will demand a better return on their investment, and expect their association to achieve their mission, vision and objectives.

Somehow, Tom Cruise and Jim Phelps deliver Mission: Impossible. They find a way. Perhaps it wasn’t impossible, after all. The mission simply needed clarity, direction and ambition – three great attributes to set tomorrow’s agenda.

Move from the vague to the specific. Move from the passive to the active. Be clear on your purpose. Establish ambitious measurable objectives for your association, your members and your markets. When you do, you create a powerful competitive advantage to help you succeed.

Organisational Objectives

Organisational clarity starts with mission, vision and objectives. It is the first defining step and the foundation of every association – why do we exist and what is our purpose? Everything follows from this critical description.

Mission is what you do now. A strong mission statement clarifies who you are, what you do, and why you do it. It is a cause – something to be achieved. It can include a separate goal within the statement to support it.

Vision is what you want for the future. It is a source of inspiration, outlining the future of your association, and the market within which you want to effect positive change.

Objectives are multiple specific, measurable, assignable and realistic results to be achieved within a certain timeframe. They provide clear direction to the activities required to deliver your mission and vision, and are underpinned by strategies and tactics.

Measurement matters, because what gets measured is what gets done. This business maxim is as true today as it ever was. If you measure activity, all you get is more activity. But when you measure progress towards outcomes, you move closer to achieving them. Measuring activity is like running on a treadmill. It’s a lot of effort and commitment, and might make you feel good – but it doesn’t take you anywhere. Measuring progress across a good balance of metrics leverages all this activity directly towards your objectives.

Accountability drives performance. It encompasses responsibility, trustworthiness and answerability. The enemy of accountability is secrecy. It’s easy to rationalise poor performance if it’s a secret, so we tend to hold ourselves accountable only for what others know about. Making accountability and metrics transparent provides clarity on how well an association is really performing.

What you focus on expands. When we focus on our problems, they appear bigger. But when we focus on what we want to achieve, we’re more likely to get there. This undeniably simple truth in life, also applies to business and association leadership. It holds then that the more focused, specific and clear our objectives are, the greater our chances of achieving them.

The performance trinity of clarity, measurement and accountability applies as much to associations today, as it always has for the corporate sector. It supports the mid-term and long-term survivability of any sector that is particularly poor in terms of performance. And it accelerates the progress of associations that are already performing well.


Australian associations rate Unclear Objectives and Conflicting Priorities in their top ten challenges. While it is easy to see how these may be overshadowed by more pressing issues like Insufficient Resources and Member Expectations, it doesn’t dilute the importance of resolving them urgently. Paradoxically, clarity around mission, vision and objectives needs to be prioritised and tackled first – because it puts all the other issues into context, so they can be addressed more effectively.

For example, both resources and member expectations can be better managed if they are aligned towards the objectives they are to achieve. Without this clarity, it’s easy for associations to waste precious resources on unnecessary activity, or in delivering services members don’t need.

Associations need mission, vision and objectives articulated simply and powerfully.

Lofty mission and vision statements are admirable, but if they are vague or too generalist, they cannot create the strategic alignment with the objectives necessary to achieve them. Breaking grandiose statements down into their constituent parts is the first step to making them achievable. This entails letting go of broad assertions in favour of ever smaller, specific and achievable details. They may not sound as impressive on your website, but your members will thank you for it. Altruism and pride doesn’t create progress – it needs well directed action towards clearly articulated objectives.

Clear objectives from the board enable the CEO and leadership team to focus on what they need to deliver. It’s no easy task to define the metrics required for specific objectives. But SMART criteria, commonly attributed to Peter Drucker’s management by objectives concept, are widely used and provide a robust framework. The SMART acronym stands for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related. Every general goal can be transformed into a SMART objective by adding a baseline quantity, a target percentage increase, a measureable target quantity and a deadline.

An association CEO in the health and lifestyle sector recounts when she was presented with a vague goal from her board to ‘increase membership’. She did not have a membership marketing executive on her small team, any funds to hire even a temporary part-time marketeer or a budget for a new member acquisition campaign. It begs the question how she was supposed to achieve this ‘objective’ and whether it was an appropriate one, given the circumstances. However, if the objective was framed in SMART terms – say, to increase fully paid-up membership by 6% to 1,000 by 30 June – it would have sparked a debate on how this was to be achieved, what resources or investment would be required, who it would be assigned to and what the financial returns would be if it was successful.

Take a small sustainability association doing some positive work in their niche, but lacking a significant revenue stream. They wanted to expand their horizons – a worthy ambition. But they created a grand vision statement with their key goal to become a thought leader for the environment. To me, it sounded like hot air. They were horrified when I asked them how being a thought leader would benefit their members, and suggested SMART objectives to drive member uptake on their products that would also meet their need for sustainable business development instead. The future of associations is about choices – vague goals that feel nice to do, or clear objectives that are essential for members.

Associations often have multiple, conflicting objectives, which makes clarity even more essential. Compare the challenge facing association CEOs with their corporate counterparts. Corporate CEOs know exactly what their one clear priority is – shareholder wealth. They need to balance this so it is not at the expense of long-term investment, but their core focus is pretty clear. Association CEOs have multiple and often conflicting objectives on behalf of three stakeholders – the members, the market and the association itself. Corporates align their entire strategic and operational focus to deliver their one core purpose, and invest their profits to create more growth, while associations can struggle to find the resources to operate efficiently. Corporates can rely on global networks for best practice solutions, but associations are usually left to think alone to tackle their issues. Corporate boards can provide expert guidance and skilled strategy, while association boards often rely on the goodwill and contribution of volunteers to do the best they can. Corporates have a long history of organisational clarity to tackle competition and change, while associations may be more vulnerable to disrupted markets. And yet, the expectations on association CEOs to deliver mission and vision have never been greater.

Clarity of purpose can provide the guidance and focus CEOs need to make effective future decisions.


Only 17% of associations have specific, measureable key performance indicators linked to achieving Mission & Vision. It follows then, that the remaining 83% of associations are unable to measure their progress towards (or away from) their mission, vision and key objectives.

Why is this important? Without a scorecard to how well an association is performing, it is too easy for it to drift along. It’s like playing football without realising you are 8-0 down at half time but believing you’re in the lead. This is when complacency can set in, and opportunities for corrective action missed.

And because what you measure matters, the key is to measure what matters most. Defining what to measure is no easy task, beyond the obvious day-to-day things like membership, and engagement with products, services and programs. Apart from these standard operational metrics, what are the top two or three things that measurably demonstrate your association is moving towards its vision?

The starting point is not what has been measured in the past, just because that is the way things have been done. The starting point is deciding what behaviour, actions and outcomes you want to see improve or change. It might even be one simple over-arching metric. What one thing would make a significant difference? The answer is different for each association, and finding it requires both reflection and critical debate.

An association CEO in the medical arena bemoaned the monthly income statements (P&L) she was receiving, as they did not help her understand the true financial position. The reports did not provide details on monthly performance, highlighting only the year-to-date totals. The drill-downs were complex and exhaustive, but did not correlate with each of her operating departments so she could not identify how each one was performing. Her department heads felt the same and ignored the reports. She wondered what value the reports were providing. She considered all the time and effort the finance department put into creating them, and how this wasted activity could be redirected into measuring the performance she wanted to see increase. A short consultation with her department managers over what metrics would help them do their jobs better was all it took to transform the reports so they were clear and relevant. Suddenly, the department heads knew what they had to spend, which gave them more autonomy to own their roles and made them accountable. The board gained financial transparency. The finance team didn’t do any less work, but their reports were now used, so the value of their output increased significantly.

The shopping list of metrics should not be limited to quantifiable actuals relating to the association’s own performance such as financials, membership, services and expenditure. Research into member needs, satisfaction, loyalty, net promoter score and gap analysis can all provide effective benchmarks to measure success. Macro indicators may be more challenging to define, but can provide a measure of the overall impact of an association on its market.

The choice of metrics always comes back to mission, vision and objectives. What are the most important things the association must deliver to achieve these – and what core values and behavioural standards are required to underpin them? These business priorities often dictate the success or failure of an organisation. Carefully chosen balanced metrics can drive both performance outcomes and ethical standards of operation. This requires a debate at board level after consultation at employee level and feedback from members.

Once an effective set have been chosen, they provide for better decision making, and need to be assigned throughout the association – including the board, the CEO, the department heads and staff.

The next question is what happens when these metrics are not achieved?


Accountability and performance are linked.

Similarly, a lack of accountability drives a lack of performance. It is no coincidence that 42% of associations rate their Mission & Vision performance as poor/mediocre in tandem with rating 38% of their staff as poor/mediocre on Accountability.

So, what does it mean to hold people to account? Accountability is simply accepting responsibility for one’s actions. This holds as true for every frontline employee as it does for the CEO, the board and the association itself. Accountability puts everyone on the line. This necessarily adds pressure to perform, but it also makes it clear who is responsible for what. This reduces ambiguity, which can increase both organisational performance and personal fulfilment. Whichever way you look at it, there is no downside to accountability.

And yet, the word itself can spark strong resistance, particularly in nonprofit organisations. What makes it emotive is when people take it as a personal affront to their commitment to the cause – or if they fear punishment for failing to achieve defined outcome. Both point to cultural problems that need to be addressed because accountability is critical to everyone’s success, and ultimately everyone’s fulfilment in the workplace.

Clarity and metrics keep everyone accountable including the board and the employees, and this helps the CEO and the association to deliver. Transparency against metrics also informs the members, and allows them to better understand how their association is performing against its mission, vision and objectives. It demonstrates an association’s honest accountability, which paradoxically reduces member resistance across a surprisingly broad range of other issues, and increases their trust and confidence for the future.

Value Propositions

The next step is to translate the mission, vision and objectives into the language of your members and markets, and to communicate a powerful value proposition.

In his 2009 TED Talk, Simon Sinek proposed the idea that people (or members) don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. His golden circle puts the why right in the centre of communications, which is then encircled by the how and then the what. Most associations talk only about what they do – very few explain why they do what they do. Don’t assume people know why you exist, or what’s in it for them. Tell them, clearly and consistently. And then deliver it.

A value proposition is a statement that answers a simple question – ‘Why should members choose you?’ It is a promise of the value to be delivered by an association, and how this will benefit members. It can be used for the entire association or for a single product, and explains how it solves a problem, and why it is better than its competitors. It creates a communicable competitive advantage when members believe they receive greater value by choosing it. The ideal value proposition is clear, concise and compelling – and appeals to the most important or most emotive needs of members.

A contemporary value proposition can be powerfully articulated in a couple of well-worded sentences. Authors Erick Peterson and Tim Riesterer defined Power Messaging¹ as three key elements to differentiate organisations: something that’s unique to you, important for customers (members) and completely defensible. Incorporating concise, specific answers to these three is the basis for a persuasive value proposition that encapsulates exactly why members should care, join and engage with an association. It’s about talking to members, in the language of members about what’s important to members.

Traditionally members joined associations to be part of that sector or profession, gain a sense of belonging or status, and enjoy the benefits of information, advocacy and networking that come from working together for the collective benefit. Individuals can now gain many, if not all, of these benefits from alternative providers, including some for free. This makes it essential for associations to create compelling value propositions that articulate their unique differentiators.

This is particularly important in markets undergoing rapid change, disruption or disintermediation. A value proposition designed for the needs of a sector say 10 or 20 years ago is unlikely to be as relevant today, let alone into the future. The question of where the sector is likely headed needs to be included in the thinking, in the same way that ADMA repositioned themselves from the Australian Direct Marketing Association to the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising ­– and created a futuristic value proposition to match.

The value proposition is the foundation of an association’s business model, including all decision making and member engagement strategies. It links with the mission and vision to provide clear direction on who the target member audience is, and how the association will serve them. In defining what an association does, it also clarifies what it doesn’t do. It creates teamwork and confidence by rallying the entire staff clearly around what they need to do to deliver the promised value. It creates internal efficiencies by avoiding the need to rethink the same thoughts time and again, because the direction has already been agreed. It engages members because they understand what their association is out to do, and this breeds trust and confidence. The precise wording of the value proposition keeps the marketing and communications messaging consistent, which helps them cut through the clutter of confusion in the market. It enables an association’s marketing to work harder and smarter.

Commercial brands create the best value propositions and position statements. For example:

  • Salesforce: Sell smarter and faster with the world’s #1 CRM.
  • Pinterest: Join Pinterest to find (and save!) all the things that inspire you.
  • MailChimp: Send Better Email.
  • Apple MacBook: Years Ahead.

A value proposition is often beyond a slogan or a position statement. It can take the form of a bold headline sentence, supported by a couple of specific sentences, detailed bullet points or visual communication. It must answer the initial question of why your (defined) members should choose you, as well as the specifics, benefits and uniqueness of your offering.

Appoint a small internal team to build your value proposition and empower them to consult widely. To do its job, your team must define your target audience and their specific needs, within the context of the market and all the competitors operating within it, and address any myths or negative perceptions in order to create a concise and powerful message.

The next step is to bring the value proposition to life visually through the consistent use of logos, images and visuals. These are often best incorporated into brand style sheets or guidelines that clearly articulate how and when both images and wording are to be used. This rigour will resolve one of the most frequently replicated errors in association marketing – inconsistent and muddled messaging between campaigns, and between different products and services within the one association. Members can miss campaigns entirely when associations chop and change the colour and usage of their logos, the key words behind their written messages or the themes underpinning their creative executions. A lack of brand consistency between different products, services and divisions can also disengage association members. The association brand behind every message must be immediately recognisable, if it is going to resonate with its target audience. Associations can avoid all the wasted activity from off-brand, off-market or off-message communications by adhering to defined value propositions.

Investing the time and effort to get the value proposition right up front will pay dividends for years to come.

Strategic Planning

When your purpose is clear it becomes so much easier to decide how you are going to achieve it, and what specifically you need to do.

The ‘business as usual’ approach to strategic planning starts with last year’s achievements, and seeks to improve on them incrementally. This entails adding a couple of percent, and with a few tweaks, it’s done. The easy approach is often not the most productive. It aims to keep the association on an even keel, but doesn’t accelerate the rate of achievement ahead of last year. There is no standing still – you’re either moving forward, or you’re moving backward.

A more ambitious approach starts with what’s possible. It increases the planned rate of achievement. Asking what can be achieved helps close the gap between actual performance and potential performance – so it can deliver more for members and the market. Ambition drives achievement. It opens up possibilities for new thinking and puts a line in the sand for future growth.

A board strategic planning session is the foundation for a new, ambitious agenda. But the session needs to be more than a talk-fest or box-ticking initiative. It needs to deeply assess the change required across the entire association – from mission and vision, through governance, external operations and internal alignment through to an effective future vision. It entails bringing the board, CEO and departmental heads together for a session of open feedback and constructive debate. Organisations think more effectively when they bring together a diversity of views and options for consideration.

The agenda can include keynote presentations from external experts, as well as a comprehensive review of all strategic needs. The list can include, but is not limited to an overview of the macro or political environment, the state of the sector including disruptive threats and future opportunities, a review of the current mission and vision statements, an assessment of most appropriate governance and board structures, an analysis of the previous year’s strategic plan and performance against it, the internal staffing and operational resources and alignment of resources and systems, the executive goals and board direction, the operational strategies for the year ahead and specific follow up actions after the session concludes.

A series of internal sessions to get staff feedback or to socialise the strategy are essential. If your team does not believe or buy into the strategy, they will find many ways not to implement it.

A strategic plan is not a pretty one page document listing key objectives. A strategic plan needs to be incorporated into an operational plan with a detailed list of tactics, assigned responsibilities and benchmarks supporting it, so that it transforms from a wish-list into a plan that can be implemented and monitored.

There are plenty of strategic planning templates to choose from. The Five Forces framework developed by Michael Porter may appeal to rational and analytical planners. Gary’s Hamel’s White Space leadership model may be more suited to visionary and entrepreneurial creatives. Henry Mintzberg’s Emergent Strategy formulation may resonate with those akin to learning and political issues who view strategic planning as an oxymoron. There are others. The point is to pick one and use it to formulate and implement a strategy.

The beauty of the established frameworks is that they run you through the creation of the plan and offer variants to appeal to your own business and operational preferences. If your plan doesn’t have this, it isn’t a plan. Every strategic objective needs to include the SMART criteria of being specific, measurable, assignable and realistic, with a time deadline. This makes it simple to monitor, and budget against.

The strategic planning process is best conducted six months prior to the annual budgeting cycle. They cannot be done concurrently if you want them done effectively. The budget needs to follow the strategic plan, not vice versa. Only when the strategic plan has been signed off can a robust and detailed budget be prepared. Anything before that is merely a projection or an estimate. Separating these two major projects enables clear focus to be given to each, and spreads their workload more manageably throughout the calendar.

Come budget time, if your performance has varied against the projections done during the strategic planning process, you have the opportunity to adjust. If you are ahead of your expectations, you may wish to keep the momentum going and stretch the budget slightly more. Alternatively, if market conditions have dropped across the board or if there have been material changes affecting your performance, you might look to reduce the budget accordingly. However, this decision is best supported by analytical data, not just a discretionary or personal preference. Remember, this is an ambitious agenda.

Five to 10 year plans are fast becoming obsolete. The market moves so much faster now than it did in the past. Unless you’re building large scale or long-term projects that take years to come to fruition, a three year rolling plan is efficient. Each year, during your chosen strategic planning time, you cast your future vision out three years and amend the one done the previous year. You make your projections as best you can, and include full financial details for the upcoming year, and increasingly more ballpark forecasts for years two and three. The process forces you to think about the big picture, about blue sky strategy and about the future – and focus on the present at the same time.

Six months on when you are ready to finalise your budgets, you already have the clarity of an agreed strategic plan and some initial forecasts to review and tweak. The process becomes increasingly more efficient and effective.

What’s your next move – will you resist change or embrace it?

Case Study: Objectives

Association: Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA)

Size: 19,000 Members

Associations cannot be all things to all people. ‘Know what your core is, know what your core isn’t and focus on your reason for being’ says Cris Massis, CEO of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA). Cris knows that holding onto legacy issues can keep associations stuck in the past, so he has developed a robust process to lead APA into the future with an overt focus on mission, vision and clearly measurable objectives. To lift the performance bar, he doesn’t just benchmark against other associations, but against all businesses and the very best of the corporate sector.

Cris has boldly committed APA’s ambitious objectives in writing, for all to see. Success for APA by 2017 means boasting over 22,000 active members, delivering prescribing rights for physiotherapists and educating consumers so they understand the benefits of physiotherapy. These key performance indicators (KPIs) serve as flagship lights on a hill, to inspire and uplift APA’s performance. All APA members, staff and stakeholders know exactly what success looks like, and Cris has ensured that every aspect of APA’s strategy and operations are aligned to these goals. The clarity virtually guarantees progress, because everyone knows where they are going and what they must do to get there. It moves APA strongly into the future even if all the KPIs are not met.

The first step was to allocate a year to speak to stakeholders. Cris prepared a consultation paper in lieu of the three year strategic plan, which he wanted members to own. It provided a backbone for members to comment on where their association had succeeded and/or missed the mark. It honestly assessed APA’s internal capability, identifying challenges and areas for improvement. Externally, it acknowledged the 10 critical drivers that are changing the physiotherapy environment. The document also explored ‘blue sky’ value creation in line with its core role.

The second step was mobilising the board to refine the purpose of APA. This deep internal reflection reinforced the existing vision and beliefs of the association, but shifted the discussion around purpose to embrace global leadership. The clarity in wanting to deliver global leadership for the benefit of physiotherapy and consumers led to new offshore opportunities, revenue streams and the development of new capabilities.

The third step was working backwards from the 2017 KPIs, to identify ways to achieve and deliver them for members. The process Cris deployed landed on three pillars – Quality, Voice and Community. These now underpin every initiative, product and service delivered by APA, whether that is a conference, magazine or training pathway. Each pillar has clearly defined KPIs to be achieved, helping to link the vision with specifically measurable behaviours.

The fourth step was (and still is) a consistent focus on results. ‘Clear messaging on the key things to be done creates a great filter internally for efficiency’ says Cris, adding that the filter in decision making is that everyone knows their priorities. The filter challenges the way things may have been in done in the past, and poses the question of finding a more efficient way. Every touchpoint is designed to provide feedback, so that APA can respond quickly and with agility to its overarching priority of member focus. This clarity of direction provides a base level understanding, engaging everyone from volunteers to new members. It makes on-boarding easier, and aligns all stakeholders with the purpose of the association – progress towards the written KPIs. Cris is consistent with a thorough annual mid-year review, which includes a stocktake of every aspect of the strategy. He socialises this reflection with the board, which enables APA to tweak and refine if required.

Cris is now looking to move to a three year rolling plan, having already shortened the strategic planning cycle from five to three years. Markets change so quickly and five years is too long, and a shorter rolling cycle is necessary to provide the agility to maintain relevance and leadership.

The beauty of the APA approach with clearly defined objectives is that the association knows exactly where it is going, and what it needs to do. Its measurable benchmarks and thorough review process also means APA is able to identify both threats and deviations to the plan, and make specific adjustments. Whichever way you look at it, APA has a clear roadmap and a holistic process to get there.