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Utilizing Long-Term Thinking For Future Success

Monday, May 16, 2022 12:46 PM | Jennifer Poff (Administrator)

During our recent Fridays@4 session, Michael Butera shared major trends impacting associations and how we need to utilize long-term thinking to effect short-term strategy.

Many associations have long histories of success which can impact their ability to be change agents in today's world of continuous rapid disruption. ASAE has developed resources for association leaders to use as they begin to think about the future through their Foresight Works project. Michael shared that the Drivers of Change: Summaries and Forecasts resource can help with beginning discussions around the future, as well as McKinsey Insights

There are three major trends impacting today's association:

  • Technology
  • Globalization
  • Life-long learning at both the personal and institutional level

In order for organizations to survive in today's environment, they must use long-term thinking and be aware of how these major trends can impact them. What does the future look like? Where do we stand currently versus where we need to be? How do we get support for future initiatives? Michael shared there are three components to long-term thinking that are key.

  1. Independence of thought or the ability to be objective in the conversation 
  2. Creating personal and institutional curiosity
  3. Resilience

As you begin the process of long-term thinking, there are four options to discuss.

  1. Impact of proposal
  2. Acknowledge immediate gratification
  3. Seek outside guidance and ask powerful questions
  4. Decide and move forward remembering failure can happen and that is okay 

Once you find an area or issue, you would like to work through, create a simulation of that proposal by presenting the issue, sharing the data answering the 5 Ws (who, what, when where and why), reflect on the options and ask if we want __________, we must first do ____________.

As you move through the process you are adapting to the environment. You are developing curiosity, balance and strategic foresight with a respectful use of power. You are okay with failure and celebrate it. You are asking the questions that encourage thought and discussion and you are creating an association that will thrive and remain relevant in the future.

We also need to be aware of four classic association activities that can lead to long-term failure. As leaders, it is our responsibility to educate our boards and make sure we avoid these classic mistakes or transition out of them as we move forward.

  1. Strategic planning in one day. One day is not enough time to build a strategic plan. It doesn't allow for scanning the environment and doing a proper SWOT analysis. You need to be able to have discussions around the environment, what the challenges might be in the future and find data to support the discussion.
  2. Failure to invest in infrastructure. Organizations that fail to support staff professional development, technology and other resources to move forward will fall behind. Allocation of resources is critical in the process and oftentimes these are areas associations may cut due to expense, but it can cause more harm than good.
  3. Secession planning. Most organizations create a secession plan for their C-suite executives, but oftentimes forget to expand for below that. Staffing is not the only area that can be impacted by secession plans, organizations should also think about plans for business units and departments.
  4. Agendas without strategic discussion. Agendas that include someone reading a report that could be covered by pre-meeting prep need to be moved to the consent agenda. With limited time in Board meetings, the meeting should focus on strategy and future rather than items that have already happened.

Not only can you use this for your organization, but there is a personal impact too. Some suggestions for building your own personal future plan are:

  • Keep a journal. Spend 5-10 minutes a day reflecting on the activities of that day. Write down what went well, any challenges and what you can do better.
  • Write, rewrite and read out loud your long-term goals.
  • Reflect on decisions made. For example, If I want to get to ____, we must first do ______________.
  • Study outside of your discipline. Read a book, listen to a podcast, google an area of curiosity, watch a Ted Talk, etc. 

Michael shared three additional resources for us to explore the topic further.

The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World
Dorie Clark

The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World
Peter Schwartz

The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation and Action
Eric Vogt, Juanita Brown and David Issacs


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