5. Determining the strategy

Some examples of strategies and plans are at Section 5.1. It can be useful to examine these and other models, so that you are not starting from scratch. But it’s also crucial that your plan should fit your society’s core purposes and circumstances: there is no one model that fits all.

Drafting the strategy involves hard thinking about the kinds of questions we have set out in Formulating a strategy: key questions, and in particular about the society’s core mission and principles, aims and objectives. The important point here is to keep them simple. The documents prepared during the process to create a strategy, and also the plan itself may be lengthy; but one society suggested that

if you can’t get the core of your strategy down on two sides of A4 you’re not thinking clearly enough’

It can sometimes be difficult to achieve he right level of detail and specificity: too much and you risk losing clarity, too little and the strategy loses its value as a guide for action and a tool for monitoring the society’s effectiveness. Published strategies and plans may be more succinct than fuller versions that are used for internal purposes; but it’s important to stress that a strategy is much more than a mission statement. It must at the very least set out some clear goals or aims, and what will be done in order to meet them.

Opinions differ on the extent to which strategic plans should go beyond priorities, aims and objectives to include specific or quantified targets. Some suggest that without such targets, the strategy lacks substance; but others suggest that specific targets are best set annually, in the form of operational and financial plans developed in the light of changing circumstances. Whatever form the strategy takes, it must at the least provide a basis on which business, financial and operational plans can be built, as appropriate the society’s nature and scale.

Consultation and hard thinking are both essential. One society suggests

try to avoid getting hung up on words… The CEO and the President have to have a vision of where to take the society. That’s the key point’

But unless that vision is seen to have resulted from a process that takes proper account of the interests and needs of different stakeholder groups, and speaks to those interests, the strategy runs the risks of generating tension, and in the end of being set aside because it does not provide an effective framework for decision-making.

5.1 Some examples of society strategies

Here are some examples of the strategic plans of a small selection of societies, with markedly different profiles, which are freely available on the web. They are in no sense presented as exemplars. Indeed, you may find it helpful to consider the significant differences between them, and the varying approaches to strategy and planning that they embody.

Royal Statistical Society: Strategic Plan 2014-18

Association for Learning Technology: Strategy 2014-17.

Association of Art Historians: Organisational Aims 2012-2016

British Educational Research Association: Strategic Plan 2012

Institute of Conservation: Strategic Plan 2012-2016

Regional Studies Association: Development Plan 2015-2020

Up next: Implementing the strategy