A CEO’s Perspective on Successful Strategic Planning

The Toy Association recently underwent a complete overhaul, which included creating a new strategic plan. CEO Steve Pasierb shares four tips on how to get it done.

The times they are a-changin’. The statement is as true in today as it was in 1964 when Bob Dylan released the anthem in his album by the same name.

But, are associations changing with the changing times?

The Toy Association, which recently underwent a major rebrand that included a new mission and a redesigned headquarters, is no stranger to change. To learn the ins and outs of the process, I chatted with its President and CEO, Steve Pasierb.

After all, we know that the toy industry isn’t the only one facing disruption. From trucking to medicine, industries are dealing with change, and associations—as the representatives of their industries—need to be prepared to respond to those changes.

“If you think nothing is going to change in your industry for the next five to 10 years, then you don’t have to do anything, but I doubt many people say that, so I think you’ve got to constantly look at this,” Pasierb said. “I think this kind of slow-and-steady course idea, which a lot of organizations think equals stability, doesn’t match the fact that the world is full of disruptive change right now.”

In other words, to better serve your members in these changing times, it might be time for your association to tweak its mission, to modernize its look and logo, and to evolve. Here are four tips from Pasierb about how to successfully design and implement a new strategic plan:

Listen to a diversity of viewpoints. Before any edits to the strategic plan took place, The Toy Association engaged consultants who performed stakeholder interviews to pool member feedback. Pasierb notes the consultants were integral to extracting honest responses from members. “When you get a stranger to do it, people will talk about what they really don’t like, especially if you’ve got a good consultant, who can form that confidential and good relationship over the phone,” Pasierb said. “You know, ‘Really, what’s wrong? Really, tell me what you’re worried about?’” That input from its members, along with intel about the people who buy the stuff its members make, was key in The Toy Association’s successful rebrand.

Socialize your ideas with your board. Constant conversations are essential to a successful rebrand. The Toy Association had a year to implement its rebrand, and the organization prioritized constant conversations with its board about what it was learning from its stakeholders and the changes it was thinking of implementing in its strategic plan.

“We had a really good dialogue, because for the first time, they’re all together as a group talking about the strategic plan, saying ‘I agree with this; I don’t agree with that; you should do more of this; you should do more of that,’” Pasierb said. “It didn’t turn into a goal or strategy session. It was just good input, so by the time the plan was put out in front of them, it just made sense.”

Create a strategic plan with quantifiable metrics. If you want a strategic plan that will help you accomplish concrete goals, it’s important to build in quantifiable metrics, Pasierb said. Not only do these metrics create accountability, but they’re also an easy way of seeing whether you’re meeting your goals or not. “It’s not try to, aspire to—but how many and by when?” he said.

Remain constantly open to change. It’s often the case that organizations go through the arduous process of creating a strategic plan, and then it sits on a shelf, Pasierb said. When rebranding or pivoting in an association’s mission, it’s important that your document and new direction stays front-of-mind.

To do this, The Toy Association views its strategic plan as a living document. It’s constantly referenced, it’s reviewed at every board meeting, and it’s open to constant tweaking. “Here’s what’s moving forward, here’s what’s falling behind, here’s something we want to change the date on, here’s something that we don’t think makes sense anymore,” Pasierb said. “There’s never anybody who asks, ‘Where are we headed, where’s that strategic plan thing?’”

What have you found to be integral to creating a new strategic plan? Please leave your comments below.

(Radachynskyi/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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