Twenty years ago, when I worked for a fantastic transportation association, I learned about the importance of organizational priorities. I’ll use “government relations” as an example. I was heavily involved in grassroots mobilization of the trucking industry, which was and continues to be very important at any association. We would often shift into overdrive to ensure calls from the industry were lighting up the Capitol Hill switchboard.
However, over time our efforts would decline if mobilization attempts were never-ending and treated every issue as a critical, “drop everything you’re doing: effort. We tried to get our members to call on every issue – all the time. Battle fatigue set in and our response rates began to drop. I’d call an executive or a state chapter and say, “Man, we really need you to get involved in HR 123.” And, the response had become, “Well, I get these requests all the time – do you really need us on this one?”
As a young exec, I began to realize the importance of setting priorities. When the narrative of your organization is “Protector of the Industry” – it is implied we need to be on top a million different things to protect companies – on a daily basis.
I’ve facilitated a number of strategic planning sessions and have watched this scenario play out more than once. The list of priorities and “must-do items” can use up an entire package of Post-It Notes – the ideas flying around the room throughout the day measured out in little yellow stickies on the wall. On the other hand, the list of things an association should kick to the curb barely fill a single sheet – if any. Typically, it’s crickets in the room when it comes to what the organization should stop doing.
To be successful and maintain alignment with the mission, it’s essential any organization maintain a laser focus on about two or three major issues.
There is only one “#1 thing.” There aren’t ten #1 things, right? With so much disruption and a never-ending flow of information, it’s critical to identify the most pressing items. And, use communication discipline around those priorities to your members, Capitol Hill, and perhaps most importantly your staff.
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