When Kathy Alm, Executive Director of Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center and Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for PATH International needed a planning consultant, she thought of Amanda. As a long-time board member and former board chair of PATH Intl, Kathy felt it was important to work with someone who could provide clarity and focus while at the same time creating space for a diversity of organizational voices.
‘We knew we were ready for a new vision and growth as an organization,’ Kathy said. ‘And frankly, our last strategic planning experience was challenging and difficult. We wanted someone who would provide a framework and the facilitation to have the necessary discussions in a professional manner. Who we worked with was really important to us.’
Finding a Good Fit
As professional colleagues, Amanda and Kathy have known each other for some time. After serving a term on the Little Bit governing board, Amanda is now on the Advisory Board. Little Bit recently moved into a new facility and Amanda is currently helping the therapeutic riding center develop a new strategic plan. ‘I admit I had a bias,’ Kathy commented, ‘however, the committee interviewed three different consultants and she was clearly the best choice who presented a clear process that could get us to the results we wanted.’
I knew where the board was at and I know Amanda’s style. I knew it was going to work. We were all over the map and needed a strong person to bring us together. We didn’t want all smiles and ease. Amanda is not going to let one individual take the group off course. She’s direct, clear, and calls it like she sees it.
The Strategic Planning Committee wanted the planning process to stay focused, engage its community and encourage a richness of cooperation. ‘Amanda nailed this one,’ Kathy commented. ‘One of her strengths is her open perspective, and her ability to navigate complex situations with clear communication and objectivity. She really knows how to cultivate the gifts of each member in a participating group. We have a stronger, more connected board as a result of the work we did with her.’
The Right Process
Kathy continued, ‘So many times, people think there is only one right way to do strategic planning. Amanda really customized her approach to what we needed, and that required a lot of flexibility. She made the process interesting and solicited clear conclusions with measurable results.’
Amanda has a great process that gets you to an actual result. You have to be ready and willing to work.
- The board sets the vision, not the CEO. The CEO makes sure things move forward, and everyone needs to keep an eye on the big ball in the sky.
- You can’t be all things to all people. Good information helps you understand that.
- Have a CEO report on the strategic plan at every board meeting so it does not get lost.
Amanda first suggested that the board read Race to Relevance to prepare them for the planning process and bring them up to speed on issues facings associations nationwide. She then worked with staff to prepare organizational information and trends the board would need to make meaningful strategic decisions. This included a membership survey that brought to light many issues for consideration. Additionally, Amanda’s firm conducted personal interviews and member focus groups. Informed by these statistics, the board was able to make decisions that reflected the majority of what members wanted instead of just the loudest voices.
‘It was refreshing to be able to concentrate on the big picture. The information Amanda and the staff brought forward really challenged some of our perceptions and operating assumptions,’ Kathy noted. ‘It helped us see that maybe we needed to update our thinking and steer clear of some favorite conversations that just kept us in a rut. She kept moving the focus forward through great questioning.’
After working with the board to develop a strategic direction, Amanda then helped them articulate the association’s competitive advantage and value proposition to members. ‘We had never considered adding these elements to our strategic plan before – and it has really made a difference. Amanda brought so many things to the table that made it interesting and helped us get to a clear focus with measurable results. Everything – including the goals and objectives – just flows from the top and keeps us focused on the big picture.’
‘The strategic plan that we have is really exciting and I don’t think we could have gotten to where we are now without Amanda,” explains Kathy with delight. ‘She wouldn’t let us get bogged down or distracted. She encouraged broad participation that informed – but did not de-rail – the board’s leadership role. Rather than glossing over the tough issues, Amanda showed how we could shine a light on the shadows and make good – even tough – decisions.’ PATH International is now busily moving forward into their future with confidence, clear intention and solid leadership to bring their goals into fruition.