Expand Your New Year Resolutions to Include a Commitment to Foresight

Metter-Pine-Commitment to Foresight February 15, 2024 By: Kristine Metter, MS, CAE and Suzanne Pine, FASAE, CAE

While many people establish personal resolutions at the beginning of the year, it’s not too late to make a resolution for your association too. Introducing, embracing, or integrating the practice of foresight is a valuable 2024 resolution that will reap long-term benefits for the future of your organization.

How are you progressing on your 2024 resolutions? Are you still on target? Consider adding to your personal and organizational resolutions a commitment to take a step on your foresight journey.

Foresight is a critical component of business leadership with specific language and processes. The practice of foresight requires the use of a thought process that pushes your view out further than your existing strategic plan.

You, your staff, and your organization’s volunteer leaders will start to think about how the association will operate and who will engage with it 10 years out. Foresight is not the same as following trends. Though knowledge of trends is helpful, it only tells you what people are doing in the present, not what you may need to know to prepare for the future. Integrating discussions of how clusters of trends are expected to drive change allows volunteer leaders and staff to create a vision or a scenario of how this change could impact their organization and/or members.

Complement to Strategic and Operational Plans

It is important to understand how the practice of foresight fits into the other types of planning cycles your association may routinely engage in.

Your volunteer leaders are focused on developing a strategic plan for the organization. That plan typically provides strategic direction for the next few years. Then the staff team works with volunteer leaders to develop an operational plan that outlines tactics to execute over the next year that will move strategic goals forward.

Future-focused discussions centered on how the organization may need to evolve over the next 10 years should influence strategic decisions and discussions and feed into the development of your strategic plan.

Foresight-oriented questions include:

  •  How might members want to engage with your association’s services 10 years from now?
  •  Who might be your association’s collaborators or competitors in the next decade?
  •  What will your association’s operations look like in the future?
  •  How will your members do their work or run their businesses differently?
  •  What changes in laws, regulations, standards, and credentials should I anticipate?

Each Journey is Unique

The practice of foresight is a journey and not a destination. It takes both patience and persistence to integrate a future-focused mindset into your existing association practices.

The good news is that every association can approach integrating foresight in a manner that fits its own culture. The first step on this journey normally includes a little education on the critical value and purpose of foresight to the future of your association. Remember that volunteer leaders, members, and your staff team will all benefit from developing this leadership competency.

The Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society™ (WOCN®) started their journey by providing a short “Introduction to Foresight” webinar to their Board. From there, the leadership team selected a small handful of the ASAE ForesightWorks Drivers of Change related to WOCN’s strategic priorities. For each board meeting, one Driver of Change was included with the advance reading materials and time was scheduled early on the agenda for their future-focused discussions.

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) formed a board working group chaired by the board president to drive the association’s foresight practices. Within six months, they were enthusiastically sharing articles, bringing foresight to their own work, and making plans to embed the practice throughout other committees at multiple levels of the association.

Getting Started

Integrating the practice of foresight can be a simple process. These steps can help launch your journey.

  1. Share a foresight article or short video to help conceptualize the difference between existing planning processes and planning with foresight.
  2. Identify a possible advocate or champion who will work with you to outline a plan and help you keep foresight at the top of your list. This champion can be a volunteer leader or a member of your staff team.
  3. Regularly schedule foresight discussions into existing meetings and forums. A few common examples might include formal meetings of staff, board or committees or informal gatherings like staff lunch ‘n learn sessions or member town halls.

Remember that you won’t become a foresight expert after reading just one article or facilitating one strategic future-focused discussion. It takes time and practice. We’re all obligated to keep our association conversations more strategic and focused on issues that will drive change in the future. Foresight is a perfect tool to achieve this goal.

Long-Term Benefits…

Associations that have successfully integrated a series of future-focused discussions and shared summaries of key highlights of the discussions with their strategic planning teams, have benefited by broadening their view of how the world is changing. This knowledge allows association leaders to make better future-focused decisions in the present, allowing associations to work toward their preferred future.

The Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society™ (WOCN®)’s foresight journey started with a little foresight education for their board and evolved into recognizing the need to also provide similar information to their Chapter Leaders. The goal was to gain the Chapter leaders’ support to achieve a more manageable structure that the society could support. Sharing the similar path of having Chapter Leaders (about 96 volunteers representing 33 Chapters & Affiliates) understand the simple basics of the practice of foresight and then allowing this group to also read and discuss the same Drivers of Change that the Board previously discussed allowed the Region & Affiliate Leaders to self-discover the need for change. This enabled an important segment of WOCN’s membership to work collaboratively with the Board to build a structure that would allow the society to continue to grow and prosper.

CUR’s executive officer, Lindsay Currie, regularly shares the tremendous success the association has had with member leaders and staff. For example, she notes their reduced staff turnover and improved employee satisfaction. Staff feel they have better skills and tools to make good decisions and solve problems. They see the practice of foresight as enabling them to be nimble, think broadly, and better serve their community.

Kristine Metter, MS, CAE

Kristine Metter, MS, CAE is president of Crystal Lake Partners.

Suzanne Pine, FASAE, CAE

Suzanne Pine, FASAE, CAE is a strategic advisor at BlochReed Association Advisors.