Maybe because I am so literal, I am a firm believer in transparency. Perhaps that was why I was intrigued by a newsletter from a leading firm association that goes to association members and friends. Included was a two-pager entitled “Vision for Our Future,” that identifies ten possible goals of the association for 2008-2012. The process, which included member surveys, conference calls, and meetings, was also detailed. The proposed goals were developed by a 15-member team and facilitator, all listed in the two-pager.

One goal was to employ a full-time nationwide director/manager of accounting & auditing to provide coordination, advice and assistance; conduct research; and answer member questions regarding A&A. Another goal was to “help firms grow through mergers and acquisitions of other CPA practices by creating a process and system to benchmark data and develop techniques to assist members interested in acquiring and merging with other CPA firms.”

The next steps in the process were described and entail the association’s board finalizing a recommended plan of implementation. That will be presented to the association’s governing body at a September 25, 2008 meeting, for amendment, approval, or rejection.

I applaud this strategic planning effort for a number of reasons. It is transparent, there is maximum input from those who will be directly affected, debate is encouraged prior to finalization, a facilitator is used, significant buy-in is assured, and all the member firms understand their part in the execution of the strategic plan.

Dan Beckham, president of The Beckham Company, a strategic consulting firm in Bluffton, S.C., agrees regarding development of strategic plans. The following is from his article in Hospitals & Health Networks.

“While primary responsibility for strategy and strategic planning resides in the executive suite, smart leaders reach out and enlist the rest of the organization in defining a future worth achieving and determining the best way to get there.

“People tend to own what they help create. And they tend to implement what they own. Setting off a strategic conversation throughout the organization builds ownership and commitment. Strategic planning launches such conversations. A solid strategic planning process forces the organization to think strategically.”

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