How We Hold Ourselves Accountable to the Future

Written by Mike Moss on August 27, 2018

As association professionals, developing an ability to navigate the future is becoming more critical by the day. We all have strategic plans serving as drivers for change, and a belief that we’re doing our best to take mega-trends and micro-trends and put them into usable operational plans that provide value for our members. But how are we measuring our ability to project this onto a wider horizon?

As executive director at the Society for College and University Planning, I have that ability as one of the three measurements for my success every operating year. This means that when I’m reviewed by the board, they look at the key performance indicators of the strategic plan, the financial outcomes of the budget year, and most importantly, my ability to navigate the future. I apply the same metric to the work of my staff. Whether they’re in the print shop, membership or events, we all have an obligation to understand what’s coming at us within our areas of responsibility.

It all comes down to the question: how are we navigating the future? In taking purposeful time to focus on this question, we improve our ability to raise our organization’s relevancy in the industries we support. We will not only be seen as supportive entities or facilitators of networking opportunities, but rather as organizations that can bring collective thought to everyone we serve and can use it to navigate all of our industries successfully into challenging and unknown futures.

For example, look at the influence of technology. It’s fast, it’s furious and it’s going to cost us a fortune if we don’t pay attention to the costs of implementation and the costs of noncompliance with what might come. Think of augmented reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Are these threats? Probably. Are they opportunities? Definitely. But if we can’t prove to our boards and our members how we’re going to navigate that complex future and how we’re going to address the trends that are affecting the industries we represent, we will have a relevancy challenge to overcome within the next decade.

I’m very proud that at SCUP we are positioning navigation of the future as an official performance metric across the organization to ensure it is part of our ongoing conversations with staff, the board and our members.

We’re thinking about the trends, their potential impacts and how we need to resource for them and structure our organizational responses. We want to be here for another 53 years serving higher education. And if we can’t navigate the increasingly complex future then we are not going to be here for even the next five years. It’s really important that as association professionals, we own the responsibility of navigating our organizations’ futures at all levels.