Strategic Planning For Your Chapter
By Alan Shackelton
Having had the chance to talk with many Chapter Leaders over the last fifteen years, I have found that there are many common threads that run between the most successful Chapters. Perhaps the two most common traits shared by the Chapters in which I would deem the most successful, are their ability to recognize and recruit dynamic (read untiring) leaders and they have a real sense of direction. These Chapters make it a point to analyze their current situations; they make plans and set goals for their future.
All Chapters are different. Some are strictly social, some are strictly for airplane builders, but most are a combination of these. In fact, most exhibit the same exact demographic characteristics of the EAA as a whole. The Chapters that are the most successful in their endeavors are those that recognize themselves for what they are, determine what they want to be and plan for their futures. Most highly successful Chapters constantly analyze what they're doing and how well they're doing it. Constant self-evaluation, communication and improvement will reap huge benefits to your Chapter as well.
The following materials have been put together for your use in planning for your Chapters success. Please be aware that many business schools offer entire graduate programs in Strategic Planning. Many books have been written on this subject and there are literally thousands of consultants that specialize in this field. What is presented for you is simply, the most basic, first-grade level outline to get you started. To put it in EAA terms, think of this as the directions on how to open the box of your new fast-build kit. We're scratching the surface here.
The first thing you and your fellow Chapter leaders need to do is determine your purpose. What's your mission? Take a look at what you are doing currently and write down what you think your mission is.... Today. What purpose do you serve as an EAA Chapter? As an aviation organization? As a community group? Ask yourselves, are we self-serving? Do we make a positive contribution to aviation? Do we contribute something worthwhile to our community? Who do we serve? You get the idea. Don't bother with the future yet , that comes later. After this discussion, you should put to paper, your Mission Statement. Please don't worry about the words. Remember that you're trying to capture the idea. Oftentimes we get hung up on the eloquence of the mission statement and the ideas get lost. The Mission Statement should be an accurate description of your purpose, clear and concise, period.
Your next task is to take a look at where you would like the Chapter to be sometime in the future. Pick some time frames. Next year, five years, ten years, etc. Your Chapter leaders need to determine your collective vision for the future of your Chapter. Think of it as "point B". Write a description of your Chapter five years from now. This will be your Vision Statement. Make sure you have a consensus on this.
Now you're ready to analyze your current situation. In business school, this is called your "Situation Analysis". See how easy this is? The easiest way to accomplish this is to do a SWOT Analysis. Analyzing your SWOT...Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats will help you determine what your goals will be and how you will implement them. This will take some time but don't skip this step.
Get an easel pad, divide it into quarters and label it as follows:
List under "Strengths", those things that are within your Chapter's control that currently make you successful. At Chapter 579, we would have to list, Good Leadership, Chapter Facility, Good relationship with the tenants, FBO's and management of the airport, among other things.
Under "Weaknesses", list all those things that are also within your Chapter's control, that hinders your advancement. Examples of this would be "Lack of Chapter facility", Old, tired leadership, lack of vision, poor public relations work, etc. These are all thing that your Chapter has control of, and can change or minimize.
"Opportunities" are all those things, in which you have no direct control but also can be used to your chapter's advantage. A "large base of EAA'ers and/or pilots in the area" may be an opportunity for you. The public's fascination with flight is generally considered an opportunity.
"Threats" are those things outside of your control that have the potential to adversely affect your Chapter and your activities. Rezoning your airport property to high-density, low-income housing would be considered a threat to your Chapter and your activities. The public's perception of aviation as a "rich man's hobby", may threaten your ability to prosper as a group.
Once you have exhausted all the available SWOT items that apply to your Chapter, the fun begins. Now, take another look at your Mission Statement, your Vision Statement and your SWOT analysis worksheet. It's time to set your goals.
Taking into account all the above statements and worksheets, list out the goals your Chapter leaders feel would get you to your vision. Remember that you are to maximize your strengths and opportunities, while minimizing or eliminating the weaknesses and threats. It's important that you set attainable goals. Curing world hunger and putting an airplane in every garage are noble goals, but you're not going to get either of them done. You will probably come up with many major goals and even more minor goals. Make sure that the goals you set will get you on the road to attaining your vision. Examples may be, building a Chapter Hangar or increasing your membership. Both are very attainable and may indeed be instrumental in achieving your vision. Concentrate on no more than five major goals and a couple of minor quick-hits for now. As you attain your goals, you will develop new ones to take their place. This is an ongoing process.
Now that you have established your Chapter goals, you will need to work on implementation. Set timetables and determine who will be responsible for implementing the action to achieve each of the goals. This is simply known as the "Action Plan". If your goal is to be a better, more visible presence on the local airport, you may start this by implementing monthly Young Eagle Flight Rallies. Put a person or committee together to get this done. Another way to achieve this goal may be to host an annual open-house or hangar dance. If you choose a goal of increasing your Chapter membership, a membership chairman may be responsible to implement an incentive program. Nearly every goal you set will be easier to attain with good, positive, public relations work. Find a person within your Chapter who can write a decent press release and get the word out. You'll be amazed at what this can do for your Chapter.
Planning, setting goals and implementing activities to achieve these goals is an ongoing process. A process your Chapter leaders and members should be working on continually. Self-evaluation, as a group, is an important ingredient to your success. It's not an easy process and it will take some time and dedication to do it right. There are several books on the subject of Strategic Planning to guide you further and CompuServe has a business SIG (Special Interest Group) that may offer some additional insights, (type Go Management).
This is an important process, not only to your Chapter, but also to aviation in your area and to EAA as a whole. Good luck.
Alan Shackleton is currently the Secretary of the EAA, past President of Chapter 579 in Aurora, IL, and Chairman of the EAA Chapter Advisory Council.