tagcloud2For many of us, this time of year is about making lists: holiday shopping lists, grocery lists for the big meal, a daily to-do list to make sure it all gets done, and so forth. Lists can be very helpful in focusing on what’s most important. With that in mind, here’s one more list—a list of what I call the organizational “Big Six”—six underlying drivers that help to define and guide your organization.

The Big Six are: Strategic Planning, Vision, Mission, Brand, Logo and Value Proposition. These are words we throw around a lot in organizational management, but probably don’t think much about on a day-to-day basis. This list will help you better understand the Big Six, their purpose within your organization, their relationship to one another, and to find out if yours are naughty or nice (or really just in good order).

Strategic Planning:

◻ Strategic Planning is your commitment to the future. It’s when you look closely at your organization and ask what needs to change – with no predetermined agenda! Strategy includes identifying important long-term issues facing your members and your organization.

As a very basic and simple example, one association I know discovered “networking” and “networking events” are no longer relevant to their target audience. They used strategic planning to re-define networking as “connecting with people who are best at what they do. Building a meaningful network with other like-minded practitioners.”

It has changed the way the board approaches the strategy of connecting members to one another. “Networking” is never mentioned in the plan; instead, mastermind groups, panels, and market updates with business owners are tactics to overcome the challenges in the market and unite members in the profession.


Your vision is your destination – when you successfully execute your strategic plan; it is aspirational and usually aggressive. When you work to overcome your biggest strategic issues year in and year out, the vision is what the association will be at the end.

As Michael Hyatt, who writes on “intentional leadership” says: “If you don’t start with a lofty vision, you become content with mediocrity and execute even lower.”


Your mission states your purpose; why you exist and whom you serve. It is short, clear, and gives staff a roadmap to guide them in their daily work. It is 10 to 20 words in length and can fit on the back of a business card. It reminds leaders, staff and members about what the organization does at its core.

Association mission statements are getting shorter and more simple to understand.


Your brand is your promise to members about what they can expect from you over time. Leaders determine your brand from the “inside out.” The brand guides decision-making around the board table. It inspires behavior that members will see. A charismatic brand is a product, service, place or person for which people believe there is no substitute.

One association decided their promise to members (their brand) would be new knowledge. Not only in classes, but in communications, legal updates, advocacy, learning events, and in all the ways they interact with members. The brand effectively guides decisions about association programs and services to consistently deliver new knowledge to its members in many ways.
Your brand and your value proposition (#6 of the Big Six) should align, although brand is more internally focused; it influences staff and leaders’ behavior. The value proposition is an external message to members.


Your logo is the graphic depiction of your brand. It is your visual identity. It represents your personality and perhaps your industry, and invites members to experience your brand.

Every business wants to be known for something. Among the 3,000 messages that bombard your members every day, your logo is the visual association (a sign or picture) that represents your brand.

Value Proposition:

Your value proposition is a written and spoken message. It acknowledges to members that you know what they need most and what the association does best to answer those needs. It is your members’ rationale for choosing to affiliate with your association (versus another association), your educational or news/information source…or none at all.

Your value proposition is not yours to decide. Rather you must discover it based on purposeful conversations about your important member segments and relevant research such as a ranking of most valuable services by members. Your value proposition can help you prioritize strategic issues—linking what members need most with what your organization delivers with excellence today.

The Big Six should all align, but none are the same.

Now go back to the Big Six list and put a check in the box where you need some help to re-focus, re-energize and/or re-think these important association drivers. After all, New Year’s is just around the corner and that’s an opportunity for another list!