From the President: Directions for the Future

Paul Bowen, WEF President 2015–2016

Paul Bowen, WEF President 2015–2016

When traveling for business or pleasure, we often start by asking these familiar questions:

  • Where are we going?
  • How are we going to get there?
  • What are we going to do?

Asking these questions also is important for any organization. For the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.), finding the answers to these questions is just as important as working with WEF Member Associations (MAs) to create the future of water.

We wouldn’t start on a journey without first determining the destination and reason for traveling there. These points are determined by the vision of the traveler. And while different types of trips require planning, they have different goals, objectives, and outcomes. Business trips have defined goals and outcomes such as client meetings, while personal vacations may be less structured to achieve the goal of relaxation.

For WEF, a community of empowered professionals creating a healthy global water environment is the destination. WEF’s strategic plan sets the course for this destination. According to the plan, WEF is going to reach this destination by

  • connecting water professionals,
  • enriching the expertise of water professionals,
  • increasing the awareness of the impact and value of water, and
  • providing a platform for water sector innovation.

Five critical objectives and 20 strategic goals provide “turn-by-turn” directions that further enhance the route outlined by these statements. As with any journey, there is anticipation in reading the directions and excitement in meeting each milestone.

WEF moves toward its vision with the aid of the roadmap laid out by the strategic plan and the business plan. The organization has defined targets and outcomes for each goal to measure progress and help calibrate the direction we are headed.

While attending board meetings for various WEF MAs, I’ve heard questions about how to spend money, how to recruit members, what assignments to give to committees, and how to create interest in their organizations and the water sector. I learned that many of these MAs do not have a strategic plan. Many of the questions asked during these meetings would be answered by developing a viable strategic plan. Without a plan, finding answers will be more difficult.

I have seen MAs move in one direction one year and shift to a different direction the next year as board officers change. And sometimes there’s no action and an MA remains stagnant as it waits for something to move it in whatever direction is needed. Instead of waiting for a project that requires budget, MAs can use their strategic plan to develop projects.

I encourage each MA to develop a strategic plan to guide its members as they help WEF achieve its vision. If your MA already has a strategic plan, you should review it and update it as needed. Strategic plans are living documents that need care to remain viable. I ask members to reflect on how their MA is doing:

  • Does your MA have a strategic plan?
  • Does your MA know where it’s going?
  • Does your MA have a roadmap to reach the destination?

If your MA does not have a strategic plan but would like to develop one, I encourage you to take advantage of the talents and skills of WEF staff and the WEF Board of Trustees. WEF staff working as the MA engagement team can assist with facilitating completion of a strategic plan. For more information about these services, contact Linda Kelly, WEF senior director of association engagement. Members of the WEF Board of Trustees also can help lead development of a strategic plan. The WEF Strategic Plan can serve as a template for MAs to create their own sets of objectives and goals.

After creating a plan, MAs will need to work on implementation, which can best be achieved via a multiyear business plan that enables MAs to develop a clear path to success. Programs can be designed to meet objectives and move the organization closer toward its vision.

During travel, every parent has heard:

  • How much further?
  • When are we going to get there?

The same questions can be asked of MA leadership. Your strategic plan, which acts as a roadmap, provides the answer. You know where you’re going and how long it should take to achieve your goals.

I wish you good luck in setting the direction for your MA and in achieving your goals.

Paul Bowen, WEF President 2015–2016

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