Strategic Planning for Roller Derby League – Part 10. The follow through

If you made it this far, then your league has:

The league's mission, goals and committee strategies are all connected to benefit the greater good - your members!

The league’s mission, goals and committee strategies are all connected to benefit the greater good – your members!

With each committee breaking down each goal into bite-size tasks, it makes the running of the league less daunting because ALL members are doing a little bit of something.

The flow of ideas become more fluid and committees can confidently make decisions about what to try next, as the next strategy will also reflect a common league goal. Members can refer to the materials created during the strategic planning process to help jump-start conversations within the committee.

At the committee level, there is still debate as to what strategy to focus on, if there are several potential candidates. But members can also measure their strategies against the league’s mission to help analytically make a decision, eliminating personal interests and bias toward one decision than the other.

If you’ve written your league goals using SMART guidelines, members will be able to analyze strategic contributions toward achieving that goal. For example, if advertising your league’s new skater intake brings adds 5 dues-paying fresh meat members, that strategy has contributed to the goal of increasing membership by the start of the 2016 season. It also shows the strategy of advertising new skater intake is effective and worth trying again.

Failure is reduced as it gives committees the power to re-evaluate and try strategies again. A failed committee strategy does not get abandoned and ignored if it doesn’t work. The committee may choose to evaluate its failure, alter and try again, or they may choose to table it and go in a completely different direction.

Your mission, goals and strategies should be able to connect easily to each other. The strategy that has potential to achieve multiple points within the mission is often a good place to start.

Committee Strategy helps achieve league goals. League goals help achieve league mission.

Committee Strategy helps achieve league goals. League goals help achieve league mission.

For example:

The training committee’s strategy of:
Advertising to promote new skater intake nights…

Helps achieve the league goal of:
Increase membership by 10 male adult skaters, 15 junior skaters and 5 female adult skaters by the start of the 2016 season…

Which contributes to achieve the league’s mission:
To educate and develop the community of roller derby while providing an opportunity to engage in an alternative sport, healthy-living, competitive atmosphere and volunteerism.

This strategy has potential to make a large impact toward the league’s mission because it has potential to affect multiple points within the mission: community development, raising awareness which will provide more opportunities for other to engage in the sport. It’s a good strategy to pursue.

However, in order to maintain the empowerment, committees directors and members need to make the commitment to: 

Regularly communicate the mission and goals to the entire league

This will improve member engagement, empower them to stay on task and increase member buy-in. Post your mission and goals in your league’s private Facebook group. Scan or digitize your flowchart from the session and post it online or hang it up in your practice space. Include your mission on all internal and external league communication.

Conduct regular meetings at the committee level

Committees need to come together regularly to discuss progress within their strategies. In person is best, but there are alternatives like Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger (not my favourite as context is often lost and it’s easy for conversations to get off track).

When a committee strategy is chosen to be focused on, every committee member should be given a task to contribute to its completion. The meetings are simply providing updates as to where each committee member is at with their task and discuss regular week-to-week business the committee is responsible.

If the meetings are REGULAR and everyone makes the commitment to be PREPARED to provide a quick update, you will find meetings will go quickly and all committee members will know what others have been doing to work toward the goal. Full transparency reduces questionable behaviour and allows members to hold each other accountable in achieving the league goals.

Insist committee chairs report at board meetings

Committee chairs should prepare a monthly report summarizing what the committee has been doing to work toward the league’s goal. For example: At the first board meeting after the strategic planning session, XYZ’s training committee chair may report they have sent a request to the finance committee for advertising funds approval and they are awaiting a decision.

During the finance committee report, the chair may communicate to the training committee chair the finance committee approved the request and they have the go ahead to start booking advertising.

As a result, directors make fewer decisions at the board meeting level and become more league facilitators and policy implementers. The week-to-week operations and strategy decisions are moved to the committee-level, because you have developed a strong foundation to make decisions from.

Larger league re-focusing goals are handled at the board level. For example: to achieve goals the league may have to decide to increase dues, integrate a paid a staff member or review skater code of conduct policies. One-time and short-term goals are handled by the committee members. For example: fundraising or bout events, pricing out and purchasing gear, determining skater intakes.

Because the work at the committee level is regularly reported at the board level by the committee chair, board members know what’s going on and can monitor activity, but have less of a hand in implementation because that work has been pushed to the committee level.

If meetings are regularly conducted at the committee level, chairs can distribute tasks and continue involving their members in discussing ways to achieve goals. Everyone becomes engaged and involved!

What a novel idea – everyone has a hand in contributing to the league’s success!

By setting a league mission, writing league goals based on that mission and allowing committees to set strategy to achieve the league goals:

  • Moves the decision-making power to the committees and gives them the power to also implement them.

Since league committees are made up of more skaters than directors, tasks are more equally divided across the league, board members are less likely to suffer burnout and…

…the league is truly
BY THE SKATERS, FOR THE SKATERS
as all are contributing to the league’s success!

Thank you for reading through my strategic planning series! I look forward to hearing feedback about your experiences with roller derby strategic planning.

The New Year often reflects a time of change, which is what prompted me to write this series of posts containing a step-by-step guide on leading your league through a strategic planning session. Optimized for roller derby leagues, I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did my best to describe the activities.. Feel free to alter the process to best meet the needs of your league! Additional ideas and suggestions (if you’ve gone through the process yourself and want to share your successes/challenges) are always welcome in the comments!

More posts in the series
Strategic planning introduction
Part 1: How often should a league strategically plan?
Part 2: Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator
Part 3: Give your members homework to bring bring to the meeting
Part 4: Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement
Part 5: Determine your mission
Part 6 and 7: Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Part 8: Determine your goals
Part 9: Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals
Part 10: The follow through 

Strategic Planning for Roller Derby Leagues – Part 9. Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals

You’ve come a long way in determining your league’s direction! Be sure to give your members a pat on the back. 

Committee Strategy helps achieve league goals. League goals help achieve league mission.

Committee strategy helps achieve league goals. League goals help achieve league mission.

This next step can be completed on the same strategic planning day or task each committee chair to have their own meeting to develop strategy a few days after the strategic planning session.

Developing strategy means asking: “How are we going to achieve our goal?” and this is where members earn their sense of empowerment and become more engaged to participate in their league’s success.

The facilitator asks for the board of directors to join as a group and have the rest of the members split into committees they serve on. Members who aren’t on the board or part of a committee can join any group they have an interest in.

Any member who has not previously joined a committee can consider this their committee draft day. Whichever group they join, they are now a member.

Each group needs to appoint someone to record ideas. With the league goals and league mission displayed, discuss what you can do at your board or committee level to help contribute to the league goals. These tasks will help set your committee’s focus over the coming months.

For example, in the previous activity, members decided this was the league goal…

Increase membership by 10 male adult skaters, 15 junior skaters and 5 female adult skaters by the start of the 2016 season.

To achieve that goal the committees may contribute in the following way:

Training committee:

Ask for advertising budget to promote new skater intake nights to help contribute to the goal of increasing memberships.

Increase the number of new skater intake nights.

Develop a 3-month fresh meat plan that provides consistent skill development and progress check points to keep new skaters engaged and returning to fresh meat practice.

Fundraising committee:

Investigate more public fundraisers and include a recruitment component to take advantage of the new audiences.

Media committee:

Develop a fresh meat information package which provides practice days & times, places to purchase gear, fees and communicates what it’s like to be part of the culture of roller derby.

Finance committee:

Budget $200 to buy more ‘tryout’ gear

An example flow chart

An example flow chart

Once each committee brainstorms their ideas, the facilitator creates a flowchart capturing all the ideas (this is big task and may need to be completed after the meeting).

Individually, committees now have now strategically chosen their direction, which contributes to larger league goals and mission. From this point, it’s up to the committees to appropriately task their members with jobs in order to complete these strategies.

To achieve the league goals, tasks may include one-time or short-term projects, like buying more loaner gear so new recruits can try (and get hooked) on the sport. On the other side of the spectrum, leagues may need to change policy, change the way they are internally structured or change the way they run their league in order to achieve goals. Larger league re-focusing initiatives will need to be handled at the board level. (For example: to achieve goals the league may have to decide to increase dues, integrate a paid a staff member or review skater code of conduct policies.) One-time and short-term projects should be handled by the committee members. It just doesn’t make sense to task board members to price out and purchase new loaner gear when you likely have 15+ members who could also complete that task.

If your board of directors are guiding all the decisions (big and small) and taking on the responsibility in implementation, not only will those board members eventually burn out, they also set themselves up for criticism (as discussed in the introduction of this series) and are missing out on engaging and using a very skilled and capable group – the rest of the members who are not on the board.

Writing league goals and empowering your committees to make decisions to achieve those goals, will eliminate the guesswork of focus, put trust and faith in your committees, which will then boost morale through conscious member engagement.

But once you’ve written your mission statement, determined league goals and set strategy, your work doesn’t stop there. Following through after the strategic planning process is essential, which is discussed in the next (and final) post.

CONGRATULATIONS! Your strategic planning session is complete. Go buy yourselves a round or two.

The New Year often reflects a time of change, which is what prompted me to write this series of posts containing a step-by-step guide on leading your league through a strategic planning session. Optimized for roller derby leagues, I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did my best to describe the activities.. Feel free to alter the process to best meet the needs of your league! Additional ideas and suggestions (if you’ve gone through the process yourself and want to share your successes/challenges) are always welcome in the comments!

More posts in the series
Strategic planning introduction
Part 1: How often should a league strategically plan?
Part 2: Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator
Part 3: Give your members homework to bring bring to the meeting
Part 4: Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement
Part 5: Determine your mission
Part 6 and 7: Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Part 8: Determine your goals
Part 9: Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals
Part 10: The follow through 

Strategic Planning for Roller Derby Leagues – Part 8. Determine your goals

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Make sure members take a break and do a fun activity before starting the next step. Time to plank!

During the strategic planning process, a league can write as many goals they feel they can realistically achieve. Just like how mission statements follow a formula, writing goals also follows a formula:

S – Specific: The who, what, when, where, why and how of the goal.

M – Measurable: Include a way to measure success. How will know you you’ve achieved your goal?

A – Attainable: Based on your current league resources, is the goal attainable?

R – Relevant: Is it consistent with the league’s mission?

T – Timely: What’s the deadline or time frame in which you want to achieve results?

For detailed information and more examples of SMART goals, please visit this article. Also check out this great article by 8-Mean Wheeler of Terminal City Rollergirls about goal setting for your league.

XYZ League has completed analyzing where they are and where they want to go and have determined three categories to focus on for the next year: membership, training and space.

Armed with their new mission statement as guidance, members can now work together to analyze popular topics within each category and determine common goals which reflect member priorities.

blog categories

Members may vote to choose the most popular topics to write goals around. Or members may want to specifically write goals focused on increasing a current strength, eliminating a weakness, achieving an objective or reducing a threat. However you choose your league priorities, be sure there is discussion and an opportunity for members to vote.

Looking at XYZ League’s desired achievement (opportunities) under membership, it’s discussed that a league priority should be recruitment and retention so the league can potentially expand into four teams. A potential goal that reflects that priority, follows the SMART acronym and supports the league mission could be:

Increase membership by 10 male adult skaters, 15 junior skaters and 5 female adult skaters by the start of the 2016 season.

The goal is specific. It tells us exactly what the league wants to achieve – gain new members.

The goal is measurable. Specific numbers if recruitment are indicated so members can monitor progress while reaching it.

The goal is attainable. It will take focused work to make it happen, but is within reach for the league based on it’s current resources.

The goal is relevant. The goal of increasing membership across multiple spectrums supports the highlighted section of the league’s mission below:

The XYZ League is an all-ages, all inclusive roller derby league. Our mission is to educate and develop the community of roller derby while providing an opportunity to engage in an alternative sport, healthy-living, competitive atmosphere and volunteerism.

The goal is timely. An end date of achievement has been set.

Because this goal reflects the member priorities outlined in the previous exercise and contributes to achieving the league mission, it’s a good one for the members to accept.

It’s clear another goal priority should encompass overcoming the weaknesses within membership. Communication, drama and unwelcome environments appear to be an issue. Let’s write a SMART goal to help bring focus to overcome that concern:

Create an environment of mutual respect, tolerance and trust to maintain 80% skater retention and reduce reported member conflict by 20% by the start of the 2016 season.

The goal is specific. It tells us exactly what the league wants to achieve – keep existing members and reduce conflict by creating a positive environment.

The goal is measurable. Success is measured by how many skaters stay and how many formal complaints are reported (this league is obviously coming out of a recent league shakeup). Coming up with ways to measure the league environment or league culture can be tricky. You may want to develop a ‘league environment’ survey to help gauge the members thoughts on how they feel interacting with the other members. Then set measurables looking for increase in positive responses at the end of the goal term and have everyone re-take the same survey.

The goal is attainable. It will require shifts in attitudes and culture to make it happen, but it’s possible.

The goal is relevant. This goal achieves the following highlighted sections in the league’s mission:

The XYZ League is an all-ages, all inclusive roller derby league. Our mission is to educate and develop the community of roller derby while providing an opportunity to engage in an alternative sport, healthy-living, competitive atmosphere and volunteerism.

League goals should contribute to achieving the league's mission.

League goals should contribute to achieving the league’s mission.

The goal is timely. An end date of achievement has been set.

Because this goal reflects also reflects member priorities and also contributes to achieving the league mission, it’s another good one to accept.

Goals should be written so all ideas within the mission statement are equally reflected. If you can’t write a goal to reflect part of your mission, members may want to step back and evaluate the mission to see if that idea should be in there.

Generally speaking, four yearly goals and two long-term goals (3-5 years) is a good place to start for smaller leagues. Be sure your goals are broad enough so all committees in your league can potentially contribute to its achievement.

The next step includes members breaking into their own committees to break down the league goals by brainstorming ideas on how their committee can contribute to each goal. This is called building strategy and is discussed in the next post.

The New Year often reflects a time of change, which is what prompted me to write this series of posts containing a step-by-step guide on leading your league through a strategic planning session. Optimized for roller derby leagues, I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did my best to describe the activities.. Feel free to alter the process to best meet the needs of your league! Additional ideas and suggestions (if you’ve gone through the process yourself and want to share your successes/challenges) are always welcome in the comments!

More posts in the series
Strategic planning introduction
Part 1: How often should a league strategically plan?
Part 2: Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator
Part 3: Give your members homework to bring bring to the meeting
Part 4: Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement
Part 5: Determine your mission
Part 6 and 7: Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Part 8: Determine your goals
Part 9: Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals
Part 10: The follow through 

Strategic Planning for Roller Derby Leagues – Part 6 and 7. Where are you at? Where do you want to be?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you had a burpee break yet? Now might be a good time to change the session energy with a fun activity, coffee break or even lunch.

Done that? Good. Moving on.

Once your mission statement is determined and displayed for all to see, the facilitator can now encourage members to share their homework.

Using four flip charts or a large white board broken into four sections, the facilitator records members responses to the following questions:

  • What does XYZ League do really well? (strengths)
  • What does XYZ League do not so well? (weaknesses)
  • What would you like the XYZ League to achieve in a year? Three years? (opportunities)
  • What would prevent the XYZ League from making those achievements? (threats)

As members are sharing their thoughts on league strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, the facilitator and members will start noticing commonalities or themes emerging.

Here is XYZ League's SWOT analysis. It's important to remember this is a brainstorming session and to be open to all responses.

Here is XYZ League’s SWOT analysis. It’s important to remember this is a brainstorming session and to be open to all responses.

Once all responses are recorded, the group then chooses categories that encompass common themes and reorganizes all the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats into categories. (See example)

Answers are then organized into common categories, which visually show where skater priorities lie.

Answers are then organized into common categories, which visually show where skater priorities lie.

With help from the facilitator, the members choose categories of social, membership, training and space as common themes. Then the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats get re-organized under each category. Ideas that don’t fit under any category can be set aside and considered a minor priority or a new category can be created to include it.

This process visually illustrates to all members general areas where league resources may need to be allocated and provide a starting point for goal writing.

In the example we see socially, the XYZ League is performing very strong. The members noticed the league’s strength in that area and since there are no weaknesses or opportunities, the league probably doesn’t need to focus on the social side of their league relations at this point. But it’s important to acknowledge that social issues are still important to members.

Membership and training, however, have several points that imply many members view those categories as priorities to focus on for future goal setting. These two categories will need to be examined in more detail in the next step.

The space category, while it’s not as detailed as membership and training, also contain potential for the league to focus on.

TRIGGER WARNING: If your league is recovering from a massive blowup, this step may trigger finger pointing, accusations and bringing up bad blood. It’s important for the facilitator to keep the conversation focused on the guiding questions and remind the participants that they are going through the exercise to help look ahead, not look behind. If issues continue to be brought up, section off a page or whiteboard area for ‘parking lot’ topics that will be revisited after the strategic planning process is complete.

This step will probably take the most time of your day and some of the conversations may become exhausting. But staying focused, finding reasons to laugh and remembering you’re all there to make your league better will help you stay on track.

The next post will outline how to take your gathered information and turn them into goals.

The New Year often reflects a time of change, which is what prompted me to write this series of posts containing a step-by-step guide on leading your league through a strategic planning session. Optimized for roller derby leagues, I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did my best to describe the activities.. Feel free to alter the process to best meet the needs of your league! Additional ideas and suggestions (if you’ve gone through the process yourself and want to share your successes/challenges) are always welcome in the comments!

More posts in the series
Strategic planning introduction
Part 1: How often should a league strategically plan?
Part 2: Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator
Part 3: Give your members homework to bring bring to the meeting
Part 4: Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement
Part 5: Determine your mission
Part 6 and 7: Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Part 8: Determine your goals
Part 9: Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals
Part 10: The follow through 

Strategic Planning for Roller Derby Leagues – Part 5. Determine your mission

Image courtesy of patpitchaya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patpitchaya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to Wikipedia a mission statement communicates the “purpose of a company, organization or person, its reason for existing” and is directly connected to the goals you will be writing further down in the strategic planning process.

If you already have a mission statement, congratulations! If you don’t, you’ll want to start off your meeting by having the membership contribute to writing one.

A basic mission statement answers the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Why do you do it?
  • For whom do you do it?

To write the mission statement, members share their answers to the above questions. The facilitator records ideas on a flip chart or white board. The most valued key phrases, determined by the members in attendance, are highlighted and amalgamated into a one or two sentence mission statement summarizing their reason for existing.

For example, Gotham Girls Roller Derby includes the following statement as part of their mission:

“GGRD is committed to fostering serious competition on a national and international level, developing amateur athletes for competition, and promoting the physical and mental strength and independent spirit of amateur female athletes.”

Missions statements are necessary before starting the strategic planning process because future suggestions for league goals will be analyzed against the mission statement to ensure the goal will help the league fulfill their mission.

For example, if Gotham were going through the strategic planning process, they would look at each potential goal and ask:

  • Does this goal foster serious competition on a national and international level?
  • Does this goal help develop amateur athletes for competition?
  • Does this goal promote physical and mental strength and independent spirit of amateur female athletes?

If the league answers ‘no’ to all the questions (one yes is okay), then the goal suggestion should be tabled or altered until it can be considered as contributing to the overall league mission. If your membership can’t agree on any league goals that fit under the mission statement, you may need to update your league’s mission.

Rose City Rollers follows a slightly different theme for their mission statement:

The Rose City Rollers are Portland, Oregon’s all-female flat track roller derby league. Our mission is to develop women of attitude, athleticism and passion to play a hard-hitting sport of speed and skill. As pioneers in the rebirth of roller derby, RCR continues to foster its growth.

Rose City may ask the following questions when planning their goals:

  • Will this goal help develop women of attitude, athleticism and passion to play roller derby?
  • Will this goal foster league growth?

If your league is co-ed, includes juniors or makes giving back to the community a priority, you may want to include those points in your mission statement as well. The more input members have to develop the league’s mission statement will result in stronger individual ownership of living up to the league’s mission

For more information on how to write a mission statement, check out this article on how to write a mission statement and 5 steps to writing a mission statement.

Let’s create a mission statement for our fictional XYZ League by answering the basic mission statement questions.

blog mission

The facilitator presents each question to the members which are recorded on flip charts or white boards.

 

You can see all the responses from the members when the facilitator posed each question. From there, the members voted on the top four key words under each question and the facilitator highlighted them.

Using the most popular key words, members craft the mission statement.

Once a mission statement is created, the league votes to accept or tweak it further. Here is the mission statement for XYZ League, based on the important key words chosen by their membership.

The XYZ League is an all-ages, all inclusive roller derby league. Our mission is to educate and develop the community of roller derby while providing an opportunity to engage in an alternative sport, healthy-living, competitive atmosphere and volunteerism.

You’ll notice this mission statement has a different focus from Gotham or Rose City – it is more focused on community and awareness, which is a common theme for younger or non-hypercompetitive leagues. Going through this process will allow each league to craft their own unique mission statement which directly reflects the kind of members they have, what they collectively want to achieve.

Once you determine your mission, you can begin analyzing where you are at and where you want to go, which is the topic of my next post.

The New Year often reflects a time of change, which is what prompted me to write this series of posts containing a step-by-step guide on leading your league through a strategic planning session. Optimized for roller derby leagues, I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did my best to describe the activities.. Feel free to alter the process to best meet the needs of your league! Additional ideas and suggestions (if you’ve gone through the process yourself and want to share your successes/challenges) are always welcome in the comments!

More posts in the series
Strategic planning introduction
Part 1: How often should a league strategically plan?
Part 2: Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator
Part 3: Give your members homework to bring bring to the meeting
Part 4: Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement
Part 5: Determine your mission
Part 6 and 7: Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Part 8: Determine your goals
Part 9: Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals
Part 10: The follow through 

Strategic Planning for Roller Derby Leagues – Part 4. Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement

Fear of change and fear of the unknown will keep members from attending the strategic planning session. Sharing the agenda and summarizing how the day will unfold will help alleviate those fears.

An agenda outlining the process will allow members time to review the process prior to the meeting. Even if you know your members don’t review agendas on a good day, don’t deny them the opportunity. If your strategic planning session is coming after a time of drama, more than you think will be interested in knowing what’s up.

Set your agenda items based on planned activities. An example agenda may look like this:

XYZ Strategic Planning Meeting
9:30-10 a.m. Coffee and donuts
10 a.m. Call to order, facilitator introduction

Part One:
Mission statement: Who are we? What do we do? Why do we do it? For whom do we do it?

Part Two:
Where are we at? Where do we want to go?

Part Three:
Goal setting

Part Four:
Set strategy

Lunch will be from noon – 12:45 p.m.
Coffee break 2:45-3 p.m.

Avoid putting time restrictions on each area of discussion to allow for idea development. Feel free to add in team-building activities or burpee and planking breaks to shift the room energy every once in a while. If members tend to sit in their ‘cliques’ encourage an Alice in Wonderland tea party game and have everyone change places when they hear a secret word, to break up the power groups and get members mingling

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Meetings can be as bland as these guys. Be sure research fun ways to raise energy as you continue through the day. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To create a welcome environment, the league chair should stand at the meeting entrance and personally welcome all members who attend. It’s a small gesture, but one that will be appreciated by many.

The facilitator needs to take the lead role for the rest of the strategic planning meeting once they are introduced by the league chair. Members in established leadership roles are only participants in the process, which keeps no member having more authority over the other and allows ideas to flow more freely.

Other quick points to mention include:

  • Provide flip charts, whiteboards, markers, scrap paper, pens and pencils to capture ideas.
  • Phones off, tablets away, no laptops allowed.
  • Raise your hand to speak during group discussion (or create a strategy of your own to keep discussion open and respectable – 5 pushups if you talk out of turn?)
  • No ideas/thoughts are off limits during brainstorming sessions.
  • Encourage passive attendees to participate by asking them directly for their opinion during discussions. (Not just the job of the facilitator – it’s everyone’s job to ensure all are engaged)
  • This isn’t a time for accusations or bringing up a specific negative event that has since been resolved.
  • Remember that you are all there to help make the league more successful, efficient and fun to be a part of.

For more information on ideas for strategic planning ground rules check out this post on the top 11 ground rules for conducting a strategic planning session.

The next post will cover the first agenda item, writing a mission statement.

The New Year often reflects a time of change, which is what prompted me to write this series of posts containing a step-by-step guide on leading your league through a strategic planning session. Optimized for roller derby leagues, I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did my best to describe the activities.. Feel free to alter the process to best meet the needs of your league! Additional ideas and suggestions (if you’ve gone through the process yourself and want to share your successes/challenges) are always welcome in the comments!

More posts in the series
Strategic planning introduction
Part 1: How often should a league strategically plan?
Part 2: Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator
Part 3: Give your members homework to bring bring to the meeting
Part 4: Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement
Part 5: Determine your mission
Part 6 and 7: Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Part 8: Determine your goals
Part 9: Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals
Part 10: The follow through 

Strategic Planning for Roller Derby Leagues – Part 3. Give your members homework to bring to the meeting

Presenting guiding questions to your membership prior to the strategic planning meeting will help them focus their thoughts and allow the strategic planning process to move more fluidly when you all gather together. Guiding questions should have members thinking about where the league is at and where they personally want the league to go.

Examples of guiding questions include:

  • What does XYZ League do really well? (strengths)
  • What does XYZ League do not so well? (weaknesses)
  • What would you like the XYZ League to achieve in a year? Three years? (opportunities)
  • What would prevent the XYZ League from making those achievements? (threats)

Encourage participation from your members by telling them the answers they bring to the strategic planning session will provide the foundation of direction of where the league should focus its resources of money, volunteers and time.

Image courtesy of scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do they want to be more competitive? Do they feel roster selection isn’t fair? Do they think recruitment should be a priority? The above guiding questions will pull that information out of each member. The more honest each member is (particularly about the weaknesses and threats) the easier it will be for the group to collectively come up with ways to improve.

The scope of responses will vary depending on who attends the meeting.

Strategic planning usually includes skaters, coaches, officials, NSOs, volunteers, but could also extend to sponsors and fans, depending on your motivation for introducing the need for strategic planning in the first place.

Providing homework also allows those who may not be able to attend an opportunity to provide input, if they pass their answers onto a league mate to present on their behalf.

In technical terms, this process is called conducting a SWOT analysis and is a technique that can be used to evaluate effectiveness in personal or professional endeavours! Now that members are tasked with their homework, it’s time to organize the strategic planning agenda and set session rules.

The New Year often reflects a time of change, which is what prompted me to write this series of posts containing a step-by-step guide on leading your league through a strategic planning session. Optimized for roller derby leagues, I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did my best to describe the activities.. Feel free to alter the process to best meet the needs of your league! Additional ideas and suggestions (if you’ve gone through the process yourself and want to share your successes/challenges) are always welcome in the comments!

More posts in the series
Strategic planning introduction
Part 1: How often should a league strategically plan?
Part 2: Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator
Part 3: Give your members homework to bring bring to the meeting
Part 4: Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement
Part 5: Determine your mission
Part 6 and 7: Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Part 8: Determine your goals
Part 9: Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals
Part 10: The follow through 

Strategic Planning for Roller Derby Leagues – Part 2. Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator

There is no time like the present to start your strategic planning process. But in order for it to be successful, membership participation is essential.

The board of directors, committee chairs and anyone else who is supportive of going through the process need to engage other members and encourage participation. To do this, communicating the reason WHY you’re doing the process is essential. This is a time to be honest with your members.

For example:

“The board needs direction from their membership on where to spend time and resources.”

“The board knows many are unhappy with recent decisions made by the board (or xyz committee). Let’s gather our ideas and find a common goals to work toward.”

It’s important to understand not everyone will be open to the idea of going through the strategic planning process.

Members or even your directors may respond with indifference (the board never listens so why bother participating), members my resist (we fear change – let’s sabotage the process), or members may remain passive through the process and only speak up if the result of the strategic planning process doesn’t reflect their values (I’m going to sit in the back of the room and wait and see what happens).

If you’re faced with dissenters, it’s important to not brush them aside. Their opinions still matter and they are likely jaded from previous league issues or drama. Communicating what the process involves and how each member will contribute and benefit can help quiet the indifferent, resistant or passive aggressive members and turn them into contributing members. Also helpful can be assuring all members that going through the process will only make general league culture better.

Expect to ask members for a full-day commitment when going through the process.

A small investment of providing lunch and other comforts to make the process more bearable is a good decision!

A small investment of providing lunch and other comforts to make the process more bearable is a good decision! Image courtesy of piyato at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It may not take a full day, but you don’t want members rushing through the strategic planning process just to get on with the rest of the day. Rushing the process is only falling back into the pattern of making snap or unguided decisions, which you are attempting to eliminate or avoid.

Choose a day that works best for the majority of skaters. Ensuring it’s not near a bout, tournament, or other regular league meetings will help encourage attendance. Investing league funds into catering a lunch or buying a round after the meeting may also make attending more enticing.

Find a facilitator who is impartial.

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Image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are professionals who are paid to walk organizations through the strategic planning process. If you have funds to hire one, I’d recommend it. But I’m sure for most leagues new to the idea of strategic planning, the investment of a facilitator may not seem a priority. That’s okay too. A dedicated volunteer, a retired member or a spouse of a skater can also be good choices if they have good communication skills.

Bad choices for facilitators include any board member, coach or committee chair. Essentially, anyone in a leadership role is a bad idea. Going through the strategic planning process ultimately changes the way a league makes decisions. Members in leadership roles may unknowingly (or knowingly) sabotage the process to keep the way things run the same. You also want to assure the membership this will be an open and honest process. If your facilitator is the board chair, a member may be intimidated to speak freely.

The facilitator will ask guiding questions during the strategic planning process, help document and compile responses and move along the conversation once a discussion topic has run its course. Facilitators help focus ideas, but shouldn’t contribute, so finding a non-member will allow all to participate in the process.

Once you communicate with the league, book a meeting and find a facilitator, it’s time to give your members homework, which is discussed in my next post.

The New Year often reflects a time of change, which is what prompted me to write this series of posts containing a step-by-step guide on leading your league through a strategic planning session. Optimized for roller derby leagues, I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did my best to describe the activities.. Feel free to alter the process to best meet the needs of your league! Additional ideas and suggestions (if you’ve gone through the process yourself and want to share your successes/challenges) are always welcome in the comments!

More posts in the series
Strategic planning introduction
Part 1: How often should a league strategically plan?
Part 2: Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator
Part 3: Give your members homework to bring bring to the meeting
Part 4: Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement
Part 5: Determine your mission
Part 6 and 7: Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Part 8: Determine your goals
Part 9: Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals
Part 10: The follow through 

Strategic Planning for Roller Derby Leagues – Part 1. How often should a league strategically plan?

The New Year often reflects a time of change, which is what prompted me to write the following series of posts containing a step-by-step guide on leading your league through a strategic planning session. Optimized for roller derby leagues, I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did my best to describe the activities. Feel free to alter the process to best meet the needs of your league! Additional ideas and suggestions (if you’ve gone through the process yourself and want to share your successes/challenges) are always welcome in the comments!

The decision to pursue a strategic planning session within your league may come during a time of change (several skaters leaving or retiring, a newly elected board, financial crisis). You may also consider strategic planning when league drama is at its height (it provides a forum for members to be heard and contribute to make things better). Or maybe you’re getting a sense that member’s attitudes seem a little ‘off’. But strategic planning is also great during times when there is no drama or change. Members will be less involved in derby drama and more focused on helping the league succeed if strategic planning happens during a time of neutrality.

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While the phrase ‘strategic plan’ seems constrictive, strategic plans are meant to be fluid, which works well for roller derby leagues. The nature of our sport tends to have a revolving door of members and a WFTDA rule change can shift league priorities overnight. However, successfully going through the process ultimately brings the decision making power to the skaters. As membership evolves or rules change, strategies can change to focus on new priorities, but members will still have direction to make those decisions.

Strategic planning helps create a league mission statement (What is the league meant to achieve?), reveals skater priorities, allows the members to set league goals that are focused around skater priorities and the league mission and also empowers the committees to make effective strategy decisions to achieve the league goals and mission.

A league mission statement is meant to be long term, so a league many want to review it every 5 or so years. League goals should be reviewed yearly for short term goals and every 3-5 years for long-term goals. But those timelines will shift depending on the age of your league. Younger leagues may want to set shorter time frames since there is so much to accomplish to become established.

BLOG graphic3The mission and goals are meant to be set in stone for a period of time. The fluidity of a strategic plan comes at the strategy-setting level, for committees will be able chose what they need to focus on in order to achieve the mission and goals. These strategies may include deciding to book more travel games or even new uniforms. Because strategies are implemented at the committee level, decision-making moves faster and is more manageable because strategies are broken into smaller pieces. And if the strategy contributes to achieving the league’s goals and mission, then it’s an acceptable strategy to focus resources like money, volunteers and time.

When strategy is set at the committee level, members are involved and truly choosing the direction as to where the league is headed. More examples on this will be provided in future posts! Before starting the strategic planning process, you first must engage your members and encourage participation, which is discussed in the next post.

More posts in the series
Strategic planning introduction
Part 1: How often should a league strategically plan?
Part 2: Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator
Part 3: Give your members homework to bring bring to the meeting
Part 4: Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement
Part 5: Determine your mission
Part 6 and 7: Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Part 8: Determine your goals
Part 9: Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals
Part 10: The follow through 

Skate hard and turn left… Or right? Strategic planning for roller derby leagues. Introduction

The boards and committees who handle the week-to-week operations of their leagues are the unsung heroes of the roller derby movement. They are the ones who step up and take on extra work in times of league apathy, or the ones who get finger pointed at when things go wrong.

Most leagues adopt a structure of an elected board of directors to help filter through and make decisions affecting how the league runs and what direction to focus resources like money, volunteers and time. Committees, often chaired by a board member and consist of league members, also play a large role in regular operations, voting to make decisions specific to their committee and doing work to implement them.

A sample of a typical roller derby league structure. Does your board of directors guide most of the decision making process or is the power given to the committees?

A sample of a typical roller derby league structure. Does your board of directors guide most of the decision making process or is the power given to the committees?

It’s a great structure to take care of business. But sometimes a board or committee may evolve into doing ‘bubble business’. Meaning, a board or committee become so disconnected from the rest of the league that they make decisions independently without considering how the decision will affect or contribute to the league as a whole. Or they make ‘quick fix’ decisions to resolve league matters to minimize effort (because they are likely already overworked) without thinking how the decision will affect the league long-term. Or they are truly an island, working alone.

Perhaps there are one or two directors who are making decisions for the league while effectively intimidating other directors to agree. Or maybe lack of involvement and apathy from the general membership is forcing directors to operate as an island. Or perhaps board in fighting is causing directors to push personal agendas and sabotage decisions to make their colleagues appear ineffective to the rest of the league. Or maybe your league is brand new with a green board that is inexperienced but need to make multiple quick decisions just to move onto the next priority.

No matter the circumstances of how league leadership evolves into making decisions within a bubble, it’s important for the board to recognize when it’s happening and take action to make it better. Derby drama, skater exodus, league splits or even dissolving the league may result if boards and committees continue to operate independently.

Many individual leagues adopt the governing philosophy of the Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association – by the skaters, for the skaters. But how does a league make the philosophy come to reality if they’ve fallen into the trap of ‘bubble business’?

Strategic planning for roller derby

Image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you work in the corporate world, you’ve likely participated in strategic planning with your firm. It often consists of a mediator, flip charts, markers, breakout groups, mingling, sharing ideas and sometimes a free lunch.

In roller derby terms, strategic planning means talking about your goals, dreams, aspirations, struggles and fears with others who share your roller derby passion. Once all members share their thoughts, commonalities are found and using the league’s current strengths and exploiting opportunities, a league direction and common goals are established to serve as a road map for future decisions.

For example, let’s say the result of a strategic planning session has the majority of your league wishing to become serious competition against teams within your region as a goal. What decisions at the board and committee level need to be made to make that happen?

More funds will need to be allocated for additional practice space, coaching staff may need to change and more games may need to be booked to build experience. A team can’t be successful without a strong culture, so investment in team-building activities may need to happen as well. Fundraising initiatives may need to be allocated to fund more away game travel.

Will new uniforms contribute to the goal? If you’re currently skating in cut-up t-shirts, new uniforms may bring the perception to the public of a more serious team. But improving public perception isn’t part of the above goal and should be considered another time when new uniforms will help achieve another goal.

See how strategic planning can simplify decisions?

Strategic planning empowers the entire membership to make decisions to improve the league.

Strategic planning empowers the entire membership to make decisions to improve the league. Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Because all members are engaged in choosing the league goals and know all decisions must make a contribution to achieving that goal, snap and bubble decisions are eliminated. Committees will be responsible for their own strategies and the strategy must contribute to the overall league goal.

The decision-making process gives more power at committee level and board tasks shift to facilitation and policy implementation.

Every new strategy presented within a committee can be analyzed against the league goals. If the initiative supports the goal, it’s something worth pursing. If it doesn’t contribute to any league goals, the decision can be made to table the initiative until the league wishes to move in that direction.

By focusing on common goals, the volume of decisions board leadership need to make are greatly reduced, allowing more time to focusing on what’s important – like skating.

But in order to determine the league’s goals, league leadership must encourage all involved to come together and have input toward the strategic direction.

The following series of posts contain a step-by-step guide on leading your league through a strategic planning session. However the process is altered slightly to be optimized for roller derby leagues. (I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did my best to describe the activities). Feel free to alter the process to best meet the needs of your league! And additional ideas and suggestions (if you’ve gone through the process yourself) are always welcome in the comments!

More posts in the series
Strategic planning introduction
Part 1: How often should a league strategically plan?
Part 2: Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator
Part 3: Give your members homework to bring bring to the meeting
Part 4: Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement
Part 5: Determine your mission
Part 6 and 7: Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Part 8: Determine your goals
Part 9: Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals
Part 10: The follow through