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 

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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