Strategic planning advances at ASWB Board Advance!

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On August 6, ASWB Board members met in person for the 2021 Board Advance! It was the first in-person meeting of the Board since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Three Board members attended virtually via Zoom, and one Board member was absent because of a conflict with a jurisdictional board meeting.

The ASWB Board of Directors spent the day engaged in and focused on determining where ASWB as an organization is headed in the next few years. Because of the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, both CEO Dwight Hymans and facilitator Michael Barrett recommended focusing on a shorter-term plan. Also for that reason, the organization’s mission, vision, and values were designated “out of scope” for the time being; discussion on changes to those elements will be considered in the future.

Members are telling us something.
— CEO Dwight Hymans, noting the number of themes arising from member surveys and interviews

The day proceeded with large-group discussion to identify strategic focus areas followed by seeming lightning rounds of small-group work to design strategic objectives around unmet needs. Participants reconvened in the large group to reveal the strategic objectives and build consensus around how to categorize them by focus area. Before the final step of voting to arrive at the top priorities, Barret invited participants to advocate for initiatives of importance to them.

Even with three Board members participating via the Zoom platform, everyone had opportunity to be heard—and to vote. Barrett paired each remote participant with an in-room buddy who was responsible for keeping the remote individual informed and engaged. In small groups, in-room buddies made conference calls to those participating remotely.

Spring cleaning

In preparation for the Advance! ASWB senior directors had done a spring cleaning of the current strategic framework to identify whether objectives were to be moved to operations where they remain a priority, retired, or kept in the new strategic plan. The results of the spring cleaning: Three objectives were determined to have continued strategic importance, two were recommended for retirement, and four were listed as being integrated into operations. The three “keepers” were incorporated into the small-group work, where teams were encouraged to include them as part of the input.

Looking at the outcomes of the spring cleaning, Board member Kathy Outland of Oregon said: “It’s impressive what is being operationalized. Staff have been working hard on the framework. It’s cool that only one objective from each goal is being kept.” Barrett agreed, noting, “It’s so rare to take the time to look back and say, ‘Look at what we’ve done.’ You hope to see things moving [from the strategic plan] into operations.”

Member participation

Member input was another ingredient critical to the Advance! In June, members were asked to respond to a survey to provide guidance related to ASWB’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to inform the strategic planning process. Barrett also conducted interviews with a number of ASWB staff and ASWB Board members.

Despite low member response to the survey, Barrett identified a number of themes that resonated: questions related to exam bias; questions related to ASWB’s role in the greater DEI conversation; opportunities to take an even greater leadership role in communities ASWB serves; and opportunity to strengthen business operations and staff support, especially post-COVID.

“Members are telling us something,” said Hymans, noting the number of themes Barrett shared from the interviews and survey. The themes gave Advance! participants a starting point for the generative discussions that followed.

Next steps

In wrapping up the day’s activities, Barrett developed a time line for next steps. More work remains to transform the ideas generated during the Advance! into the final goals and objectives that the Board will present at the Annual Meeting of the Delegate Assembly for a vote of affirmation. In the final minutes of the day, Barrett asked participants to share one word or phrase summing up the day. The responses included “engaged,” “optimistic,”  “hopeful,” and “proud.”