July 2014



As chief elected officer of the Society, ASSE's president promotes the advancement of the Society and the safety profession, and represents ASSE before members, other relevant professional societies and various governmental agencies. Professional Safety shares his latest thoughts on the Society, the profession and its practice.

Read past messages in the President's Message Archive.

President's Message - March 2004

Planning is critical to success. It helps to guide the journey from vision to reality, from thinking to doing and, ultimately, to providing optimum member service.

2003-2004 ASSE President James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP

Plan or Die!

Today's most successful organizations are those actively involved in creating their own future. To be successful by whatever measure in molding that future, planning is critical. That's the central theme of popular management books such as Plan or Die! 101 Keys to Organizational Success; Built to Last; and The Will to Govern Well.

To put this in perspective, consider this well-known exchange from Lewis Carroll's classic tale, Alice in Wonderland.

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" said Alice.

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where-" said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

Imagine what would happen if a business took such an approach. What would happen if it did not consciously survey the landscape in which it operates, examine its objectives, determine goals, then map a path to success? Without a vision for the future and a well-developed plan for arriving there, the outcome seems obvious, doesn't it?

In Built to Last , Collins and Porras describe four planning horizons that facilitate knowledge-based decision making:

  • Envisioned Future: 10 to 30 years . Here, a vivid description is gathered from the data and molded into several BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals).

  • Critical Factors: 5 to 10 years. What are and will be the mega issues? What are some basic assumptions (based on best-available data) about the future (what will we be doing, what will we look like, etc.)? What will be our guiding strategic principles?

  • Strategic Planning: 3 to 5 years. Strategic planning efforts define the short- and long-term goals, objectives and strategies needed to turn plans into action.

  • Action Planning: 1 to 2 years. The organization sets priorities, plans programs and incorporates actions into the overall operational/day-to-day planning. It's at this point, just when all seems in sync, that the horizon turns from a flat line into a circle, and the process begins again.

A successful organization not only has a plan for the future, it also has the ability to proactively respond to evolving conditions and needs. In The Will to Govern Well, Tecker, Frankel and Meyer report that nimbleness in planning requires several things. First, a strong, solid link must exist between the long-range strategy and annual operational planning. While we must dream, think and envision the future, we must also operate and perform in the now. In addition, there must be a strong tie to available resources. Time, manpower and budget must be hard-linked to strategic and operational plans in order to ensure success. These links then guide the journey from vision to reality, from thinking to doing and, ultimately, to providing optimum member service.

Over the past 12 months, Gene Barfield and Dick Nugent have guided Jim Fix, Jim Lapping, Steve NyBlom, Ken Wengert and Lisa Zilm of the Strategic Planning Committee on this journey. Staff directors and the finance department have worked tirelessly to link resources to the plans. We have made significant progress, plans have matured. But much remains to be done.

Plan or die? I'm not so sure. Plan to succeed and serve. Now that's an absolute imperative.

James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP