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    President's Message

    The State Bar can best use its resources by drawing plans today for tomorrow's highway.

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 78, No. 12, December 2005

    Plan Tomorrow's Highway

    The State Bar can best use its resources by drawing plans today for tomorrow's highway.

    Guerinby D. Michael Guerin

    "Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." - Unknown

    Anyone who knows me knows that I do not live by this quote. To the contrary, I am more likely to have these words said to me rather than speak them myself. That said, I recognize that planning, while sometimes painful, is critical in running any organization. In an organization as large and diverse as the State Bar, it is easy to lose our way on the road to success by getting bogged down in parochial matters. Thus, we must take a step back and look at what is truly important to the State Bar as an organization.

    As many of you already know, in July the Board of Governors approved the Bar's refocused strategic plan. The next significant step requires committees, sections, and divisions to also undergo strategic planning, a process that already is underway for many entities.

    The current strategic planning process actually began in 2003 under the tutelage of president Pat Ballman and Strategic Planning Committee chair Cory Nettles, and was most recently led by president Michelle Behnke. At that time, leaders faced the perennial issue of having greater demands than limited Bar resources could accommodate. To aid in decision making, leaders began a strategic planning process to rationally allocate existing Bar resources while also ensuring that the Bar as an organization achieves its mission. Bar leaders and staff have since been working in tandem on strategic planning to refine the Bar's mission, vision, and priorities.

    The mission of the State Bar of Wisconsin is to improve the administration of justice and the delivery of legal services and to positively promote the professional interests of Wisconsin lawyers. That's a lofty and very broad mission. To help us achieve this mission, the Bar has set four key priorities: improving public access to the legal system; encouraging member engagement in the Bar; increasing the public's understanding of the legal system; and improving the Bar's relevance to our members.

    Simply put, strategic planning is a critical way of looking at what the Bar does or should be doing instead of simply "maintaining the status quo." Keeping our priorities in mind, Bar leaders are reviewing the products and services that we deliver and how members use these services. We are looking at the challenges facing law practices. We are looking at public access to and understanding of the legal system. We are using this plan as a tool to evaluate the process by which we are accomplishing what we need to accomplish. We are working on making ourselves accountable for our actions. We are now at a critical juncture, because we are marrying the strategic planning and the budgeting processes to effectively allocate available funds for these priorities.

    The Bar's strategic planning process has had some unintended beneficial consequences, including the sharing of information among committee and division leaders about what their groups do. This kind of information sharing reveals connections that foster shared goals and collaboration. Another benefit is the opportunity for Bar and volunteer leaders and staff to learn about each other, about how the Bar truly works, and about what resources are necessary to keep "the rubber on the road." During strategic planning sessions, many Bar members engaged in focused discussions on issues and challenges surrounding their groups' purpose and work. This discussion, unprecedented in past planning, is due, in large part, to the process that is used, which includes creating SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, results-based, and time-bound) goals that also are wise goals. Continual communication is a good thing.

    Volunteer leaders (including me) who initially approached the planning process with skepticism now report that the process was valuable in creating a roadmap for activity by which results can be measured. Many participants were fully engaged in planning to a depth that surprised even them.

    The Bar's financial planning and budgeting processes have evolved in concert with the strategic planning process. During tight budget times, strategic planning can help us apportion limited resources to accomplish our organization's goals and to evaluate our performance and the effectiveness of individual projects in accomplishing our goals.

    No strategic plan can succeed without member input. With your help, the end result will be a road to the future that is a paved, four-lane highway that is, we hope, free of speed bumps.