Should ASHRAE more prominently address the residential market in its scope of activities? Should it pursue a “decentralized” or “centralized” approach as it copes with the implications of a growing membership outside North America? Should ASHRAE continue to focus primarily on meeting the needs of HVAC&R professionals or should ASHRAE expand and broaden its focus to meet the needs of professionals in related disciplines? Those are among the questions being framed by ASHRAE’s Board and Planning Committee as the Society completes work on a new strategic plan. ASHRAE is not immune to the demographic, economic and technological trends that are impacting businesses, governments, and professional and technical associations, and the intent of the plan is to position the Society for continued success within this changing environment. ASHRAE’s current strategic plan was adopted in 2006.
In his Presidential Address delivered at ASHRAE’s 2013 Annual Conference, William P. Bahnfleth stressed the importance of planning. “Planning provides our map from the present to the future,” Bahnfleth said. “In laying the ground-work for a new plan that can guide us over the next ten to fifteen years, we must ask some key questions of ourselves and others. Who are our members and what are their needs? How do we structure of Society to be truly global and financially sound?”
The process began in spring 2013 with the Planning Committee chaired by Sheila Hayter assembling planning briefs on key areas of Society activity. “The Planning Committee believed it was important to create summarize current levels of activity and map trend lines,” Hayter said. Committee members, assisted by ASHRAE staff, gathered data on the following topics:
- Demographics – How ASHRAE membership is trending globally
- Technology – What new building and environmental technologies are creating demand
- Market Analysis – What types of products and services are in demand and who delivers them
- Products and Services – How well ASHRAE products and services satisfy demand
Hugh Crowther, the committee’s vice chair, was assigned the task of coordinating the effort. “The objective was to get the facts on the table, to dispel preconceived notions, as would be done as any business tackled questions about how it can best serve its market. In this case, the emphasis was on determining how ASHRAE is addressing its membership needs and which are the other groups with whom our members interact.”
At the Annual Conference held in June, the Planning Committee presented the four briefs to the Board and suggested several topics which the committee believed warranted further consideration. “During the Denver meeting, the Planning Committee brainstormed possible topics that the BOD may want to consider in a new strategic plan. These were not intended to be the scope of the new plan. That decision is up to the Board,” Hayter said. “It is only meant to be a place to start the conversation.”
After discussion by the Board, the Planning Committee was tasked with providing in-depth analysis on six topics, which it did through a series of webinars attended by the Board. This was in preparation of a full Board meeting held November 8-9, at ASHRAE Headquarters in Atlanta. “The purpose was to assist the Board in preparing for the planning session by sharing important information in advance,” said Hayter. “This was to maximize our face-to-face collaboration and discussion time in Atlanta.” According to Crowther, the purpose of these discussions was to encourage Board members to begin thinking about these strategic issues in advance of the fall planning session. At each, Planning Committee members gave a short presentation to ensure that the Board was "up to speed" on the following important topics.
- Global Strategy – Taking into account expectations for membership outside North America both in developing and developed economies and the desired products and services based on local financial resources.
- Intersociety Collaboration to Address Common Goals – Considering key issues that can only be solved through inter-organizational collaboration.
- Building Performance – Analyzing what it would mean for ASHRAE to coordinate integration of multiple “systems” (envelope, HVAC, lighting, etc.) into a holistically operating building and to champion a performance-based approach rather than a prescriptive-based approach.
- Career (Professional) Development and Personal Growth within ASHRAE – Determining and building on the key value propositions for members to improve professional skills and opportunities and for firms to create a competitive advantage through involvement of their employees within ASHRAE.
- The Role of ASHRAE in Residential Built Environment – Exploring opportunities in the residential sector that are currently underserved by other residential organizations.
- Expanding Scope of Markets (members) Served – Identifying markets covered within ASHRAE’s Mission Statement that ASHRAE is not currently very active and expand into these areas and considering both organic growth in new markets and active expansion.
McKinley Advisors, a consulting firm specializing in assisting associations with strategic planning and other operational initiatives, facilitated the Board’s review of the assembled data and coordinated breakout sessions.
“That is the point where we are now,” said Hayter. The Board is digesting the Atlanta discussions, summarizing the strategic plan elements that surfaced, including mission, envisioned future, values, goals, objectives, initiatives and measures.”
Before adoption of a new strategic plan, the ASHRAE Planning Committee is developing an overview of complementary tools and resources to support plan implementation including a business plan and an implementation plan. The Board of Directors will discuss the initial components of the plan, including a strategic map of the plan’s objectives and goals, during the 2014 Winter Conference in New York.
More information on ASHRAE’s strategic planning efforts can be found at www.ashrae.org/strategicplan2014.