Define Success and Measuring Progress
Early this winter, the farmer directors of the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) spent the better part of three days reviewing the board’s current strategic plan. With more than 20 objectives and dozens of programs and projects, the board heard year-end project reports for all of them. It is a critical function for the board, and they take the role seriously.
Over the past five years, the board has also worked hard to try and develop ways to measure progress in all of our objectives. We call them Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and these metrics provide the board an indication about whether or not we are making progress. For example, in order to track progress against an objective to increase the awareness of ISA programs, we conduct an annual survey of soybean farmers in Iowa.
Unlike many metrics used by other organizations, we are not focused on measuring activities, but instead we are working to measure outcomes. And measuring outcomes is much harder to do, as many of the things that we are working to impact are big mega issues, and ISA will usually play a supporting role. However, just because it is difficult to do doesn’t mean we aren’t going to give it our best effort. Defining success and measuring progress is what the soybean farmers of Iowa expect and deserve.
So after hearing and discussing the year-end reports, the board then spent time reviewing reams of data for each of the KPIs. Based on the data, some objectives were changed and ultimately, a re-allocation of resources will follow.
Why does all of this matter?
In 2011, ISA’s total revenues were nearly $23 million. This was another record and we have seen our revenues double in the last 8 years. And these expanding resources have increased the importance of the work of the board in defining success and measuring progress.
Some of the key takeaways from the board discussions were those focused on efforts that enable soybeans to compete for more acres in Iowa. In addition to taking a look at our current mix of research projects on increasing yields, we also need to figure out better ways to help farmers utilize the results of this research. We have to work harder to coordinate the results of our On-Farm Network®, our environmental programs and our contract research at Iowa State University. Our communication and marketing efforts need to continue to focus on increasing awareness of ISA funded activities. Our demand building programs must find ways to compete with DDGs from the ethanol industry and to work to find new international customers to reduce our dependence on China. Deeper relationships with an increasing number of farmers through our producer service programs and with our public affairs team are more important than ever.
If you would like to learn more about how ISA is defining success and measuring progress, just give me a call or drop me a note. I would love to share more with you about the work of the Iowa Soybean Association.