The Kansas Medical Society (KMS) recently appointed a “Future Directions Task Force” — and did something I don’t see many associations doing: they grounded the process with guiding principles.future-past

Founded on February 10, 1859, KMS hasn’t had a comprehensive structural overhaul since 1904. That’s 109 years ago! Think of all that’s changed over the past century, including technological advances, physician demographics, mode of practice and, of course, the Affordable Care Act which is driving health system changes. These issues are challenging medical associations like never before. But they also represent an opportunity for the association to wrestle with the relevance issue in light of these changes.

When the Future Directions Task Force met for the first time, they took a walk back through time to get a snapshot of the early years of KMS in contrast to what the association looks like today. They reviewed data regarding participation levels, governance costs, and number of resolutions passed by the governing body. And they got a peek at the possibilities for change that would keep the association both relevant and sustainable.

In the midst of the date review, the following guiding principles were presented:

  • Facilitate improving the environment in which Kansas physicians practice (relevance)
  • Support and enhance KMS’ reputation as the voice for physicians in Kansas (credibility)
  • Create opportunities to grow KMS’ physician membership (presence)
  • Reduce or remove barriers which limit member participation (access)
  • Improve KMS’ ability to respond to issues or circumstances of import (timeliness)
  • Contribute to the ongoing viability of the organization (sustainability)
  • Streamline organizational and operational structure (efficiency)

The task force is using the principles as “benchmarks” for decisions. Using these signposts to guide decision-making not only keeps the discussions focused forward, but also helps ensure that the task force will be able to effectively communicate its vision to the broader membership down the road.

Identifying guiding principles benefits any task force, not just those focused on the future. I’ve personally taken a page from KMS’ playbook and now take the time to identify guiding principles before undertaking large projects, entering a partnership or launching a new program. Articulating what matters and why you’re doing what you’re doing is a powerful way to focus your efforts.