Looking Back to Look Forward

by Margaret R. Allen, NASJE Vice-President

Over the past several months, the NASJE Board has been moving toward starting a strategic planning process.  In February at the Mid-Year Meeting, the Board spent a day with Karen Thorson doing some exercises to start assessing where NASJE is as an organization, where we might want to go in terms of a strategic direction, and possibilities for how to get there.

The NASJE Policies and Procedures document indicates that the Board should revisit the strategic plan every three years; however, the last plan was completed in 2003.  As we prepared to meet in February, we looked back at the strategic planning process from 1992-1994 to see how our predecessors approached the process to inform our own plans.

In this article, we’ll look at the first major strategic planning process, led primarily by Larry Stone, NASJE President from 1992-1994. That’s right! Officer terms were then two years, but that was to change as a result of thinking and planning by the Board.

In his NASJE News President’s Letters, Larry first talked about the impetus for undertaking the process. Membership had grown from its original size of 15-20 members, and NASJE was getting noticed by other national groups, including the Conference of Chief Justices. In 1992, CCJ endorsed our Principles and Standards of Judicial Education.

At the February 1992 Mid-year Board meeting, five goals were identified:

  • Further the professional education and growth and broaden the experience of those involved in judicial education.
  • Develop, promote and support professionalism in judicial education and court support personnel training through standards for continuing education of state judges and court support personnel.
  • Promote and facilitate the exchange, development, and dissemination of state-of-the-art educational materials, techniques, ideas, policies, technologies, etc., through various methods, such as a clearinghouse, annual convention, technical assistance, personal interaction, and networking among members and others.
  • Represent and advance the interests of the state and local judicial education community.
  • Promote the value of continuing education for judges and court support personnel.

In addition, seven areas were identified for further discussion:

  • Membership composition
  • Membership involvement
  • Networking
  • Project management
  • Continuing education
  • Relations with others
  • Board member responsibilities.

At the 1992 conference, the participants discussed these seven topics in small groups, and many of the ideas generated informed future Board work and were in fact implemented as NASJE practice or policy. Some of those ideas, which are still in use today, are as follows:

  • More active involvement of the regional directors in the administration of the association
  • Mentor program for new members
  • Use of a secretariat service for administrative support
  • Ideas to improve networking among members.

Other elements of the 1992-94 strategic planning process included sending essays on pros and cons related to the seven topics listed above, and asking for member feedback. Once the feedback was received, the Board reviewed it and in some cases, suggested changes to the bylaws, including, among others, that regional directors be elected by members of their regions, rather than the entire membership; and changing the terms of president, president-elect and vice president to one year rather than two.

Regarding the shorter terms for the vice president, president-elect and president, the intention was to allow more members to serve as president, and certainly to make the commitment shorter and more manageable (four years rather than eight, counting the past president term). The Board noted that the more rapid transition through these leadership positions increased the importance of cooperative Board work to create continuity for the Association.

The current Board is returning to this idea of gathering information from members at the annual conference. In fact, at the plenary session on Tuesday, NASJE President Jill Goski, President-Elect Kelly Tait and Vice President Margaret Allen will co-present with Dr. Maureen Conner to explore elements of change leadership at both an individual and organizational level.

Looking back allows us to learn from our predecessors and build on their efforts as we move forward. The Board thanks you in advance for your participation in this process in the coming months. We hope that every member will be part of envisioning and creating NASJE’s future.