From Vision To Action

From Vision To Action

By Ed Robbins

The 2008–2012 Strategic Plan has been accepted by the Board. Read on to find out what it means to you. By Ed Robbins

It has been my privilege as past president to lead the Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPSC) over this past year to create the SOA's 2008–2012 Strategic Plan. At its October 2008 Board meeting, the Board approved the final Strategic Plan, established measures by which we will gauge our progress and approved a package of strategic initiatives. In my last duty as chair of the SPSC, I'd like to let you know what to expect in the coming years as we bring our strategic vision to life.

The draft Strategic Plan was posted on the SOA Web site over the summer of 2008 for member comment. I would like to personally thank those of you who took the time to comment on the plan. The comments we received were generally quite positive and tended to endorse the direction in which we were heading. Based on member feedback, we made a few changes to the final plan approved by the Board at its October meeting.

From the outset, the SPSC concluded that a plan without clear objectives, without measures to tell us if we are succeeding in reaching those objectives, and without initiatives to accomplish those objectives, would never achieve the goal of integrating itself into the basic operations of the organization. Therefore, we structured our plan with those three concepts in mind.

In order to define appropriate objectives and measures, the Strategy Map considers four key perspectives: our stakeholders, strategic themes, volunteer members and staff, and financial.

This concept of measures was a new element that had not been given explicit prominence in prior SOA Strategic Plans. The Board approved 29 measures that we will use to gauge the success of strategic initiatives. We defined measures to ensure that we were meeting targets for all perspectives, in order to be able to achieve our strategic objectives. For example:

  • Our financial perspective measures consider net margins from our programs as well as our membership equity percentage—we can't achieve our mission without financial resources, but those resources must be wisely used.
  • Our volunteer members and staff perspective looks at how many of you volunteer, and how well we develop our volunteer members to be future leaders. Our organization would be nothing without talented volunteer member leadership.
  • Our strategic themes are the heart of the strategy map. We need to make sure that the initiatives we undertake move forward the most critical elements of those themes. Key measures include research quality (develop knowledge), participant evaluations of our continuing education events (transfer knowledge), attitude and awareness of actuaries by employers and users of our services (cultivate opportunities) and the robustness of our Sections, as measured by their membership (develop and promote professional networks).
  • And finally, the SOA's Strategic Plan exists to create value for our stakeholders: our candidates, members, employers, clients and the public. Strategic stakeholder measures include the median age for new fellows and employer/client satisfaction with actuaries.

The final piece of the Strategic Plan—now that we've defined our strategy and what we will do to measure success—is our first set of strategic initiatives. For the first time, the Board approved a package of strategic initiatives designed to advance each of our strategic themes. Some of these initiatives will already be familiar to you, as they are a continuation of some of the key projects the SOA has undertaken over the last few years. Others are brand new. Your new president, Cecil Bykerk, has outlined these 10 initiatives in his presidential letter (see page 8). I know he sees these initiatives as a great start, but only a start, to achieving the promise of the Strategic Plan.

We're not done yet. The Strategic Plan is a living document. Each year the Board will evaluate the 29 strategic measures, consider new emerging issues and adjust the approach, as needed, to achieving our strategic objectives. While we know we'll never be able to rest on our laurels—a good strategy always sets goals beyond grasp—we are confident we'll be able to report significant progress.

We want to hear from you. As you consider these initiatives, and look at what is happening in your career, at your employer and in your industry, how can the SOA help ensure your continued success? Our strategic objectives and initiatives rely on our members telling us what they see and how we can help them succeed. If you see important strategic issues on the horizon—issues that can change our profession today, tomorrow and far into the future—please share them with us. You can reach the staff and Board members leading our strategic vision at

It's truly been an honor as your past president to lead this important effort, and I'd like to thank the fellow members of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee for their hard work this past year: David Dickson, Chris DesRochers, Harry Panjer, Barry Shemin, Greg Heidrich and Stacy Lin. I'd also like to give special thanks to Kara Clark, who in her role as managing director, Strategy at the SOA helped lead us through our strategic planning efforts.

Ed Robbins, FSA, MAAA, is director, Life Actuarial Services at SMART Business Advisory and Consulting, and past president of the SOA. He can be contacted at