How the Association of Women Surgeons Boosted Engagement and Expanded Membership with the Resilient Leader Way Approach to the Strategic Planning Process


Dr. Sareh Parangi, President of the Association of Women Surgeons, was concerned that the organization was not getting traction on their goals quickly enough, which affected the impact of the organization and membership revenue

“I would like to see the committee chairs, especially the young ones give us a vision of where they want to steer the organization into the future and to participate in the planning.” – Dr. Parangi

She told me that they tended to have a lot of pedaling in place. The previous year’s strategic planning process had focused on improving the structure and process. She had a plan to focus more on the people component – to be more inclusive and inspire action.

What We Did

My approach to developing women healthcare leaders is based on the philosophy that when a leader aligns who she is with what she’s committed to, she is naturally more resilient. This allows a leader to have greater influence and lasting impact.  I recommended that we begin with a review of the shared values and the organization’s mission. This was done so that each team member was personally invested in the new vision:

Stage 1: Aligning with Vision. In both small group and large group processes, we explored the question, “What impact do we want to have in the world – to guide and inspire our choices for the next five years?”. Every team member was encouraged to contribute, and we didn’t stop until we were confident that we had alignment throughout the group. The updated vision is:

“Equity, diversity and inclusion for all surgeons.”

Stage 2: Planning & Prioritizing.  We then broke into small groups to focus on the goals and metrics most important for the upcoming calendar year. Because people were able to choose what group they participated in, we tapped into more creativity and enthusiasm.

We streamlined the process, limiting the number of initiatives and asking for specific accountability. The new plan is focused, simplified and spells out exactly who is doing what, by when.

Stage 3: Developing the Leaders.  Lastly, I designed and facilitated a series of six workshops for the Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs to expand their leadership skill set. We developed leadership competence and confidence through the themes of sharing vision, delegating, creativity, decision-making, adaptability and building consensus.

Summary and Results

Everyone was so energized by the process that they couldn’t wait to share the new vision statement with the membership. In 2020, membership and revenue are up more than 10%, and many of the Vice Chairs have stepped into the role of Chair in their committees.  They also are moving forward with their initiatives, including new programs and collaboration. Perhaps most important, AWS is creating a culture of engagement through developing members and leaders within the association.

“We are in a watershed moment where each of us is important in the palpable culture change that is happening within American Surgery.” – Dr. Parangi

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