Is Strategic Planning Worth the Effort?
Strategic planning methods are as different and varied as there are credit unions.
Some credit unions invite the board in for a three-hour meeting to discuss possibilities for the future, keep the same objectives, bump financial goals incrementally, have lunch and call it a plan well done.
On the other extreme, some credit union executive teams meet monthly to review strategic progress, have metrics dashboards that update routinely while connecting executive incentives to strategy and objective accomplishments. They also involve the board in continuous strategic discussions throughout the year.
Which is the proper strategic plan for your credit union? The one that best fits the culture created and supported by the CEO and Board of Directors. The “best” process on the market will not work in every credit union if the credit union does not have a leadership style that matches how the process works.
Every credit union executive I’ve ever worked with has the desire to have the credit union grow and improve, just like every college football team has the desire to win the national championship.
Nick Saban, head coach of Alabama, has “The Process” and it serves him very well at winning championships. If it is just a winning process a head coach needs, why doesn’t every college football coach use the same process Saban has used to win the last two national championships? Because not every coach has the same attention to detail and coaching style Saban has.
Which Strategic Plan is Most Effective for Your Credit Union?
Look at your leadership culture. Are you a group that spends a great deal of time working on the details and is involved in almost every decision in the credit union? Are you a group that delegates effectively and the executive team spends the majority of the time working on strategic vision and objectives?
Do you have a self-managed work environment, or does every decision have to run through upper channels? Does the board drive your strategies? Does the executive team drive the strategic focus?
I’m not saying any of these credit union cultures are necessarily better than the other, but they all will execute a strategic plan differently.
A strategic plan is only as good as what can be accomplished by the credit union. Is your executive team better at tackling a number of different objectives and progressing them incrementally, or are they better at tackling only a couple of objectives and driving those significantly forward?
Another predictor of strategic planning success is how well your objectives align with the day to day operations in your credit union. If you find your managers are spending 90% of their day working on tasks that don’t support or drive your strategic initiatives, then there is a disconnect between intention and reality.
I’m familiar with a number of credit unions that scramble at the last minute before the board strategic planning retreat to be able to provide updates to the strategic plan. This isn’t planning and this isn’t benefiting the credit union in the modern economy.
So – what is the correct approach?
Next Page: Strategic Planning in the Modern Economy
Strategic Planning in the Modern Economy
Survey your board and executive team about what they believe are the greatest challenges you are facing in the credit union. Ask them about member service concerns, financial concerns, issues dealing with the brand of the credit union, competitor shifts over the past year, and every credit union I know is focusing on increasing loan volume.
Once you have gathered the issues your leadership team is most concerned with and feel are in need of the greatest focus, take a reality check. With current staffing, managers and branch locations, what can this team successfully accomplish realistically over the next 12 months?
Establish the list of your objectives, remember to match them with the culture of your credit union – moving a lot of objectives incrementally or focusing on only a couple of objectives to move significantly.
Once the objectives are established, assign a champion, a team leader, a person accountable for successfully achieving the goals of the objective. This point person is not solely responsible for the accomplishment, but is accountable for assembling the right input from staff and other managers to achieve desired goal.
I’ve seen credit unions have great intention and excitement when creating the plan, but lose momentum throughout the year and fail to accomplish the goals of the strategic objectives they set.
Every day at the pace of business in the modern economy challenges arise, and the urgency of these issues will distract a manager from the objectives of the strategic plan. This is where the objective accountability is important so no matter how crazy the day to day can get, executives don’t lose focus on what is important.
The entire purpose of a strategic plan is to establish a credit union focus for success that prevents the urgent issues from overwhelming the important issues. If you are feeling overwhelmed by everything you want to accomplish, you may want to reevaluate how you are approaching your strategic planning process.