Done correctly, your next strategic planning session should leave your board and leadership team on a major high. Goals will have been set, obstacles discussed, and plans for overcoming those obstacles put in place. Action items will be listed, each item with an accountable owner and due date. With all those details in order, everyone should be excited about the next 12 months.
When you return, the entire credit union team, from the C Suite to the teller line, should know the goals and be filled with motivation and optimism. Unfortunately, that’s where many strategic plans stop. Fires come up, distractions happen, and daily tasks become more of a priority than strategy. That’s why the days and weeks following a strategic planning session are critical for keeping forward momentum.
Here are three ways we can help you maintain that progress and excitement, keep your strategic plan at the top of everyone’s minds, and ensure action items are being accomplished to achieve your goals:
- Define Owners
During a strategic planning event with YMC, we will outline action items, owners, and due dates. While we think it’s best for the entire leadership team to attend the planning session, we understand that sometimes specific owners or key team members who will execute specific action items can’t be present at the event. In those instances, it’s essential to gather all of the key leaders and stakeholders immediately after the planning session and review the goals and action items with them. This allows you to get their buy-in and helps them understand their role in ensuring your credit union’s success. This meeting should result in one shared vision among the entire team and create an environment where everyone understands what is expected. After that meeting has taken place, keep your strategic planning papers in a highly visible place where they can provide a daily reminder of the vision and serve as an accountability reminder for the owners of the action items.
- Prioritize Transparency and Visibility
Be transparent about progress, regardless the status of each initiative. If you post your vision and action items where they can be seen on a daily basis, you’ll have no problem measuring progress. The strategic plan should be discussed in every leadership meeting and every board meeting. When action items are accomplished, celebrate the wins. If action items aren’t completed on time, dig deeper to determine what kept that initiative from being successfully achieved. You might find that there is additional work that needs to be done, and you have to hit pause on an action item. Then again, you might find a leader who is task saturated, which means you need to address job descriptions. In other cases, you may be able to identify a weak link on your team, one that requires immediate attention to prevent them from hindering progress for the entire organization.
- Focused Meetings
When gathering with your board or leadership team, you may find it necessary to adjust the focus of your meetings. These meetings must go beyond simple transparency and visibility. Productive weekly leadership meetings should have just four items on the agenda:
- Ten-minute review of initiative scorecards (week-over-week progress toward specific and measurable milestones)
- Three-minute reports from each participant updating the status of each department’s commitments
- List of commitments to be accomplished before the next meeting
- Identification of critical issues that must be discussed or resolved to maintain forward progress. (Not all of these discussions need to take place within the meeting. Your VP of Marketing and CFO can commit to a “sidebar meeting” during the week to address outstanding questions.)
Let any other topic—even an important one—take time and attention away from your priorities, and your strategic plan will drift further and further down your timeline.
Remember, the difference between a “very good” planning session and a “great” planning session is that the former inspires the team to pursue significant outcomes, while the latter actually leads the team to achieve those goals. Going from “very good” to “great” will depend on several factors, including the strength of the people in your organization. But even with outstanding people on your team, well-structured planning sessions and consistent post-planning follow-up are critical. These sessions can be converted into action, and the follow-up process enables your organization to maintain your plan’s momentum.
Don’t become legalistic about the process, but don’t let it slide either. If you’re going to spend resources (time and money) on your strategic planning event, make sure it does more than just create a document that sits on your shelf and collects dust for the next year. You owe it to the founding members of your credit union to ensure success. And more than that, you owe it to the members who depend on your credit union today and those who will in the future to be the very best you can be. Creating that kind of credit union starts with strategic, member-focused planning.