Do this before your next strategic planning session

How much planning goes into your strategic planning event? I mean, besides choosing the venue and lunch menu. How much time do you spend thinking about the previous 12 months and dreaming about the 12 to come? If you’re tired of spending an entire day in a chilly hotel conference room talking about big ideas but failing to create a definitive action plan, here are three things you can do before your credit union’s next strategic planning session:

  1. Think about your goals for the next year. Or the next five.

Of course, your credit union planning session will cover your wins (and losses) from the past 12 months—but forget about that for now. Break out your crystal ball and ask yourself the most important questions a credit union leader can ask: 

    • What do I want? 
    • Where do you want to be at the end of next year? 
    • How does that vision feed into a 3-year goal? 
    • How does it set you up to accomplish your 5-year goal? 

Answering these questions is one of the most critical steps in your strategic planning process. Give yourself the time and opportunity you need to see the future of your credit union as clearly as possible before your strategic planning event. There’s no point in conducting your credit union’s strategic planning session if you don’t have a vision for which to plan.

  1. Assign homework.

Make sure your board and leadership teams arrive at the strategic planning event prepared to participate. Before the meeting, share your high-level view of the year ahead and some opportunities you see for the future. Once you’ve done that and gotten some buy-in, assign a little homework to your board members and any leaders who will be attending your event. Here are a few starter questions to get your leadership and board thinking:

    • What went well over the past 12 months?
    • What went wrong over the past 12 months?
    • What did we learn over the past 12 months?
    • What are our greatest opportunities next year?
    • What are the biggest challenges we will face?
    • How did we do on our goals compared to how we said we would do?
    • How did we perform on the measurable activities that we said would lead us to the outcome that we want?
    • Imagine you were starting a new financial firm that would compete with your credit union today. Then, answer these three questions:
      1. What would you stop doing that you’re doing now? 
      2. What would you start doing that you aren’t doing now? 
      3. What would your new company do to try to put your current company out of business?
    • What do you see coming around the corner that we should prepare for?
    • Which potential competitors should we keep an eye on?
    • Rate your direct reports on a scale of 1-10. Whom can you coach up? Whom should we replace?
    • What is the one goal we could achieve next year that would have the most significant impact on our credit union’s growth?
  1. Hire a facilitator.

No doubt about it, conducting a strategic planning event is hard work. It’s work you and your leadership team should approach shoulder to shoulder. Hiring an experienced third-party facilitator for your strategic planning event is a best practice—not just booking a free, warm body to check a box (unless, of course, all you want to do is just check the box to satisfy the NCUA.) Hiring a facilitator tells your board and credit union leadership, “We’re all in this together. I’m responsible for what’s working and what isn’t working, same as you are. We can all do better, including me.”

If you, as CEO, facilitate your strategic planning event, other leaders may feel compelled to agree with you, and that sense of obligation can limit the free flow of thoughts and ideas. YMC Strategic Planning facilitators provide an independent, trusted outside perspective and know how to probe when your team is not fully bought in, dig for root causes of issues being discussed, insist on defining measurable activities and outcomes for key initiatives, and call out the elephant in the room that everyone is avoiding. This focused expertise can be the difference between a superficial, inconsequential meeting and a productive planning session that aligns your team around the goals for the coming year and energizes them to tackle the key objectives with the accountability required to succeed.

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald is president of Your Marketing Co. A marketing firm that started serving credit unions nearly a decade ago, offering a wide range of services including web design, branding, ... Web: Details