Does Your Strategic Plan Chase Squirrels?

By. Mark Arnold

My 79-year-old mother recently had squirrel issues at her house. But not just AT her house—actually IN her house. She got home one day and noticed there was a hole on the outside of her house. So she called an expert exterminator (I guess a sort of “squirrel hunter”) who inspected the house, plugged up the hole, set a few traps and assured her the squirrel problem was resolved.

Then a few days later she heard a loud “thump” from the front living room. When she went to see what caused the noise, there was the squirrel: he had eaten through the sheetrock and was right in the middle of the room.

You’ve probably heard of “Man vs. Wild.” This crazy scene now became “Mom vs. Squirrel.”  She chased the squirrel one way and then another, doing everything in her power to keep the scrawny animal in the front part of the house. She knew if somehow the little beast got in the rest of the house, it was over (for her, not the squirrel). She eventually got the front door opened and chased the squirrel
into the yard. Mom still shakes when recounting this story.

Once I recovered from hearing the story (and trying not to laugh uncontrollably), I realized there are a few lessons for organizations (including credit unions and banks), that do strategic planning. Here is what we can learn and three planning solutions:

(1)  You can’t prepare for everything—No matter how detailed your strategic plan is, something unexpected will happen to deter you from it. Something for which you are not prepared. Notice the “squirrel hunter” was ready with traps and baits. He never once thought a squirrel would eat through sheetrock. Planning solution: make your plan flexible to adapt to a fast changing environment.

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