Five essentials of strategic planning

Strategic planning is so much more than just a weekend exercise. Potentially, it could mean the difference between being run-of-the-mill or being an innovative organization forging a new path within your community.

Developing a leadership team that believes in planning is critical not only in surviving a project but thriving long after all of the dashboard gauges register 100% and your credit union is reaping the rewards of a new initiative. Strategic planning leaps from the pages of a static plan and takes ideas, inspiration, and hard work to transform words into action by being free and flexible using solid direction and guidance.

While the spreadsheets and charts are critical for your planning process, it’s important for credit unions to use their untapped potential through leadership initiative and ownership, which provides the external facilitator with a means to develop a framework for aligning priorities, making decisions, allocating resources, and measuring impact. Once your plan is in place, you will see results that include purpose, direction, value-driven goals, a thorough master plan, and increased collaboration among staff.

Here are the five essentials of strategic planning that financial institutions of any size can use to transform their organization.

  • Take inventory. If you haven’t actually looked at the plan you made for 2020 in a while, let’s start there. So many teams make a plan only to lose sight of it throughout the year; however, this being 2020, you probably want to take a match and burn it! With strategic planning for 2021 in your sights, maybe that original plan should be brushed off and brought back to the table, then, enroll your team in a collective pulse-check.  
  • Identify your biggest achievable goals. You have less than 60 days in the calendar year to make these happen. Call an audible, run your 2-minute offense, hit a grand slam … whatever your sports analogy might be, kick hard to close the gap on these goals like it’s the last 1/10th of a mile to the finish line. These are the opportunities you have the resources ready to close the space around the quickest. This is where you leverage your collective strengths to get from wherever you are now, to the place you want to be by the end of the year.  
  • Then, identify your areas of opportunity (pain points). As if you didn’t have enough pain during 2020, now is the time to get real and be honest about the things you’re not best at and what you’re struggling with. What work needs to be done to lean into these opportunities? Shoot straight with yourselves and focus on the stuff that you know you can do really well in the time you’ve got left this year.  
  • Make a 60-day plan for the final quarter push. Use all of the information you glean from the evaluation of your end-of-the year 60-day plan to create a strategy to bring it home for the year.
  • Review and Recap: How did your organization perform in 2020?

    • Where can we improve?
    • Which successes can we expand upon?
    • Is there anything that we left on the table in 2020 that should be addressed in 2021?

Here’s a bonus tip!

Now more than ever, understand that flexibility is critical. As you learned in 2020, things change every day. Your strategic plan is a guidebook, but it is also a fluid and adaptive document. Out of the hundreds of tasks you outlined to accomplish over the 12 months in 2020, many changed and evolved, just like circumstances changed due to economic fluxes and shifting priorities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As you close out this year, your strategic plan helped by keeping track of where you are. Now, you can refer to the plan for guidance, and look forward.

If you’ve gotten this far, you clearly recognize the need for a partner when working through your financial institution’s strategic plan. As you work through the above steps, your leadership team will be ready to embark on creating your organization’s strategic journey. Fill out this form to receive our strategic planning guide to get the ball rolling for your 2021 plan.

For free strategic planning analysis and recommendations, email

Hilary Reed

Hilary Reed

Hilary Reed, founder of EmpowerFi, is an innovative thought-leader who has been involved in various aspects of strategic sales and marketing for 15 years. Her career began in 2000 when ... Web: Details