Focus on scenarios in your credit union’s strategic planning process

The season for strategic planning is upon us and it can be looked upon as a process that should guide your credit union toward your desired future – or it can be an exercise in stressful futility that drains valuable resources, time and efforts. This year the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is causing all organizations to reboot, especially in the business sector as well as health and lifestyle sectors globally.

The new 2021 strategic planning process should utilize flexible business continuity plans and must now focus on “pre-sponse” protocols to help cope with operational issues and deliver future value to members.

Leaders should be reading the new economic and financial environment tea- leaves to synthesize trends into strategic organizational directions for the credit union utilizing scenarios. This process will help everyone anticipate change, prepare responses and create more robust future strategies and pathways.

Credit union leaders (CEO/Boards) must also utilize strategic thinking in their strategic scenario planning. Strategic thinking is trying to define a world with options that may exist—like trying to see a chess board many moves ahead.

There must also be more emphasis placed on taking a “member centric” approach or understanding needs to build stronger relationships with members.

In this uncertain economic environment, being your members primary “financial first responder” in the financial services marketplace and figuring out how to serve members more effectively should be the primary drivers of your planning efforts.

An effective strategic planning process for your credit union should now include:

  1. Conducting a thorough environmental scan to understand the credit unions current and future financial marketplace environment. This will involve some market research regarding national/local financial services and credit union industry economic and consumer market trends. Conducting an analysis of the driving forces helping your credit union moving forward (robust membership activity & growth/good financials). Identifying the critical uncertainties going forward (interest rates/economy/impact of business downturn/unemployment).
  2. Developing key strategic plausible scenario initiatives and directions needed. Knowing who your competition is, and what your credit unions competitive advantages are will help you properly develop product and service strategies to position your credit union for prospering in the financial services marketplace.
  3. Discussing implementation strategies for each scenario.
  4. Determining best case/worst case and probable scenario outcomes.
  5. Creating an evaluation process to ensure how effectively the credit union will meet the measurement criteria. This should be monitored on a regular basis throughout the year at monthly board/staff meetings.
  6. Communicating the progress to the key stakeholders for direction, motivation and performance assessment, and sharing progress reports to keep communication open and the process on track.

In this new age of sudden unexpected change, strategic scenario plans should be reviewed at least monthly for progress and then annually updated to stay aligned with the direction of the credit union and to incorporate responses to changes in the financial environment and new member needs.

An effective strategic plan should also be flexible and not be used as the only official future of the credit union. Scenario planning should be used as a tool to improve strategic agility by preparing multiple directions as well as strategies with an “elastic component” built into it for flexibility to respond to sudden changes in the business environment.

Your strategic plan should be used as a guiding map to keeping the credit union on course to achieve results and move it toward fulfilling its mission and vision to the members.

Crafting scenarios can help your credit union monitor and stay close to trends … and even closer to your members by helping prepare and create more positive outcomes for your credit union’s future during these changing and challenging times.

John Vardallas

John Vardallas

John A. Vardallas CAE, CUDE is Founder/CEO of The AmericanBoomeR Group, a Madison, Wisconsin based speaking/consulting firm. He is also Senior Faculty Advisor/Project Evaluator for SCMS and ... Web: Details

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