How to gain traction with your strategic plan
“In the end, the most successful business leaders are the ones with traction. They execute well, and they know how to bring focus, accountability and discipline to their organization.” - Gino Wickman, “Traction”
One of the best business books I read last year was Traction, by Gino Wickman. His subtitle is very telling: get a grip on your business. Too many times, executives at credit unions don’t have a grip on their financial institution.
Leaders spend hours, days, weeks and months crafting what they hope is the best strategic plan – only to see that plan not fully implemented. Why?
Because they often don’t gain traction. The plan is only partially implemented before getting stuck on a shelf until the examiners arrive.
So, what can you do to gain traction with your strategic plan? Here are four ways to make sure you implement your strategy:
- Improve Your Meetings
Strategy typically gets talked about in meetings. If your meetings are not effective, then your strategy won’t be effective. A typical trap most meetings fall into is the “tangent trap.” We come to the meeting to talk about one thing and wind up discussing something else, or we waste valuable time chatting about the tangent item rather than strategy.
One way to improve your strategy meetings is to have a bottle of weedkiller in the room. Then, if anyone starts “getting into the weeds,” point to that bottle as a reminder to focus on bigger picture issues.
- Conduct Strategic Sprints
One technique we introduced to our strategic planning clients is the strategic sprint. With this model, you break down your yearly (or longer) plan into 90-day sprints. Take it quarter by quarter. Identify your main priorities for the upcoming 90 days and look for ways to adjust or pivot.
Every quarter, carve out at least two hours to do a deeper dive into your strategy (what is working, what needs adjusting, what needs prioritizing, etc.). Implementing 90-day strategic planning sprints ensures your plan doesn’t die in the doldrums of implementation.
- Over-communicate Your Plan
As executives and board members, you know your plan. But does everyone else in the organization?
Simply communicating your strategy in one all-staff meeting is only the beginning. Most people need to hear something seven to eight times before they fully understand and “get” it. Every time you meet, refer back to your strategic plan. That probably means every week or at the very least every month.
One way to test if you are communicating your plan is to ask team members about your top strategic priorities for the year. Once everyone is on the same page with the same answer, then your communications are working.
- Connect Employee Duties with Strategic Plan
Every employee knowing your strategic plan is good. Every employee knowing how their individual job contributes to that plan is great.
How does the teller cross-selling a CD achieve your financial institution’s goals? How does a collection officer talking to a member about their delinquency contribute? How does an accounting specialist finding cost savings help the credit union grow?
Employees who know their contributions matter are far more likely to engage with your organization. And engaged employees lead to better traction.
I’m often asked, “what is the best strategic plan?” I usually say the one that gets implemented. The best ideas don’t always win. However, the ideas that get executed are the ones that succeed.
If you want to improve the odds of your plan gaining traction, then improve your meetings, conduct strategic sprints, over-communicate your plan and connect employee job duties with the strategic plan.