How to Put “More Cowbell” in Your Strategic Planning Process

John A. Vardallas CAE, CUDE, Founder/CEO, The American Boomerby: John A. Vardallas CAE, CUDE, Founder/CEO, The American Boomer

The Season for Strategic Planning is upon us and it can be looked upon as process that should guide your credit union toward your desired future—or it can be an exercise in futility that drains valuable resources, time and efforts.

Too many times credit union strategic planning activity falls short because leaders fail to critically assess the external environment by focusing too much on internal processes, systems and rehashing historical data and procedures.

Taking an outside-in versus an inside-out (Blue Ocean) thinking approach would serve leadership well. A focus on more Innova-shun and less Tradi-shun would help transition the change process for all involved in moving the credit union forward.

There must also be more emphasis placed on taking a “Member Centric” approach or understanding the needs and building stronger relationships with members. The financial services/economic environment and how to serve members more effectively should be the primary drivers of your planning efforts.

The components of an effective strategic planning process for your credit union include:

  1. Conduct 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 credit unions Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities, Threats (SCOT) is a very important component of your planning process. A review of member surveys, focus groups product/service usage patterns and member feedback are key service assessment  indicators.
  2. Developing or Reaffirming the CU Mission/Vision/ Core Values Understanding the difference between your credit unions Mission (Who you are) and Vision (Where you want to go or become) is crucial for leaders. The Core Values and Philosophy of the Credit Union need to continue to be aligned with the strategy for growth.
  3. Identifying and Prioritizing Key Strategic Initiatives/CU Competitive Advantages/ and Strategic 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.
  4. Developing A Tactical Action Step Plan that includes budget/key result areas/ business plan/ timelines/completion dates/outcome measurements/accountabilities and impact on resources (financial, staff, facilities).
  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. Sharing progress reports,   keeping open communication and the process on track.

Strategic 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 have an “elastic component” built into it respond to sudden changes in the 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. By staying close to trends…. and even closer to your members, your strategic plan should become a foundation for sustaining and ensuring your credit unions future during changing and challenging times.


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 a frequent speaker and facilitator of Strategic Planning to the credit union system and business organizations. He can be reached at jvardallas@aol.com www.theamericanboomer.com (608) 577-8707.

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: www.theamericanboomer.com Details

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