Plan with purpose: Employ the strategic gut check

Strategic planning is an extremely important process for your credit union. However, at times it may feel like you are just going through the motions or worse yet, that you spend endless time debating and re-evaluating initiatives and decisions. Here’s how to ensure your strategic planning process stays purposeful by focusing on your core purpose, vision, and mission. Only then can you employ what I like to call the “strategic gut check.”


Once defined, your core purpose, vision and mission do not change year over year. These are the guides to your business decisions. They become a line items on the strategic planning session agenda each year to ensure that everyone remains on the same page and that all strategies and initiatives for that year circle back with purpose.

Take the time this year, if you have not already, to clearly define or refine as necessary, your core purpose, vision and values. You will reap the benefits for your organization for years to come by having the Board and executives aligned with your true strategic direction.

Core Purpose defines the community you will serve

Your core purpose is not a list of all those you can serve, nor is it an explanation of your charter. It is a simple statement that answers the question who you serve and defines the core community to which you and your members belong. The key to a core purpose is for it to be broad enough to be inclusive, yet defined enough to be relevant to those who are part of the community. Your ultimate goal is to define the community you will serve and, just as importantly, be comfortable omitting the communities you will not.

Vision imparts what you want to be

Your organization’s vision is in essence what you want to be when you grow up. It is what your business will be known for in the future. To define your vision you must look up and out. Your vision statement is your credit union’s envisioned future. It is the strategic destination at which you will arrive if you live by your core purpose and your mission. Your vision statement should be future minded, forward thinking and aspirational in nature.

Mission answers the question why you exist

Your credit union’s mission gives action and direction to your core purpose. When writing your mission, include your community and your core purpose in your statement. Ask yourself what is your value proposition and what makes you unique, different and connected to your community. What do you want to do? What is your credit union’s ultimate goal? Why do you exist?


Your core purpose, vision and mission should be the basis for all strategies and initiatives moving forward. It will help answer questions such as whether or not to merge, what new SEGs to target, how to shape your service delivery and what new product lines to support. If any new idea doesn’t pass the strategic gut check test of aligning with your core purpose, vision and mission, don’t do it! It’s that simple.  

Each planning session and future executive discussions at your credit union should reflect congruently with this basic question: Does this strategy or tactic align with our core purpose, vision and mission? Your employees and your Board must understand and be committed to these statements. If your core purpose, vision and mission aren’t clear or there is not agreement, you’ll need to spend valuable planning time discussing these issues and coming to consensus.

When you embark on this year’s planning process, start with the strategic gut check and ask your Board and your executives to explain their understanding of your core purpose, vision and mission. By starting here, you will ensure that your strategy is truly strategic, that you are consistently looking up and out, and that you are meeting your members’ needs far into the future.

Happy planning!

Bryn C. Conway

Bryn C. Conway

Bryn C. Conway, offers more than 15 years of experience as a former credit union executive with extensive background in strategic planning, brand development, member experience, retail delivery and public ... Web: Details