Planning for success
It is an honor to serve as the President and CEO of the Defense Credit Union Council. Over the last four years, we have seen our trade association thrive and grow because of strategic changes and good old-fashioned hard work. It was with great pride that we were able to report the success of our five-year strategic plan one-year ahead of schedule during the DCUC Annual Business Meeting in August.
As with most five-year strategic plans, ours appeared a bit ambitious and full of unknowns. Yet, we never doubted our ability to reach our desired end-state and knew our determination would be the difference. Our board of directors fully endorsed and supported our plan which bolstered our confidence!
Many of you already know how to build strategic plans and implement changes. However, there are some things that need to be repeated to reveal a new perspective or insight that can help. This will make sense after the second point below. Here are some things we can share:
First, the formula for our success is simple and straight-forward:
Step One: Set the goal
Step Two: Create the plan
Step Three: Forget the goal and work the plan!
Getting to steps one and two is a team effort and both are baked into the final strategic plan. It requires effort in listening to a variety of inputs, making necessary choices, and focusing our intention. In setting a goal, it is critical to be crystal clear about what you are looking for in terms of results. This requires a narrow focus on both the overall end-state and the desired conditions for each effort.
Second, have you ever noticed when you narrow your focus, you begin to find it everywhere? For instance, do you notice things when you buy a car? As you focus on a particular make and model, suddenly you notice lots of cars on the road that match your desired conditions. The same goes for shoes, bags, golf clubs, you name it.
The same also goes for establishing your goals because as you narrow your focus, the stronger your intention becomes. When your intention is strong enough, the likelihood of achieving your desired results significantly increases. Know exactly what you intend to do. Then go do it!
Third, the key is not to stop after step two. Step three is where the magic happens, particularly in the early phases of planning. It takes time, patience, and lots of belief to plant the seeds that will grow into success. Too many people fold after the first couple of setbacks or worse, publish a plan then haul off and do the same things they did in the past. If your plan needs to be significantly restructured or is a rehash of the status quo, it probably was never a good plan to begin with. That doesn’t mean your plan should not allow for changes as you go along.
A good plan requires the capacity to quickly adapt to changes and to learn from each setback. This requires a culture of innovation, which is necessary for creating your own opportunities. If you don’t have a culture of innovation, then add it to your goals and have a plan for implementing one.
Here is how it all worked in our experience:
Our first year was marked by dramatic changes (e.g., re-designing our logo, moving to our own offices, becoming an independent trade association, elevating our profile inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, moving back-office operations to Plexcity, and a bunch of other things). We were so busy changing nobody seemed to worry much about measuring progress toward our end-state. Step three in action!
The second year was marked by further changes (e.g., establishing a Military Advocacy Committee, instituting an aggressive PR campaign, changing our conference structure, and increasing our international presence). I believe gaining legitimacy, learning new skills, and leveraging our strengths formed the foundation for the next phase in executing our plan. In other words, we began to innovate.
The third year we started to see synergy in terms of staff members taking the initiative to make necessary changes. Confidence soared while the decision space expanded, and implementation timelines decreased. As we moved into our fourth year, we were experiencing all the effects and benefits of the “no-look pass” … and the results were staggering.
Having reached these goals, we have no plan of stopping. At the end of this month, we will set new goals, establish a new plan, and quickly get to work! I am excited about where we are headed as we roll out our next 5-year plan. The DCUC staff has already met and charted our path in 2022. Stay tuned!