Simplify your strategic plan

In preparing for a recent strategic planning session I was conducing for a new client I had the opportunity to review their prior plans. They actually had two—one strategic and one operational. Each was close to 100 pages (with graphs, charts, data, etc.). When they gave me the three-ring binder they joked that if I was having problems getting rest at night, reading this tome would help me sleep.

The truth is that too many of our strategic plans are way too long. Executives feel we need to provide reams and reams of data to the board so it looks like we have everything under control at our credit union. Boards use a 100-plus plan to keep the regulators at bay. Does anyone really read a plan word for word that is that long? Maybe one or two people at your financial institution—if you’re lucky.

Keep in mind that some of the best strategic plans in business history were short and simple. Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, famously drafted his initial plan on a napkin. Microsoft’s original vision statement was five words: “a computer on every desk.” According to Amazon lore and their employees, one of their company’s original strategies was “get big fast.”

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