The strategic sprint just got faster

A 2015 CU Insight article, “The Credit Union Strategic Sprint,” reasoned that including 90-day Strategic Sprints into operating plans would build start-up enthusiasm and attitudes among executives, managers, and front line leaders. At its core, the Strategic Sprint systematized a year’s worth of strategic initiatives into quarterly sprints to toward incremental success.

Enter The Age of Agile; a stage where success is marked by an organization’s ability to understand, plan, and act in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous marketplace. “Our strategic planning process used to span five years,” shared the CEO of a multi-state, multi-billion dollar credit union. “We recognized that a five-year outlook created a ‘We have five years’ approach. But, our members won’t wait. These days, we focus on two years, but we are constantly moving forward in thirty-day segments.”

The Strategic Sprint just got faster. Agile management and execution is now a strategic necessity and advantage.

Several other credit union leaders disclosed how they employ small, cross-functional, independent teams that work in short cycles. Their continuous states of intentional and strategic movement allow them to habitually be in a state of “To Do, Doing, and Done.” “Strategy is not a place,” shared a long-time CEO, “It is an activity that must be drilled every day.”  

Some takeaways from these credit unions focused on agility in their strategic execution.

  • Focus matters most. From the Board Room to the C-Suite to the Boots-on-the-Ground, these credit unions welcome that actions and decisions can occur through a process, rather than at the end. Conventional planning often involves extended periods of information collecting and investigation. “Often, we don’t have the luxury of three months to research a new product or provider, says a Florida CEO. “We have three months to research, decide, and begin. Haste does not lead to waste; rather, it compels us to find focus.”
  • Small, appropriate teams – with a time-sensitive mission – generate fervor. For each strategic initiative, these credit unions included leaders from all areas with a direct interest in an outcome. For example, one credit union had a strategic initiative to “Introduce an auto leasing product in 90 days.” On the team were representatives from lending, marketing, IT, branches, the contact center, and compliance. If one did not have specific influence or decision-making authority, he or she was not a part of the team. Peripheral and excessive teammates only slowed down the works.
  • Three weeks proved the right time for most decisions. With a compelling, time-sensitive goal before them, these functional and focused teams mapped a process that determined the order of decisions – and the focus for the team. In most cases, three weeks was ideal. The time frame was long enough to gather, review, debate, and decide; but, short enough that urgency was inserted into the equation and “sleeves were rolled up” right away. The fourth week was for loose ends, brief celebrations, and moving on to the next three-week cycle.

As your credit union moves forward for its members, an interdependent blend of relevance, swiftness, and precision is necessary when executing on strategic matters. This requires a new level of agility in management and leadership. Consider these lessons from credit unions that have cultivated agility and necessity into their planning processes. As the industry moves faster – and members’ expectations lead the way – so must our ability to swiftly deliver products, services, and results.

Jeff Rendel

Jeff Rendel

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional, and President of Rising Above Enterprises works with credit unions that want elite results in sales, service, and strategy. Each year, he addresses and facilitates ... Web: Details