Partnering with credit unions on strategic planning, we see various kinds of plans, initiatives, focuses, projects, goals, visions, missions, concentrations and implications. These terms can all mean different things, and everyone has their own spin on what is included in each. While for the sake of the argument, we can agree that all of these concepts are related, however, all too often three key items are missing when credit unions do strategic planning (no matter what they call it). When these three elements are missing, credit unions face unnecessary confusion about priorities—and then teams miss out on the opportunity to become more strategically aligned and optimize execution efforts.
1. Plan of Action
The most common, and I’d say the most useful, missing variable is what we call a “plan of action.” A POA is a documented timeline of identified actions that support a particular strategy. It provides clarity about the chronological sequence required for the strategy to gain traction. It presents a documented strategy’s associated actions and goals in a way that people can more usefully digest, respond to and retain. It provides people a way to visualize the agreed-upon actions that will happen in the future—that is, how the strategy is expected to land on the ground. The absence of a POA is a clear-cut formula for sowing confusion about priorities and for increasing the likelihood that resources will be the misallocated.
You might be reading this and thinking to yourself, “That’s not us. We have our plan mapped out. We’re clear on where we are going.” Although some of your priorities are likely charted, too often “priorities” means “goals,” which is different from “specific actions.” Our experience tells us there is a great deal of opportunity for boards and executive teams, and the executive team with the mid-level talent, to discuss the sequence of resource allocations as they reflect stated priorities. Trust me, there is more to do here.
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