“What came out of your last strategic planning session?”

When I ask this question to my clients, the answers never cease to amaze me. (And once my clients realize what they’re saying, they’re equally perplexed.) Some of the responses I’ve heard over the last few years include:

  • Launching a new app
  • Paving the parking lot
  • Marketing products through the right channels
  • Replacing an ATM

These are just a few of the directives that come from traditional strategic planning sessions. The list goes on, but the responses are similar. Maybe you’ve experienced the same thing at your credit union. This may be hard to hear, but it’s important to understand—these are not strategies.

When most leadership and volunteer teams gather to talk “strategy,” the resulting decisions don’t involve strategy at all. But that’s not always the fault of the participants. Unfortunately, many strategic planning sessions are led by untrained “freebie” facilitators or quasi-experts who do a quick SWOT and call it a day.  All too often, these facilitators confuse the terms “objective,” “action,” and “strategy.” As a result, credit union leaders are confused as well.

Why all the confusion? Much of it stems from the fact that people routinely approach the strategic planning process from their own task-oriented viewpoint (e.g., finance, HR, marketing, compliance, operations). Looking at the topic through the wrong lens shifts the focus to actions or tasks when it should stay locked on strategy.

If this tendency sounds familiar, you’re not alone. It happens all the time. Often with the best intentions, leadership teams and boards gather for a day or two for the sole purpose of discussing their “strategic plan.” As the session draws to a close, boxes are checked, several months’ worth of projects are listed, and everyone heads home with a sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, despite all the activity, they’re still operating without a valid strategic plan.

Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t leave yourself and your credit union stuck where you are.

As a leader, you want a team that buys into your vision and what you’re trying to accomplish. With that team approach, you can build a credit union that surpasses monthly growth goals and avoids the chaos that’s all too common in the financial services industry. Without it, you wind up with a group of employees who can’t seem to get out of their own way.

 Unsure whether your organization is holding itself back? Ask yourself whether any (or all) of these statements apply:

  • It lacks a definite plan to move forward.
  • It’s overly task saturated, which keeps you working in the business, not on it.
  • When it comes to decision making, leadership is reactive instead of proactive.
  • There is an underlying sense of discontentment and frustration with leadership.
  • There’s a pattern of lost opportunities and wrong business decisions.
  • It creates an unhealthy work-life balance where your professional struggles bleed over into your personal life.

If these any of these describe your current situation, you need to make a change. Instead of staying frustrated by your lack of growth and your poor work-life balance, it’s time to move towards increased revenues and productivity by building a unified team that’s focused on a common goal. YMC has a limited number of 2018 dates available for planning sessions. Contact us and find out how we can help you lay a foundation for growth by crafting the “best strategic plan” in your credit union’s history.

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald is president of Your Marketing Co. A marketing firm that started serving credit unions nearly a decade ago, offering a wide range of services including web design, branding, ... Web: yourmarketing.co Details

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