Strategic Planning 2.0 – Disrupting the Strategic Planning Process


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Strategic Planning 2.0

“There are two primary reasons for strategic planning: to transform and to differentiate your credit union.” – Rich Jones

As we transition out of the strategic planning season, and after twenty years of being part of strategic planning on both sides of the table, I’ve observed the following process. The credit union identifies a strategic planning event on the calendar and often hires a strategic planning consultant to facilitate the meeting. Typically, these are one to two-day sessions off-site at a resort. Often, these meetings are shortly before or even during the budgeting process. These events include an overview of the industry, the economy, and a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis, some dreaming big, and they identify some key objectives the organization hopes to attain in the next three to five years. Often, these objectives are KPI-oriented, including Asset size, ROA, Expense Ratio, Member Growth, Loan-to-Share ratio, etc. This tried-and-true model is okay but is also ripe for disruption. Why do I say this?

  1. KPIs as strategic goals are important, but these ratios seldom resonate throughout the credit union. The farther an employee gets from the CFO’s office, the meaning of these ratios becomes meaningless.
  2. KPI goals do not paint a picture of what’s in it for me (WIIFM) for the employees, members, or community.
  3. Too often, these strategic goals do not include the core of why the credit union is in business, often ignoring their roots and heritage.
  4. Because strategic planning is sometimes seen as an event, the essential need for follow-through and execution is missed, except maybe in the corner office.
  5. The timing of the event makes the budgeting of money and resources for the strategic objective difficult, if not impossible. Significant strategic objectives are cross-functional and include new software, training, resources, staff, and systems.

We all agree strategic planning is an essential process for credit unions to design the future they want and the member deserves while assuring success, sustainability, focus, differentiation, and maybe even transformation. A disruptive strategic planning process provides a roadmap that guides the actions and decisions and aligns its resources and budget with its long-term goals while also painting an exciting picture of what the credit union will look like, how it will serve the members and the community, and how the employees will benefit when this dream is realized. To achieve this, organizations need a well-structured and iterative planning cycle considering ALL aspects of strategy development beyond the income statement and balance sheet. Ideally, this process should start in Q2 at the latest to ensure the plans can be funded and resourced. This article will identify the ideal cycle for a disruptive strategic planning process, highlighting the key steps and best practices.

Strategic Planning 2.0 – The Process Reinvented – Statement of Work

Step 1: Preparation and Foundation – one week:

  • Identify critical stakeholders for the Discovery Phase (Step 2) interviews.
  • This list will include 20-50 employees, including all of the C-suite, all senior leaders (SVPs and some high potential VPs,) high potential managers, and selected staff from operations and member-facing work areas, including branches, lending, mortgages, call center, Human Resources, Learning and Development, and general operations.

Step 2: Discovery Phase – 4 days on-site or 30 days via Zoom:

  • Conduct comprehensive 45- to 50-minute interviews with the identified staff.
    • These interviews will uncover strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis). This process avoids the “group think” and “bobbleheads” in the traditional meeting SWOT environment, lets employees contribute based on their truths, and helps the organization understand its needs at the starting point of planning.
    • These interviews aim to review and reaffirm the mission, values, vision, and leadership styles and how aligned the organization is.
      • The mission statement defines its purpose.
      • The values conversation will indicate how employees behave with each other and the members.
      • The vision discovery will indicate how well strategic objectives have cascaded throughout the organization in the past.
      • The leadership inquiry identifies typical leadership styles and any inconsistencies and gaps.

Step 3: Strategic Readiness Analysis Report (SRAR) – 30 days after the Discovery Phase is completed:

  • The SRAR will identify the learnings from Step 2 with recommendations on what the credit union should consider to correct gaps or deficiencies and build on its strengths.

Step 4: Strategic Planning Event – 1-2 days on-site

  • Present and review the highlights of the SRAR.
  • Ideation of the Future Credit Union and Formulation of Objectives:
    • Identify what the credit union wants to be 3-5 years from now.
    • Define the strategic objectives guiding the organization’s efforts.
    • Identify which Objectives are “run the company” or “change the company.”
    • Identify one Objective as the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG)
    • Assign a Strategic leader for each Objective.
    • Confirm goals are aligned with the mission, values, and vision and represent critical areas for improvement or growth.

Step 5: Strategy Development and Business Plans – 60-90 days after Step 4

In this phase, each strategic owner will develop a business plan to outline the work and action plans needed to achieve each objective. This involves:

  • Develop a detailed business and project plan; this plan will be more precise in year one and become less granular in succeeding years.
  • The estimated budget and resource needs.
  • Timelines and milestones.
  • KPI used for reporting.
  • The reporting cadence to management and the Board.
  • These business plans ensure accountability and progress tracking.

Step 6: Execution and Implementation – Four meetings per year

This is where the strategic planning process becomes a reality. The organization puts its plans into action, which include:

  • Review of resource and budget allocation.
    • All gaps or delays will be reviewed and understood.
    • Compare actual results to the established KPIs.
  • Monitoring and Adjustments:
    • Continuously track progress.
    • Be prepared to make adjustments when necessary to adjust timelines based on changes in the business environment.
  • Quarterly meeting (facilitated) with the Strategic Planning Team
    • Each Strategic Owner updates the team.
    • A comprehensive review of progress and results.
    • These meetings are on-site.
  • Semi-annual review with the Strategic Planning Team and the Board
    • Assess the progress made.
    • Reevaluate the strategies and goals.
    • Based on the review, adjust strategies and goals as necessary.
    • Re-enter the cycle with updated plans and continue the process.

Note: The agenda is a recommendation and may be amended by the CEO or Board Chair to meet your credit union’s needs.



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