Strategic Planning is the Easy Part

Working with organizations across the country, I see a familiar process when doing their strategic planning. A typical process I’ve observed is loosely following these steps:

  • Once a year a strategic planning event is scheduled with the Board and a few key executives
  • The event starts with a “state of the industry today” presentation, typically by a consultant.
  • There is a review of the mission, vision, values, and purpose
  • A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWAT) exercise is conducted.
  • The attendees go through a visioning exercise, what do you want to be in the next three to five years.
  • This vision for the future is crafted into a compelling, often pithy statement.
  • Goals are set; typically these are definite goals about ROA, Capital Ratio, Expense Ratio, Balance Growth, and member engagement.
  • All of this is documented in a binder for future reference and review by the examiners.
  • Everyone goes home or back to their jobs.

Sound familiar? So what is wrong with this process?

Execution of the plan is usually focused exclusively on the specific financial goals that have been set, but the vision of the credit union is often overlooked. Sure, hitting the balance goals and key ratios is essential but doing those things does not transform or reinvent the credit union in the future.

What needs to be done in the strategic planning process is to determine what the credit union will look like in the future. How will they serve and engage their members? How will they expand their business model to attain more efficiency, more significant scale, and serve more effectively? How is the culture of the credit union going to become the north star for their a tions and behaviors? How are individuals and teams going to treat each other and the member? This vision must go beyond the key metrics and financial milestones.
This vision needs to become the as tangible and real in the eyes of all stakeholders as their branches.

After establishing this vision of the credit union in the future, determine the specific areas that must be addressed in the evolution. Each of these areas must be assigned a strategic owner and a deadline set when a detailed tactical plan is brought to the board with milestones of the process identified. These strategic implementation plans must be broken down into projects with estimates of budget and resource requirements. This step in strategic planning gives the credit union a roadmap to strategic success but also aligns the entire organization with the strategic goals.


Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at

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