Strategic Planning – Is there a right way?

Strategic planning isn’t:

  • A box to check on your NCUA examination.
  • A one or two-day brainstorming event
  • To plan incremental growth without changing anything
  • Done during budgeting time.

Strategic planning should be started in Q1 or Q2 so that when the organization gets to budgeting time, the strategic objectives have been established, and the resource, project, software, staffing, or org structure needs can become part of the budgeting process.

Here is what strategic planning is:

  1. Identifying the current state of the organization. Its
  2. Strategic alignment
  3. Cultural alignment
  4. Leadership alignment

These are only possible when a strategic planning consultant interviews many employees from the C-suite to the front line. This discovery should be provided to the strategic planning team allowing everyone to understand what they are doing well and what needs to be improved to achieve their strategic objectives successfully.

Understanding the strategic, cultural, or leadership alignments or misalignments will improve the ability to effectively and efficiently complete the cross-functional and cross-silo work required. Everyone needs to be rowing the boat in the same direction.

  • Before the Planning Day, the strategic planning team should have a facilitated methodology to begin thinking broadly about the future.  This process is designed to get the team thinking beyond their silos, biases, and preconceived notions and away from any potential for group thinking.
  • Where are consumers missing in the FI space?
  • What do consumers need from their banking provider?
  • What can the organization do to visualize how it can meet these consumer needs?
  • How can this vision be used to differentiate the organization in the marketplace?

All of this gets documented for review before the “big day.”

  • Strategic planning day(s) should include the following steps:
  • An executive review of the discovery conversations and the ideas fermented from the thinking broadly efforts.
  • A review of the current and potential disruptors the organization may face in the future and how to prepare for disruptions.
  • A review of the “thinking broadly” ideas to identify
    • Which have merit and could become strategic objectives
    • Identify any new ideas
    • Prioritize
      • Which ideas have the potential to differentiate the organization
      • Which ideas will serve the members, staff, and communities better
    • Decide which the organization will not do (this doesn’t mean the vision goes away, it just means it will be put in a parking lot for future consideration as objectives get attained or the climate, economy, or competition changes.)
  • Establish one executive to be the owner of each strategic objective. The expectation of the strategic owner is:
    • Build a business plan and pro forma for the next 3+ years, demonstrating how the objective will be obtained.
    • Present the business plan and pro forma to the leadership team and board.
  • Business Plan Day is a half-day reveal of all the business plans by the strategic owner and should happen 60 days after the planning day. The reason for this event is to see everything each strategic objective requires. The goal is to:
  • Get agreement on the plans from all executives
  • Coordinate and negotiate priorities between stakeholders
  • Establish the organization’s communication plan to cascade the strategic objectives and goals throughout the organization

Here is what strategic planning isn’t.

  1. An annual event. Once a strategic plan is in place, it only needs to be validated and tweaked annually for environmental, economic, or competitive disruptions impacting one or more of the strategic objectives.
  2. A one or two-day event with
  3. A review of the past ratios and financials (the leadership should already know these)
  4. An overview of the state of the industry (the leadership should already know this)
  5. Confirmation or creation of the Mission and Core Values (if this is necessary, it should be done as pre-work)
  6. A SWOT – if this is needed, it should be pre-work
  7. A brainstorming session seeking ideas
  8. Picking some from the list
  9. Celebrating the day’s great accomplishment
  10. Someone writes down the strategic plan in a virtual file or a binder and puts it on the shelf.

How are you doing strategic planning?


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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