Raise the Bar: Strategic Planning Best Practices for Success 

During this unpredictable economic climate, credit unions need to focus on their strategic plan now more than ever. What’s worked for you in the past may not be as effective today.

What Should Your Strategic Plan Accomplish?
The purpose of the annual strategic plan is to provide a proactive plan for achieving goals and objectives stated in the credit union’s mission, vision and values statements. The strategic plan is a set of decisions regarding what actions the credit union will be taking in order to move the organization along the path toward the attainment of its ultimate vision.

A strategic plan can have a synergistic effect on the internal operations of a credit union because it gets all employees working toward the same goals. The synergy that results from everyone’s combined efforts improves efficiency of operations, the use of resources, the exploitation of opportunities and creates new paradigms of success.

What Should the Strategic Plan Include?
Some strategic plans make the mistake of being too narrow and only focused in one particular area. A comprehensive, balanced strategic plan is necessary to take a good credit union to become a great credit union. Most examiners are requiring a two- to three-year strategic plan that ties into your business plan and budget. It’s important to remember to not bite off too much in the strategic plan. Set your goals so you have to stretch a little, but don’t overwhelm yourself to the point where you don’t have enough time to take care of the day-to-day tasks of running your credit union. In today’s economy, it’s recommended that you include the following components in your strategic plan:

What Should the Strategic Planning Process Include?
Time is precious at your strategic planning session because there is always more to discuss than time allows. Whether you’re taking four hours in a board meeting or a day and a half on a weekend, it’s important to have a set agenda with time frames that keep you on schedule. 
There is no perfect formula for the right agenda. Based on asset size, financial performance and other factors, one credit union’s agenda can be very different from another. However, best practices dictate that the following processes will generate good results in your strategic planning efforts:

Many credit unions also have found it advantageous to conduct a pre-work survey prior to the strategic planning session. This survey can be sent to the board of directors and executive management team a few weeks prior to the planning session. In the survey, questions such as “what are the top five key issues for 2014?” or “what opportunities should the credit union evaluate over the next three years?” can be asked. After the answers are tabulated, it becomes very clear which strategies should be given top priority status and need to be dealt with first at the planning session.

What Happens after the Strategic Planning Session is Vital
The results from your strategic planning process should be written down into a report and distributed to the board, management team and possibly the staff. “Having participated in over 100 strategic planning sessions in my 25 years in the industry, I’ve learned that the really successful credit unions don’t just have their strategic planning session and put their report on a shelf to collect dust,” CUSG Vice President of Consulting Mike Moyes said. “They usually will review their progress in board meeting quarterly. Many will create a ‘Dashboard’ which allows anyone on their team to quickly look at the current status of each goal at their leisure. This keeps key strategies, goals and tactics in the forefront so that they don’t get lost in the everyday fires of managing a credit union. Ultimately, these credit unions achieve more financial success, happier members and staff and accomplish more of their goals each year than their counterparts.