How To Keep Your Strategic Planning Focused

Strategic planning is a process that should guide your credit union toward your desired future–or it can be an exercise in futility that drains valuable resources, time and efforts.

Too many times credit union strategic planning activity falls short because leaders fail to critically assess the external environment by focusing too much on internal processes and systems, and by rehashing historical data and procedures.

There must also be more emphasis placed on taking a “Member Centric” approach or understanding the needs and building stronger relationships members.

The financial services/economic environment and how to serve members more effectively should be the primary drivers of your planning efforts.

Components Of Effective Planning

The components of an effective strategic planning process for your credit union include:

* Conduct a Thorough Environmental Scan to understand the credit unions current and future financial marketplace environment.

This will involve some market research regarding national/local financial services and credit union industry economic and consumer market trends.

* Conduct an analysis of the credit unions Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities, Threats (SCOT) is a very important component of your planning process. A review of member surveys, product/service usage patterns and feedback are key member service assessment indicators.

* Develop or Reaffirm the Mission/Vision and Core Values of the Credit Union. Understanding the difference between your credit unions Mission (Who you are) and Vision (Where you want to go or become) is crucial for leaders.

The core values and philosophy of the credit union need to continue to be aligned with the strategy for growth.

* Identify and Prioritize Key Issues/CU Competitive Advantages/ and Strategic Directions Needed.

Knowing who your competition is, and what your credit union’s competitive advantages are will help you properly develop strategies to position your credit union for prospering in the financial services marketplace.

* Develop An Action Step Plan that includes goals/budget/key result areas/ business plan/timelines/completion dates/outcome measurements/accountabilities and impact on resources (staff, facilities).

* Create an Evaluation Process to ensure how effectively the credit union will meet the measurement criteria. This should be monitored on a regular basis throughout the year.

* Communicate the Progress to the key stakeholders for direction, motivation and performance assessment. Sharing progress reports keep open communication and the process on track.

Strategic plans should be reviewed at least quarterly for progress and then annually updated to stay aligned with the direction of the credit union and to incorporate responses to changes in the financial environment and new member needs.

Be Flexible

An effective strategic plan should also be flexible and have an “elastic component” built into it respond to sudden changes in the environment.

Your Strategic Plan should be used as a guide to keeping the credit union on course to achieve results and move it toward fulfilling its mission and vision to the members.

By staying close to trends–and even closer to your members–your strategic plan should become a foundation for sustaining and ensuring your credit unions future during changing and challenging times.

John A. Vardallas CAE, is Founder/CEO of The AmericanBoomeR Group. He can be reached at jvardallas<at>aol.com or 608-577-8707. (c) 2008 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.cujournal.com http://www.sourcemedia.com