As you consider preparing for your strategic plan, it’s important to be aware of a trap many credit unions and banks fall into: making your strategic plan tactical and not strategic. We see this over and over again at many financial instructions: the “strategic” plan is nothing more than an operational to do list.
It’s an easy trap for executives. We want to jump right into the practical. The problem is when we get too tactical, the end strategy isn’t really strategic at all.
Here are some ways to ensure your strategic plan stays strategic:
- Have a separate session for the tactical—The reality is there are only so many hours in the day. You can’t have an honest debate and discussion on big picture issues (your vision, your targets, your values, etc.) and then in the same day discuss implementation tactics. Everyone’s brain is fried and it’s simply too much to do in one setting. Many successful credit unions are now moving to an approach where one day (or time) is spent with the board and executives on a strategic direction and then another day is spent with executives on the implementation.
- Make active use of the “tactical” flipchart—It’s amazing how quickly a strategic planning session can turn into a tactical discussion of how to get things done. After all, many executives are driven and goal oriented. We want to know how we’re going to grow our
financial institution. How are we going to get things done? Rather than spending precious time answering implementation questions and details, display a flipchart in the room with the word “Tactical” at the top. Then when comments or discussions veer into that tactical realm (and they will), capture that idea on the tactical flipchart (for recording purposes) and then move on. Say it with me again: then move on.
- Ask strategic only questions—Much of the outcome from strategic planning sessions
stems from the questions you ask. If you ask tactical questions, you’ll get tactical answers. So rather than spend your time on those issues, make sure you ask big picture questions. For a list of good strategic questions to ask at your planning session, click here.
- Hire an outside facilitator—Okay, I’m biased on this point. But it is so true. A gifted facilitator will know and note when something that is said is tactical in nature. Then he or she will steer the conversation back to the strategic. Trying to guide the conversation yourself without an outside facilitator is difficult to do.
Tactics are important—but they have their place. And that place is not in the strategic planning
discussion. The more strategic your plan is, the more effective it is. Taking the above steps will help keep your strategic planning session just that—strategic.