Planning - 2There are multiple traps and minefields when it comes to strategic planning. Focusing too much on tactics and not enough on strategy. Rushing through the planning process. Rehashing old issues.

While those are common pitfalls, one of the major mistakes credit unions and banks make with strategic plans is waffling. In other words we sit on the fence and don’t make strong, bold decisions. In an effort to gain consensus we want everyone in the room (executives, board members, etc.) in agreement about the strategy.

While unity is indeed a key to success the result of making sure we hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” might be a straddling effect. In other words, because we want EVERYONE happy with the final product we include EVERYONE’s ideas in the plan. And then we end up just straddling the fence rather than making some necessary (and oftentimes difficult) decisions.

Here are a few examples where straddling causes problems:

  • We don’t have a consensus on target audiences so we end up trying to be all things to all people
  • We can’t decide what the top priorities should be so we end up with six or seven strategic initiatives rather than a focused three or four
  • We don’t want to offend anyone so we include everyone’s ideas, including the ones that are honestly lame and completely out of sync with the overall plan
  • We don’t want to rock the boat so we avoid making hard decisions

Let’s be honest: not everyone is going to agree 100% with every decision in every single planning decision. That’s just not possible. Disagreement and debate are actually healthy. But the solution to a consensus is not to straddle.

In one planning session I conducted a few years ago, the client once again brought up the issue of changing their name. For multiple years in numerous planning sessions they had debated whether or not they should change their name. And  they never made a decision. They just straddled. So in this particular session I said “you either need to _______ or get off the pot.” Okay, I said it a little nicer than that but you get the idea. Once they were challenged and pushed they realized they had to move forward rather than stay idle. So they voted during that session to change their name and are now seeing record growth. Why? Because they stopped straddling.

As David Maister says in Strategy and the Fat Smoker, “the best outcome from strategic planning isn’t necessarily greater analytic insight—it’s greater resolve.”

Rather than straddle your strategy, aim for boldness and resolve.