It’s hard to believe, but summer is behind us and fall is here. Kids back at school, Friday night football, homecoming, the whole kit-and-caboodle.

Fall is also typically bank and credit union strategic planning session season. All over the country, banks and credit unions, large and small, gather in boardrooms and off-site locations to cuss and discuss the future.

With this season in mind, here are three keys to a better strategic planning session:

  • Think about implementation before you even plan. That’s right — think about implementing your plan before you even really know what it is. Why? Because many banks and credit unions do a great job coming up with a strategic plan but fail miserably when it comes to actually implementing it. They failed to take into account the people, time and other resources required to fulfill the lofty goals of a strategic plan. By thinking about implementation before you plan, you put yourself in the right frame of mind to develop achievable directives and goals rather than “pie-in-the-sky” feel-good drivel.
  • Make strategic planning part of every day. When you think about it, your strategic plan, similar to a brand plan, is something your bank or credit union must live every day. Ideally, the two plans (strategic and brand) are linked. Don’t just put that strategic plan on a shelf. Review it at least monthly (and optimally more often than that) to ensure you are hitting established benchmarks for success. Your strategic plan is a daily guide — not an annual “one and done.”
  • Stay out the weeds. Often, well-intended strategic planning sessions quickly devolve into “gripe fests” about who did or didn’t do this or that, where your bank or credit union messed up or even who’s allowed to eat at their desk when no one else is. Your strategic planning session is not the venue to get down in the weeds and hack out these smaller issues. Strategic planning, successfully done, incorporates big picture, 30,000-foot level thinking. When it comes to strategic planning, having your head in the clouds is definitely a good thing.

As we get deeper into the fall season, as your bank or credit union approaches its annual strategic planning session, keep these three points in mind. They’ll help keep you focused on the future, focused on the daily and focused on the important issues that you face.