“And the Oscar goes to……” Was it Moonlight or La La Land? For a few minutes, no one really knew. There was confusion and to some degree quite a bit of chaos. Hopefully those two words (confusion ad chaos) do not describe your strategic planning sessions!

All Jimmy Kimmell joking aside we can learn quite a bit about strategic planning from what happened (good and bad) during this year’s big Oscar show.

Here are four lessons along with practical applications (because learning without application is meaningless) credit unions and banks can learn:

  • Start with something funThe opening number from Justin Timberlake was high-energy. It also set the tone for the entire night. He did a fantastic job involving the audience: getting them on their feet, clapping and singing. Similarly, start your planning sessions with some type of ice breaker or game rather than a boring review of your financials. We often will use games with such as Toss Up or Jenga with our clients to not only have fun but also get people moving and then applying strategic lessons from those activities.
    • Application: Start your planning session with some type of activity that gets people out of their seats. There is magic in movement.
  • Involve the “every man”—About halfway through the festivities, host Jimmy Kimmell brought movie fans on a tour bus into the auditorium for a surprise visit. “Gary from Chicago” shared a magical moment with him, his fiancé and Denzel Washington. While you may not want to invite “ordinary” consumers into your strategic planning session, you certainly want to make their voice heard. One exercise we do with our strategic planning clients is the “Empty Chair” exercise. We place an empty chair near the front of the room and ask “If your customers or members were hear, what would they say they want from your financial institution?”
    • Application: Conduct member surveys and focus groups with your members prior to the session; also, ask for and receive feedback from all levels of the organization (not just executives).
  • Plan for contingencies—Of course, the most memorable event of the night was when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway read the wrong winner for “Best Movie” category. That is a moment that will down in Oscar history. Perhaps they could have prepared or maybe done a better job adlibbing. But nothing like that had ever happened before: and that’s just the point. There are going to be things that come up after your planning session that you didn’t think would ever happen. So be ready for them.
    • Application: No matter what goals you set during your planning session, spend time answering these question, “What can go wrong?” and “What type of contingency plans do we have?”

Don’t let your red carpet strategic planning event turn into chaos and confusion. If you want to make your strategic planning session extraordinary then start with something fun, reflect on the past, involve the “every man,” and plan for contingencies.

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