Get your attention? Good – I hope so.

Now that you have had a moment to catch your breath, let me explain.

British statesman Sir Winston Churchill said: “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find truer words in the strategic planning process arena.

Your strategic plan, once hammered out and put on paper, is really nothing more than a tool for direction, a compass for your bank or credit union to follow in shifting winds. Too often, bank and credit union executives come out of the strategic planning process completely fixated upon that which is on paper. Guess what? Times change. The markets change. The ripple effect of an interconnected global economy means a drop in the bucket in Beijing can be a tidal wave once it reaches Bakersfield.

Your strategic plan absolutely must include the fluidity to adapt to the only inevitability in the business world — change. You simply cannot look at your strategic plan like your television remote control; in other words, something with which you can tap a button and make the world bend to your will. It just doesn’t work that way. Using that analogy, a better way to look at your strategic plan might be like the dial on the radio. Don’t like the station you’re listening to or is it coming in fuzzy? Reach for the dial until you find something you like better of that comes in crystal clear.

One of the greatest values of strategic planning is not the document itself but the time in which your team puts into it. Those days facing each other across the table are invaluable when it comes to confronting differences, acknowledging past successes and failures as well as hammering out some kind of general consensus about the future of your credit union.

Your bank or credit union must have a strategic plan in order to move forward. What that plan requires to succeed, however, is flexibility in its planners when the inevitable change hits the fan. Perhaps the best way to cap off every strategic plan is with the famous Boy Scout motto, “be prepared.” Be prepared for the unknown. Be prepared for change. Be prepared for your strategic plan to require considerable updating the day after the ink dries.

But you know what? This is a good thing. Adaptability is a linchpin of a successful evolutionary process. If your bank or credit union becomes so bogged down in the printed page of the strategic plan, it is far less likely to bounce back to rapidly changing elements in the financial services world entirely outside its control.

Strategic planning, in other words, is not a destination. It is a journey.