Planning your work, and working your plan

Planning your work, and working your plan: Ditch the track spikes in favor of marathon running shoes.

I’ve always had aspirations of being a sprinter.  I don’t like running, (it’s never been my core competency) but I watch sprinters—their physique, grace, and effortless movement—and I envy them.  This may sound silly, but I’ve always liked the shoes as well.  You know, those dainty little things that barely cover your sole and seem to come out of the shoebox bent in half, prepared to steady the sprinter into the chocks?  I’ve never owned a pair, because my shoes have always been those clunky orthopedic nightmares in ultra-wide special order size 13 for long-distance running.  However, I can see the value in a good sturdy pair of running shoes, because that’s what my strategic plan is.

I read an article recently (and by recently, I mean within the past year) about how some credit unions have moved away from an annual strategic planning session because they aren’t sure the exercise is yielding enough value.

Are YOU one of those credit unions?  If you are, we need to talk immediately!

One of the many items that my CEO highlighted when he described the marketing job to me as a new hire was coordination of the annual strategic planning session.  He said that this was one of the most pivotal aspects of what we do each year as managers.  He then proceeded to hand me a two-inch three-ring binder filled with the preparations of the previous year.  Like any new hire, I stared at it with irritation because it added to the volume of material that I had to weed my way through.

I’m talking to you, Operations Training.

However, while on vacation the following week (that’s right folks, I’m a master negotiator), I decided to take this gargantuan notebook with me (also an overachiever).  What I found when I started chewing through this mound of literature was a roadmap for our credit union.  Our management team had laid out their goals, quarter-by-quarter for the entire following year – tangible goals that could be quantified and measured for or against them.  Although I was new, I was aware of some of the projects that were taking place and they matched the details of this notebook, almost to the letter!  What this strategic plan did was not only tie our efforts up in a neat package for our Board of Directors, but it steered the ship that is our credit union.

So that brings me to this question for those of you that are moving away from strategic planning: how often do you look at your plan?  Are we using strategic planning as foot chocks for the 100-meter dash or are we using them as a good sturdy pair of running shoes to help us finish the marathon?  If we can allow ourselves to see our strategic plans not only as foundations, but also the support that propels the entire body that is our credit union, there are some wonderful results in store for us in the development and execution phases.  We’ll generate a higher awareness of other core competencies, be entirely more efficient (think more effective, less money), and create much more value for our members.

Isn’t that what our members are paying us for anyway?  Oh that’s right, the members pay our salaries!  Did you forget?