Strategic Planning – Is the Juice Really Worth the Squeeze?

Martin Webster, EMBA idea5 Discoveries, Strategic Planning 0 Comments

Worth the Squeeze

Strategic planning – Is it really worth the trouble? Given the time and resources required to implement a structured planning process, is the juice worth the squeeze?

Over the years, we’ve heard many financial executives ask themselves that same question. They’ll say things like:

“We’ve never really had a formal process and we do just fine.”
“It’s too late in the year to start. There’s no time to get it done.”
“It’s going to take a lot of time to prepare; time I don’t have.”

But, let’s consider some compelling reasons why you need to a spend time on planning:

  1. Studies show high performing financial institutions value and engage in strategic planning; low performers don’t. Which do you strive to be?
  2. Effective strategic planning leads to higher ROA, ROE and margin and lower turnover.
  3. Your customers and staff depend on your organization to grow. They want to grow with you.
  4. Your competition is doing it, so you better. You’re kidding yourself if you think your competitors aren’t developing strategies – right now – to steal customers and market share.
  5. Everyone in your organization, including the board, needs to know the long term vision of your institution and how you plan to get there.

Hopefully, we’ve sold you on getting strategic planning done this year. Given the time constraints and resources needed, you’re going to have to start now. Follow these three steps and you’ll be on your way.

Step 1. Nail down your mission, vision, and core values.

  • If you don’t have these decided and documented, focus your efforts here first. Spending time developing strategies and objectives that don’t align with your mission and vision can quickly take your organization down a wrong path.
  • If you think your mission, vision and core values are solid, take some time to review them with your management team and board of directors to ensure they agree. These items may need a few tweaks from time to time.
  • Be sure to communicate your mission, vision and values to your entire organization and your customers. As Simon Sinek says in his book, Start with Why, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Step 2. Understand your current position – better known as a SWOT Analysis

  • This is going to require some homework, which means resources and time. But it’s well worth the effort. Typically, a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats assessment should be an on-going process, including customer surveys, employee surveys, competitive analysis, market positioning and the like.
  • Don’t worry. You can still get this done for planning. Use the 80/20 Rule. Focus on 20% of the most important data that will yield 80% of the information needed for planning. Gather measures you already have or can easily obtain, like employee turnover ratio, # of new accounts, # of closed accounts, etc. Also survey key members of the management team and the board on their perception of your organization’s SWOT.

Step 3. Develop strategies and success measures

  • Step 1 defines your future. Step 2 assesses your current situation. Now, it’s time to fill the gap with goals, strategies, action plans and an effective tracking & accountability system.
  • It’s meeting time. Key stakeholders of the organization should participate so you get their buy-in. The focus should be on developing what you want to achieve and how you will do it. Remember the 80/20 Rule and limit your goals to those that will truly support your organization’s mission/vision.
  • A key part of goal development is maintaining an effective tracking and accountability system. You need to know when you are off track, so you can reassess and pivot. Don’t leave the planning session without success measures for each goal.

Obviously, there is more to successful strategic planning than these three steps but this is a good place to start.

The team at idea5 has spent the last 30 years providing strategic planning services for banks and credit unions, and we’ve developed many best practices. We’ve put our knowledge into a Strategic Planning Kit to help you lead an actionable planning process for your organization. To learn more and Get the Kit! – go to

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