Small credit unions mistakenly believe that the size of their credit union negates the need for strategic planning but the opposite is actually true. Its inherent size is actually what makes strategic planning more important because it can mean for a small credit union to gradually evolve into a huge and thriving multinational corporation.
Fall is coming soon, and many credit unions will be conducting their fall ritual of meeting with their Board’s to look ahead. That annual ”weekend in the woods” type retreat has been conducted almost as long as there have been credit unions. And while larger credit unions often conduct a planning session twice per year, the exercise has not changed. Maybe its time to look at strategic planning differently.
Planning is one of the five important functions of management, but it is arguably the most important of all because it is the first function that any manager or credit union owner should focus on. Planning sets the goals, mission and vision, and direction for the credit union. Without it, the other functions may be impossible to achieve.
A credit union cannot benefit from just any kind of planning. It must be strategic in essence to be effective. Strategic planning is a methodical process of deciding where you want your credit union to be in a given period and what you propose to do to get there. Not simply mimicking other credit unions, but actually deciding where you want to take your credit union in 5 to 15 years. Trade associations and yourselves cry loudly that credit unions are unique. Yet, many simply regurgitate the plans from prior years and react to regulatory pressures. That often is at odds with the mission of the credit union movement.
There are different ways to let your credit union benefit from strategic planning so do not worry about following the so-called rules. What works for your credit union is in the best interest of your members and sound fiscal policy.
Elements of Strategic Planning:
Internal and External Assessment of Strategic Planning:
A coach of a basketball team won't be able to map out an effective play if it doesn't know its players well, which team it will be playing against, and other related factors. The same may be said for any credit union CEO. Before you can start working on the details of your strategic plan, you must first focus on compiling data about the external and internal environment of your credit union.
Outside your credit union, politico-legal, economic, and socio-cultural factors can affect how your credit union will fare in the next few years. Inside, factors such as management style and the type of workforce you have can also help or hinder your credit union from attaining your goal.
Setting Your Credit union's Goal:
Small or big, the important thing is for your credit union to have goals. If you can be satisfied with small and short-term goals then that's good; if you secretly desire for bigger goals then that's even better. To know if the goals you plan to work on are indeed workable, determine if they adhere to the SMART rule: specific, measurable, attainable, realistically high, and time-bound.
Rule of Majority:
Of course, as owner or manager of a credit union, you reserve your right to approve or nay-say any suggestion but as much as possible, allow the rule of the majority to stick. Plans can only come to fruition if everyone in the credit union works together and you can assure yourself of their cooperation by showing them that you care about what they think.
Devising an Action Plan:
Finally, it's time to concentrate on the practical details of your strategic plan. List down possible and specific courses of action then choose what all of you deem as most suitable. Make sure that you set a definite schedule or timetable for everything but give allowances for unexpected delays and concerns. Set a budget as well.
Good luck with strategic planning for your credit union!