Implementing a Successful Strategic Plan Involves a Multi-Level Approach

By Keith Hughey

Credit unions continue to address the challenges posed by an ever-changing marketplace, economic and regulatory uncertainty, and shifting member service expectations. As a result, having a clearly defined strategy for setting goals, focusing resources and measuring outcomes is essential, regardless of whether an institution is in the acquisition mode; is preparing to sell; or simply implementing new programs and services to position itself as the primary financial services provider for its members.

Unfortunately, too many credit union leaders still adhere to the belief that strategic decisions are developed based on the 30,000-foot perspective of the corner office and board room. And while it is imperative for management and the board to be on the same page regarding the overall direction the credit union will take going forward, strategic planning should involve much more than an upper management point-of-view.

The ABCs of an effective strategic plan

To be effective, a strategic plan should have no more than three major strategic initiatives and the planning process should include the perspectives of staff at every level of the organization who are tasked with the everyday responsibility of implementing the proposed actions and changes. While not everyone will necessarily provide input of a strategic nature, the tactical ideas shared by those on the front line can provide valuable insight relative to operational realities, member needs and any procedural inefficiencies that need to be addressed.

In order to jump start staff involvement in the strategic planning process, management should create an initial communications outline that:

  • shares the credit union’s vision, mission and values;
  • gathers staff input regarding challenges and opportunities for improvement;
  • explains the role each staff member plays in making the credit union successful; and
  • defines specific, measurable steps for employees to complete in relation to the plan.

Once implementation begins, each strategic initiative should be given an owner who will take responsibility for moving it to completion. Throughout the process, effective use of project management tools can help to identify bottlenecks and help to re-direct project efforts when necessary.

In addition, it is important to have survey tools in place that enable management to determine how employees are reacting to the changes that are affecting the workplace, and ultimately whether or not members are experiencing improved service.

Creating emotional ownership to support organizational improvements

Developing the type of culture where employees feel that their opinions are valued creates an emotional connection between their efforts and the resulting benefits for the organization. When people feel that emotional “ownership,” they are more likely to work harder to ensure that goals are met and they are more alert to additional ways that enable the institution to deliver better results and greater value to its members.

Measuring momentum and results

At regular intervals, management should convene the staff to share examples of how the plan is progressing and to acknowledge the important role everyone is playing to help the credit union reach its strategic goals.

Also, at least once a year management should take the initiative to gather feedback on how well they have kept their promises, managed the planning process and supported the efforts of staff in moving the organization forward. Not only does this serve as a good way to close the loop on the current year, it strengthens the sense of teamwork and leads to a higher level of member care.

Keith Hughey is a senior consultant at John M. Floyd & Associates, a leader in profitability and performance improvement consulting.

Strategic Link is the NWCUA’s wholly-owned service corporation, using the power of aggregation to provide the Association’s member credit unions with exclusive high-quality, competitively-priced products and discounted services. Contact Director of Strategic Partnerships Craig Reed today to find out how Strategic Link can help your credit union save money while meeting its goals in 2013 and beyond: creed@nwcua.org.

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