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4 Key Ingredients to Effective Strategic Planning
Wednesday, February 1, 2017 6:30 AM

Karen Houston-Johnson, Vice President, Credit Union Resources

Most all credit unions today are dealing with reduced profit margins, limited avenues for growth, increased operating costs, and greater capital constraints. As a result, management should be more targeted in what it does and how it does it.

For many credit unions, creating a vision, core values, and a strategic plan can be a daunting task. It requires management to accept that yesterday’s success does not guarantee tomorrow’s success. Rather than considering it another activity to check off, it needs to be a top priority, especially in our rapidly changing environment.

Make no mistake, even the best plan, without great execution, means nothing. Regardless of your credit union’s size, a strategic plan is the foundation on which all business activities can be connected and aligned.

Strategic Planning and Implementation

Below are four key ingredients to successful planning and implementation:

  1. Creating vision and direction that is simple and clear. A strategy may be fairly complicated at the highest level, but the closer it gets to the front line and marketplace, the simpler it has to be.
  2. A good plan. A good plan is one that's well thought out, challenges assumptions, and is created with input from sources inside and outside of the organization.
  3. Great execution. Great execution requires commitment from the very top.  This commitment must be demonstrated through behavior, investment, communication, and accountability. The plan is a living document that must become part of the culture and be updated to reflect changes in the environment on an ongoing basis.
  4. Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate! Continuously communicate using the different ways that connect individuals and their roles to the vision and success of the credit union. Don’t communicate halfway; close the loop by asking for feedback from all employees and all levels of the organization that are involved.

A well-thought-out strategic plan paired with great execution will result in organizational focus, accountability, and improved performance.

It’s also important to keep improving your strategic planning process. Periodically, take a step back and review the purpose of strategic planning. Double-check that the plan is creating clarity about why the credit union exists, what it stands for, how it brings unique value to the members, the marketplace, and its direction for upcoming years.

Although it may seem daunting at first, there are solutions to most all of the challenges leaders face when creating a vision, credit union core values, and a strategic plan. All that is required is reaching out to find some help!

If you need assistance with strategic planning, leadership, and board development or management and board succession planning, OnBalance is here to help you with these important initiatives.

To learn more about all of the products and services we offer, please visit us at Or contact Karen Houston-Johnson at, Howard Bufe at, or Dean Borland at