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KISS Your Strategic Planning Hello
Monday, September 25, 2017 6:40 AM

Keep it simple

Dean Borland, SCMS, CUDE, VP Product Development, Credit Union Resources, Inc.

For several years now, I have been privileged to assist credit unions with strategic planning and plan execution using a form of the Balanced Scorecard[1]. In case you are not familiar with the “BSC,” it is a methodology to map strategy and manage deployment of initiatives. For organizations with multiple priorities, the Scorecard provides structure to assign responsibilities, measures and goals, and track performance, thereby creating a formal structure to monitor plan deployment. In my opinion, the Balanced Scorecard is a good tool. But, even a tool as good as the Balanced Scorecard cannot add hours to the day.

Here’s the problem: There are occasions when the appetites of boards and even senior management teams are greater than the organization’s capacity to execute. Many, if not all, credit unions’ capacity to plan and execute strategic initiatives are limited because responsibility for strategic project execution falls upon a small group of leaders who also have daily operational responsibilities. It is not unusual for the day-to-day rigors of running the business to divert attention away from strategic projects.

It turns out FranklinCovey may have an answer. In The 4 Disciplines of Execution[2], authors Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling make a compelling case for keeping it simple (hence the KISS reference in this article's title). I won’t go into the details of “4DX,” because you really should read the book and decide for yourself. But I think it is undeniable that the basic precept is sound: “…human beings are genetically hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence.” Throw too many things into the fray and you run a chance of (1) getting nothing done or (2) getting nothing done well and/or on schedule.

The 4DX method contends that organizations should focus on one or two “wildly important goals” (WIGs), those things identified as being most important in the hierarchy of things to do. According to 4DX, when you focus on the “wildly important,” your focus (and execution strategy) promotes timely and excellent execution. When today’s “wildly important” is complete, you shift your focus to the next most “wildly important” thing in your hierarchy.

From a personal perspective, 4DX appeals to me because I am not blessed with an ability to multi-task. I find myself having to turn off the radio in the truck to find my next turn. I have to keep it simple.

For those of you using the Balanced Scorecard, I am not suggesting that you should abandon the tool. It clearly works. What I am suggesting is that you balance your appetite for new initiatives with organizational capacity. Don’t bite off more than you can chew; focus on what is most important. And, when today’s most important target is achieved, acquire a new one. You might even find that a 4DX “cadence of accountability” will help with deployment of your Scorecard initiatives.

___________________________

[1] Kaplan, Robert S., and David Norton. (1992). The Balanced Scorecard: Measures that Drive Performance.

[2] McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals.