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Planning is the Beginning of a Process; Deployment Separates Winners and Losers
Monday, January 11, 2016 6:30 AM

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

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Robert Burns

In Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse,” a farmer is plowing his field when he cuts through a mouse nest. The farmer shows regret and apologizes to the mouse before going on a rant about how easily someone else’s “well laid plans” can be destroyed, even when you mean no harm and have pure intentions. "Murphy’s Law" provides a more contemporary telling of the tale, “regardless of how well you are organized and how well you pay attention to detail, sometimes obstacles get in the way from plans being properly executed… whatever can happen will happen.”

Like something checked off a to-do list, many credit unions have, or are in the latter stages of, completing an annual planning cycle that charts the course for the credit union for the next year, or two, or three, or ten. Directors have defined a strategic vision. Leaders have created tactical actions, supported by an operating budget that outlines how money will be made and spent in the upcoming year. Unfortunately, that is the easy part.

The hard part, the part that makes the planning process worthwhile, is bringing plans to fruition. This is also where obstacles to success are most likely to arise, where plans go awry.

From a practical standpoint, the board is not involved in deployment, nor should they be. And credit union leaders cannot do it by themselves. Plans become reality when each employee understands their role, how their role combines with the roles and responsibilities of others within the organization, and how everyone’s combined efforts blend to achieve the desired outcomes. Now that you have a plan, there is much more work to do.

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” but sound deployment will go a long way toward identifying obstacles early and adjusting deployment efforts to stay on plan.

  • For starters, employees should understand the strategic vision and the tactical initiatives laid out to move the credit unions toward the vision. The communication should be made sooner than later, delivered by the CEO and/or the senior leadership team and, if possible, in-person.
  • Designate champions whose responsibility it is to insure that the initiatives are successfully deployed.
  • Be sure every employee understands their role and how they will personally contribute to the credit union’s success. In the best-case scenario, tie individual performance expectations (and some compensation) to desirable activities and behaviors that support organizational objectives.
  • What gets measured gets done. Organizational success measures should cascade into every level of the organization. For example, if the credit union has a goal to increase loans outstanding by a defined amount, the organizational objective should be broken down and defined for each department, branch, and individual employee.
  • Continually monitor and share performance compared to goal, and share progress with everyone.
  • When performance does not meet expectations, look for and eliminate the root cause(s) of performance shortfalls, eliminating opportunities for error and/or the weak links in performance.
  • Celebrate success and share the rewards across the organization.

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” but sound deployment will go a long way toward identifying obstacles early and adjusting deployment efforts to stay on plan.

If you need assistance with Strategic Planning, Succession Planning, policy development or board member education, OnBalance is here to help. To learn more about all of the products and services we offer visit us at or contact Karen Houston-Johnson at, Howard Bufe at or Dean Borland at