4 reasons you should not facilitate your own strategic planning session

group of professionals looking at a board with sticky notes

68% believe their organization is good at developing strategy, down from 80% in 2012, according to a recent study by Cascade. I can attest to this.

Last November I tried to facilitate our own strategic planning event at YMC.

“I do this a few times a month for others.”

“I can be objective and not taint my process and tip the scales in my favor.”

I was wrong.

I was too deep in the organization to be objective. Because of that, I couldn’t ask the right questions to drive the conversations to where they needed to be. Therefore we constantly preach the importance of having a skilled facilitator from outside the organization.

We bit the bullet and booked a three-day strategic planning event with our coach in Nashville. Lesson learned, and I hope you’ll learn from my mistake and not repeat it.

Need more convincing? Check out these stats:

  1. 67% of leaders believe their organization is good at crafting strategy, but only 47% believe their organization is good at implementing strategy. Businesses need a facilitator who is with them well after the strategic planning session is over. Credit unions need a facilitator who is checking in with you to hold you accountable to your plan but also to help talk through obstacles that come up during the implementation process.
  2. Only 2% of leaders are confident that they will achieve 80%-100% of their strategic objectives.

You read that right: 98% of leaders leave that planning session with nothing to show from it 12-24 months later.

One important step in YMC’s planning process is to deal with the elephant in the room. We ask, “what could hold us back from achieving this” in each step and talk about the obstacles we know are in the way, and deal with them right then and there.

  1. In an alarming 49% of organizations, leaders spend only one day a month reviewing their strategic implementation.

Why? Task saturation at the leadership level, especially at small credit unions.

When this comes up as a recurring theme during planning sessions, we place ‘removing task saturation’ as a key action item. Who does the leader need to delegate more tasks to? What new position needs to be created? What outdated position (or team that is overstaffed) can we re-allocate resources to? That’s never a pleasant conversation but remind yourself that your dedication is to your members, current and future, and not to individual team members.

  1. 30% say communicating change is the toughest challenge. Why? Because you’re disrupting people’s comfort level and creating fear of the unknown with change. You’re going to receive push back. In two cases when credit unions had life-changing strategic planning events with us, I predicted more than 90% staff turnover during the implementation process. In one case it was closer to 100%, and the other case was right at 90%. These credit unions had legacy team members who were trying to protect their own comfort as well as some team members who had been skating by doing not a lot of work and generating toxicity in the culture. When the leaders of these two credit unions started working their plan and holding team members accountable the turnover began. In both cases, the leaders of these two credit unions communicated the plan, the why behind it, and the steps and desired results. There were no surprises and no expectations left unsaid. Overall, 20% of staff members resist implementation initiatives. The group showing the most resistance (51%) is middle management.

A skilled, experienced strategic planning facilitator at your credit union serves as an independent third party that can stay out of the way of making decisions for you and asking the right questions to get you where you need to go. That same facilitator, if committing to walk through that planning process with you over the course of 12-24 months, can help you avoid the rough patches outlined in the examples above. We’ve seen it time and time again and can help you learn from other’s mistakes (and our own), leading to faster and smoother implementation.

If you’re stuck on the implementation of a prior strategic plan or need a skilled and experienced credit union strategic planning facilitator, let’s talk. Our 2021 dates are full, but we’re now booking dates beginning in January 2022.

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Dexter Ochoa

Development Assistant

When it comes to blending logical thinking and creative problem solving, Dexter’s abilities are undeniable! Beginning his career as a Web Developer, he’s no stranger to the wide world of Marketing and Advertising. Calling Biñan City in the Philippines home, Dexter has a burning desire to visit the Alpine peaks and valleys of Switzerland. While that journey may be far off, he is still no stranger to international travel. While visiting Japan, he was able to enjoy his favorite delicacy: Sushi and Sashimi. He also learned unexpected facts about Japanese Yen, specifically that it has special markings for the blind to know its value!

Living life by his motto to “Do good even if the world is unfair,” Dexter would also advise his younger self, “It’s hard, but you’re doing good!” Whether he’s enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning or the occasional Pale Pilsen in the evening, Dexter is eager to work with the talented professionals of YMC, and we’re just as eager to add his talent to the team as well! His marketing words of wisdom? “Be creative, and just do what you want!”

Andrew Wyche


Hailing from the NC state capital (that’s Raleigh if you didn’t know), Andrew is YMC’s Copywriter extraordinaire. That’s why he knows that “The verb form of ‘reconnaissance’ is ‘reconnoiter.’ The former is, strictly speaking, a noun.” Seriously, he knows his words and he’ll use those words to get bold and weird (in a good way) with his copy. Fuelled by a love for pasta, shellfish, a good single malt, or a meal consisting of all three, Andrew navigates life with a motto engraved in his heart: “Choose kindness. Always.” It is this guiding principle that has led him to explore the realm of marketing, driven by a desire to connect with people in meaningful ways. As he continues to chase his dreams, one bucket list item stands out above the rest – a pilgrimage to Scotland. With his heart set on adventure and his pen poised for creativity, Andrew’s journey is far from over.

Alex VanHaasteren

Senior Web Developer

Alex is YMC’s Senior Web Developer and, as the title suggests, she is an absolute pro! While she initially started in graphic design – working long and hard to expertly bring concepts to life – she also felt drawn to technology and applying her natural ability to problem solve. Web Development proved the perfect blend of her creative passion and technical savvy.

When Alex is out with friends – including her YMC colleagues – she’s up for Greek cuisine or some good pulled pork BBQ washed down with Diet Coke. Or an Old Fashioned, if the occasion demands. Someday, she hopes to go to Africa on a safari. Hopefully she’ll see a giraffe in the wild, because – as she’s pointed out – its neck is too short to reach the ground!

When she isn’t jamming out to T-Swift, she’s happy to impart some marketing words of wisdom, “Aim to create something unforgettable.” For day-to-day inspiration, she would remind you of two fundamental truths: You decide your happiness, and Ice cream is its own food group—not just a dessert.

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