It’s Time to Take Your Strategic Plan Off the Shelf

How long has it been since your last strategic planning event? Six months? Four months? Several weeks? Perhaps a better question would be, what strategic discussions have you had with your team since that planning session? Have you completed any tasks that get you closer to achieving your goals in 2019?

Recently, I decided to do a little research on what keeps organizations from achieving success as defined in their strategic plan. Needless to say, the results were not surprising. Care to guess the number one reason strategic plans fail and status quo persists? That’s right, lack of follow through. The failure to clearly define what success looks like came in a close second.

Accountability: The Key to Strategic Success These findings confirm what my clients have been telling me over the past few years: having a plan and working a plan are two very different things. And while many leaders understand the importance of action, many fail to put that knowledge into practice. In fact, a recent survey by AchieveIt suggests as many as 90 percent of strategic plans are never implemented, which leads to rather predictable underperformance. These results raise the question: When it comes to working your credit union’s strategic plan, who’s holding your board, leadership, and internal team accountable?

There’s that word again. Accountable. We use it regularly in strategic planning sessions, but rarely around the office. Why? Because it’s far easier to point fingers or make excuses than to look in the mirror and admit, “I just didn’t do it.” If you’ve effectively shelved your strategic plan and done nothing with it since your last planning session, don’t worry. 2019 is still fresh. You still have time. Here are a few tips to help you get back on track and find the success you’re looking for this year:

  1. Communicate. Since we can’t seem to get it right at home (one out of every two marriages ends in divorce, often because of poor communication) what makes us think we can get it right at work? If you’ve stashed your strategic plan under a rock after you left the boardroom last year, it’s time to pull it back out and share it with your entire team—from frontline tellers to C Suite executives. Whether your team is large or small, a clear communication plan is essential to your success. “Lack of communication” is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 reasons strategic plans fail to gain traction or produce the desired results.
  2. Leadership. Communication involves more than visual images and spoken instructions. As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” If the leadership team refuses to follow the strategy they developed, choosing instead to operate with a “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality, failure is almost certain. This kind of inconsistency often stems from a lack of accountability and leads to other leadership failures such as poor follow-through, ineffective reward systems, improper resource allocation, inability to get organizational buy-in, and a habit of covering up shortcomings. While the responsibility for these failures ultimately falls on the person with leadership title, every team member can play a role in correcting the problem. No matter where we fall on the organizational chart, we all have a chance to lead.
  3. No plan. “It’s a strategic plan. What do you mean there’s no plan?” It’s a logical question, but it misses the point. In reality, what most people consider great plans aren’t really plans at all. They’re fancy documents packed with impressive buzzwords and high-level ideas. They’re the result of strategic planning sessions that focus all their time and energy on crafting clever statements and objectives. Unfortunately, these sessions usually end before they create an actionable plan, leaving nothing more than a list of undeveloped intentions. If there are no tasks identified and no owners assigned to those tasks, there are no practical ways to hold anyone accountable. Being unable to break a project down into practical action steps was also listed in the top 10 reasons that strategic plans fail.

You Don’t Have to Figure It Out On Your Own
Don’t let past failures discourage you. Things aren’t as hopeless as they might seem. There are dozens of financial institutions and other organizations succeeding this year. They’ve started 2019 strong by accomplishing action items that lead them closer to the results they set out to achieve this year. We’ve helped these organizations gain perspective on their “why,” uncover the needs of their ideal consumer, and discover what held them back in the past.

On top of that, we’ve guided them through the process of defining what success looks like for their organization, developing a plan to push through any barriers, and assigning task ownership to team members who can be held accountable. Oh yeah, we’ve also promised to follow up at regular intervals after the planning session to hold everyone accountable. As you can see, success is truly a team effort!

If 2019 is off to a slow start and your strategic plan is collecting dust on the shelf, maybe our team can help you too! Whether it’s kickstarting your existing plan or facilitating your strategic planning event later this year, we’re eager to help you achieve the kind of success that dozens of other financial institutions and organizations have found by working with us!

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