My 79-year-old mother recently had squirrel issues at her house. But not just AT her house—actually IN her house. She got home one day and noticed there was a hole on the outside of her house. So she called an expert exterminator (I guess a sort of “squirrel hunter”) who inspected the house, plugged up the hole, set a few traps and assured her the squirrel problem was resolved.
Then a few days later she heard a loud “thump” from the front living room. When she went to see what caused the noise, there was the squirrel: he had eaten through the sheetrock and was right in the middle of the room.
You’ve probably heard of “Man vs. Wild.” This crazy scene now became “Mom vs. Squirrel.” She chased the squirrel one way and then another, doing everything in her power to keep the scrawny animal in the front part of the house. She knew if somehow the little beast got in the rest of the house, it was over (for her, not the squirrel). She eventually got the front door opened and chased the squirrel into the yard. Mom still shakes when recounting this story.
Once I recovered from hearing the story (and trying not to laugh uncontrollably), I realized there are a few lessons for organizations (including credit unions and banks), that do strategic planning. Here is what we can learn and three planning solutions:
(1) You can’t prepare for everything—No matter how detailed your strategic plan is, something unexpected will happen to deter you from it. Something for which you are not prepared. Notice the “squirrel hunter” was ready with traps and baits. He never once thought a squirrel would eat through sheet rock. Planning solution: make your plan flexible to adapt to a fast changing environment.
(2) React quickly—Instead of panicking and freezing, my mother quickly jumped into action. Our strategic plans are the same way: when a crisis hits (whether financial, H.R., marketing or something else), we need to be quick on our feet. Maybe we should hire for an unplanned position, fire when a department doesn’t meet its goals or close a branch rather than delay the inevitable. Planning solution: don’t overanalyze everything.
(3) Keep negativity from spreading—As I mentioned above, Mom knew she had to keep the squirrel in one part of the house; she had to make sure it was contained. When it comes to your strategic plan, not everyone is going to agree with it. You have negative people in your credit union or bank. Keep those “Negative Nellies” from spreading. Even when your plan goes wrong—and it will on occasion—don’t let a negative attitude seep into your organization. Planning solution: stay positive even in the midst of challenges.
So, does your strategic plan chase squirrels? If so, let’s hope you get rid of them as fast as my mother did hers.