We’ve talked recently about the “Seven Do’s and Don’ts of Branding” and the “Seven Do’s & Don’ts of Marketing.”

It’s the same way with strategic planning. There are several things you should absolutely do in your strategic planning sessions and there are many things you should avoid at all costs.

Here they are…

Be sure you DO the following:


  • Say no

    Steve Jobs famously said one of the secrets to Apple’s success was that he said “no” to lots of ideas. For every 100 investment ideas Warren Buffet hears, he says no to 99. When it comes to strategic planning at credit unions and banks the problem is we say “yes” way too much. Every idea seems to work itself into the plan. Stop doing that! At your strategic planning session ask not what can you do, but what should you do.

  • Make it fun

    The more fun you have at your strategic planning session, the more likely it is to be effective. If you view it as boring and tedious, then more likely than not your plan will turn out to be boring. Avoid the non-engagement trap by starting the meeting with a fun exercise. At your strategic planning session, focus on building teamwork and camaraderie.

  • Focus your strategy

    If you walk away from your planning session with a giant “To Do” list, then you’ve failed. The more focused your plan is, the more effective it is. I’ve seen some strategic plans that contain 10 or more strategies. You can’t possibly accomplish all that. So don’t even try. At your strategic planning session, ask what two or three strategic initiatives—that if we accomplished them—would result in a domino of success for us?

  • Use a facilitator

    The truth is you can’t facilitate your own planning session. At least not effectively. Biases will creep in, people will stay silent when they should speak and you are far more likely to get off track when you do not rely on an outside voice to help you move the session. At your strategic planning session, invest in a professional facilitator who will guide you through an organized process.

Make sure you DON’T do the following:


  • Use too much data

    Death by data. If you come to a planning session with charts, graphs and 100+ reams of paper bearing analytical data, then you just killed your session. Please note I’m not saying don’t use any data. Research is critical when it comes to planning. The key is too much data. For planning sessions, keep data at a high summary level and then if details are warranted whip it out. At your strategic planning session, make sure you strike the right balance with your research.

  • Waste time

    You’ve heard the old adage, “don’t chase rabbits.” That saying certainly applies to planning. When 10 or more people gather to discuss strategy and long-range issues, inevitably you can derail off topic. One tip to use is give everyone a “GEPO” card. It stands for “Good Enough Push On.” Anytime someone displays their “GEPO” card then you move beyond the current discussion topic. Another way to avoid wasting time is do some pre-session work ahead of time through an on-line questionnaire from participants. At your next strategic planning session keep everyone focused on the task at hand.

  • Avoid hard topics

    Some people tend to avoid conflict or difficult decisions. They want everyone happy and don’t want to rock the boat. You should banish those people (or at least their avoidance issues) during planning. One question you can ask ahead of time is “what is the elephant in the room issue that we must discuss during this year’s session?” Strategic planning is the perfect time to examine underperformance issues, brand gaps, lack of growth and other conflicts within the organization. No credit union or bank is perfect. So talk about what’s not. At your next planning session discuss the issue on everyone’s mind but no one’s lips.


Jim Collins says, “Good is the enemy of great.” You won’t have a high performing credit union or bank by just having a “good” planning session. It has to be great. Following the above do’s and don’ts will move your organization to the greatness you desire.