In recent strategic planning sessions for two different clients, I was visiting with the respective CEOs prior to the session. In each case, one of the outcomes both of them desired was a definition of success. They more or less said, “We need to define what success means for our organization. The board may think one thing while we’re aiming for something else.”Strategic Planning - 5

As a result, in each session we spent time discussing how to define success.

So where do you start your strategic planning sessions?

In the words of Stephen Covey, “You begin with the end in mind.”

Defining success is easier said than done, however. So here are some tips on how to do so.

  • Prevent generic answers—How do you define success? Too many people say “serve customers,” “help members,” “make a profit,” “grow loans,” etc. Duh! Of course a bank or credit union wants to do those things. So when defining what success is, don’t allow generic answers.
  • Give specific numbers—While you don’t want to manage your financial institution to specific ratios, numbers do matter. When looking at what success truly means, put some numbers with it. So when defining success, talk ratios, percentages, and numbers
  • Think huge goals—No limiting or sandbagging is aloud when it comes to defining success. Make your goals stretch goals. If you are currently growing loans at 7%, then make your growth goal double digits. So when defining success, don’t be afraid of setting the bar as high as possible.
  • Gain a consensus—Not everyone is going to agree on how to define success for your financial institution. And that is a good thing. Make sure there is robust discussion. Debate efficiency versus experience. Argue about service versus profitability. So when defining success, embrace debate but at the end of the day get everyone on the same page.

Planning sessions are not worth the paper they are printed on if you don’t first know how you will define the plan’s success. So start your strategic plan with the end (success) in mind.