Strategic planning sessions are fun (or at least they should be). You examine your successes and failures, brainstorm new initiatives to grow, put timelines together and wrap it all up with a pretty PowerPoint presentation. You strategize, you plan, you prioritize.
And sometimes, then you drift.
Strategic plans face many obstacles when it comes to success: external threats, unexpected economic downtowns, unfortunate staffing challenges, etc. There are several ways you can lose strategic momentum or fail to reach your goals. But one of the greatest traps you must avoid is the strategic plan drift.
As Darren Hardy, publisher of Success Magazine and author of The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster says, “You see, we don’t fall off course, we drift off course. We don’t fall off our workout schedule, our diet, our resolutions, our goals—we drift.”
He goes on to say, “We drift ever so slightly and slowly without realizing it. Then a while down the road, we finally regain consciousness, only to realize we are completely off course.”
Once your plan is crafted, then the tasks of running your credit union or bank can easily dominate your daily routine. You don’t intend to drift, but somehow you fall off your desired path. So how do you avoid having your strategic initiatives drift? Here are four ways to not fall into that trap.
Focus your plan
Your strategic plan’s success starts with focus. If you have five or more strategic initiatives then you actually have too many, which results in a lack of focus. More does not always mean better. In fact, the more on your strategic “To Do” list the more overwhelming it is. If your plan feels like a tidal wave then it’s easy to start drifting.
Track your progress
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: what is not measured is not accomplished. Sure we look at our plans every three or six months to see how we are doing. But that’s not enough. You need to track your progress weekly and monthly. Break those strategies down into smaller bites and measure how you’re doing. Keep in mind that measurement is more than just numbers. You can’t measure your success just in ratios and spreadsheets. If your plan lacks tracking then it’s easy to start drifting.
Engage your staff
It doesn’t matter what is written on your planning document—it’s your staff that is going to determine its success (or failure). Make sure you talk with your staff about what you’re trying to accomplish as an organization. But engaging is more than just talking. It means seeking their input, making changes based on their feedback and involving them in as many aspects of strategic planning as possible. If your plan lacks staff engagement then it’s easy to start drifting.
Hold each other accountable
People are either afraid of or avoid accountability. But the reality is we all need accountability. Financial institutions and their strategic goals certainly need accountability. As executives, you are responsible for your credit union or bank’s goals. Don’t shy away from having hard conversations with each other about what is really going on in your organization. Loan numbers not what they should be—ask why. Branding efforts not connecting with consumers—ask why. If your plan lacks accountability, then it’s easy to start drifting.
You don’t want your strategic plan to be like a ship without a rudder. You don’t want your strategic plan to drift aimlessly among the waves. So avoid that drift by focusing your plan, tracking your progress, engaging your staff and holding each other accountable.