When it comes to your marketing, we’ve written about cutting the copy. For your strategy, however, you need to cut the priorities. In most planning sessions credit unions and banks add tasks, strategic initiatives, timelines, and tons of data.

How often do we actually cut things in our strategic planning sessions? Probably not enough. The reality is, true strategy means pruning.

Try answering this question at your next management team or board meeting, “What do we want to be the best at?” As noted in the Myth of Excellence, you can’t be great at everything. So stop trying. You have to choose your priorities. And that requires a great deal of strategic pruning.

Here are some tips when it comes to those strategic trim downs:

  • Prune, prune and prune some more until you get down to three or four strategic initiatives (with three being ideal).
  • When you cut don’t cheat: don’t combine two priorities into one or don’t put a bunch of sub priorities under one larger heading.
  • Cut to the core essence and priorities you are currently facing.
  • Communicate your priorities to your staff (don’t let them become overburdened with an overwhelming plan).

Some examples of what your credit union or bank could prune down to include a certain product (make acquiring car loans or checking accounts your top priority). Or maybe your focus is your people (knowing that if you invest in developing your people, you’ll get great results). Perhaps it’s teaching your employees how to engage with rather than sell to consumers.

The point is to determine that one thing that if you could only accomplish it during the next planning cycle, everything else would fall into place (a concept from the book The One Thing; a great read, by the way).

The most successful organizations focus. They prune. So rather than ask, “what are we going to put into our strategic plan this year?” ask “what are we going to remove from our strategic plan?”