As we close the books on 2016 and enter the New Year, strategy is probably top of mind for most financial institutions. Credit unions and banks are either reviewing plans they made in the fall for 2017 or they are busy preparing for a first-half of the year strategic planning session.

Plans, however, will remain just that—plans. Unless you are intentional. Goals are not accomplished by osmosis.

Strategy is no different than those of us that are embarking on diets, starting to exercise or eating healthier as part of our New Year’s Resolutions. All the good intentions we have will only last a few weeks (if not just days) unless we intentionally commit to achieve our goals.

So what can you do to take initiative with your strategy? Here are four ideas:

  • Review your plan regularly—All too often once the strategic plan is written and documented we put it on a shelf and never look at it until the next planning cycle or until the examiners show up in the office. How often should you review your plan? At least a monthly deep dive with the executive management team. Successful C-Suite executives review their top line strategic objectives weekly or even daily (to help them make sure their financial institution is focused on the right things).
  • Share your plan with your staff—No matter what your strategic goals are, you’re not the one who is going to accomplish and implement them. Your staff is. Everyone—including the tellers and front-line staff—should know what your bank or credit union’s strategy is. Share the love. Help them see the connection between their day to day job duties and your organization’s goals. You can share the plan in an all-staff function, in department meetings, via e-mail, with one-page summaries, in person, one-on-one, or group settings. Just make sure everyone knows what you are trying to accomplish (and why).
  • Update your plan as necessary—There is no such thing as the perfect strategic plan. All plans will need adjustments as you go through the calendar year. One tip is to schedule an actual mid-year update planning session where you go line item by line item, updating any issue that needs it. Maybe an unforeseen expense arises, perhaps the economy tanks, or you lose/gain a key employee. You can’t predict the future but you can adjust to changing trends in the marketplace.
  • Get outside accountability with your plan—One thing we offer our strategic planning clients is six months worth of support provided after the session. Why? Because much of successful implementation involves accountability and help. These can take the form of regular phone calls, on-site updates, webex, etc. You don’t have to use your facilitator for accountability. You could even partner with another financial institution in another part of the country, sharing each other’s plans and giving regular updates on their progress (good and bad).

As we tell all our clients, strategic planning is a process, not a date on the calendar. And part of that process includes taking initiative with those plans and not just putting your planning document in a binder.