Strategic plans mean different things to different people. Obviously, you’ll have a great diversity of opinion at the average strategic planning table. The CEO is pulling for one thing, the CFO another and marketing for something probably entirely different.

One of the keys to a successful strategic planning session is identifying, beforehand, the issues of greatest importance. Without this focus, your strategic planning session risks devolving into a bickering session between departments intent on protecting their own turf.

One way to accomplish this is to poll planning session attendees in advance. Cut straight to the point and ask them what they believe are the top two or three issues facing the credit union in the coming year. Make the survey as short and sweet as possible and keep it anonymous.

Before the planning session starts, analyze the responses to the survey. Look for commonalities. While you will more than likely see different departments pulling in different directions, you’re looking for similar threads of information.

For example, while accounting and human resources will more than likely have diverging responses, you may be able to pick out veins of common responses such as “developing a younger Board of Directors” or “finding a way to increase market visibility.” Similarly, while marketing and IT might not be on the same page every time, you might notice shared responses like “increase funding and technology to improve the member experience” and “concerns about cyber security.”

Answering the critical question of “what’s really important to our credit union?” before your strategic planning session can vastly improve your planning experience. People will naturally pull for their own pet issues, but identifying commonly shared concerns beforehand allows you to give your strategic plan even sharper focus.