Like the swallows coming back to Capistrano in the spring, the return of 100 degree days in Texas in the summer and yet another terrible Transformers movie (for Pete’s sake, Hollywood, please just stop it) sometime during the year, it will soon be time for your annual bank or credit union strategic planning session.
Every year, key drivers of your financial institution gather around the table for a few days in an effort to plot a course for success and growth in the near future. They will discuss, debate and, eventually, set plans into motion. However, are these SMART goals?
As most executives know, SMART is an acronym that refers to specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable and timely. But how do these play out in real life for your strategic planning goals? Let’s take a fresh look at them.
Specific: Your strategic planning goals cannot be vague and nebulous. “We want to grow” is nowhere near as good as “we want to be X amount larger in these specific categories by a target date.” Without sufficient specificity, your strategic planning goals are about as useful as throwing cotton balls at Godzilla.
Measurable: Your goals must also have some standards against which you can measure to gauge success or failure (current fancy business jargon for this is “metrics”). However you define it, strategic goals do require measurement. Otherwise, you will never be able to come back to the same table in future years and say “yes, we can achieve this goal” or “no, we fell short.” Open and honest answers to this measurement question empower your bank or credit union for long-term success.
Actionable: Here, actionable refers to the actual practical value of your strategic planning goals. For example, you could probably put a Q*bert machine that all of your branch locations (much to the delight of your Gen X consumers and muster the confusion of your Millennials). However, the greater question is, “what is the value of this?” Whether you’re talking about a classic 80s videogame or your next big business development push, the principle is the same. Unless the strategic goal has practical value and potential benefit for your financial institution, what’s the point?
Reasonable: This is one of the hardest steps for banks or credit unions. Typically, we are terrific at adding items to the strategic planning to do list. However, we are as equally terrible at considering just how reasonable the goal is. Do you have limitless resources? Do you have a money tree growing in each branch? Is your staff willing to work 23 hours a day? Sometimes, strategic planning goals, when viewed realistically, are just not reasonable. It is not something you can accomplish with the resources at hand. Seriously consider whether or not it deserves a line-item in your strategic plan.
Timely: This examines time as a resource from a different perspective. Here, you are focusing not so much on available manpower or bandwidth but on “is this the right time to try to achieve this strategic goal?” The answer to this question is entirely dependent upon your bank or credit union’s current situation and goal in question. Examples could include “no, this is not the best year for us to consider a core conversion,” “yes, to grow and meet our goals it is time to put branding into the strategic plan,” and “why has it taken us this many years to actually put those Q*bert machines in the lobbies?”
Every year is another chance for your bank or credit union to make SMART decisions in its strategic planning process. Make this your year.