Successful relationships require proactivity. If I don’t proactively schedule time with my wife, our relationship suffers. Successful health requires proactivity. If I don’t proactively plan nourishing meals, my overall health suffers. Successful leadership requires proactivity. If I don’t proactively invest in my team, the company suffers.

Strategic planning for credit unions and banks is no different.

If you want to have your best strategic planning session ever, you must be proactive rather than reactive. A great planning session is not going to just magically happen. Proactivity is required.

Strategic planning is a process, not a date on a calendar. It takes work long before participants begin the meeting.

So how do you make your next strategic planning session more proactive than reactive? Here are a few tips:

 

Start with a vision

Author Jim Collins famously says great companies “begin with the end in mind.” That is certainly the case when it comes to strategic planning. Executives and board members should always answer the question “What do we want from this session?” Proverbs says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” And when you don’t have a vision for your planning session, your strategic plan is going to perish.

 

Spend time reading prior to session

Participants should have a grasp on key issues well before the planning session begins. “What are the current trends?” and “What are other financial institutions doing to succeed?” are two questions everyone should know ahead of time. One of the best ways to gain that insight is to read blogs, books and industry white papers. For our strategic planning clients we provide a pre-planning session reading guide that contains key insights. While it takes less than 30 minutes to read our guide, it ensures attendees have a grasp of key topics.

 

Pick a focus or theme

From year to year each planning session is different. Or at least it should be. One way to ensure a different approach is to craft a different theme each year. Maybe pick a word or create a phrase. One year it could be “profitability” or “people” or “process.” With that example you could even combine the focus into all three: “People. Process. “Profitability.” However, when you know going in what the overall focus is going to be you are being proactive.

 

Have a pre-session session

Nothing prepares you for a meeting like another meeting. Okay, just kidding on that point. However, when it comes to planning sessions it isn’t always a bad idea to do a pre-session session. One of our most successful clients holds their planning session in the Fall. However, in May of each year they gather everyone together to set the table for that session. They discuss the agenda, key topics to cover, reports they want to see and other salient information. As I noted above, strategic planning is a process, not a date on a calendar.

 

The worst thing that can happen with strategic planning is to have participants show up unprepared. By following the above tips you are far more likely to have a proactive rather than reactive session.