If done correctly, strategic planning for credit unions is a blast.

 

It’s always great to carve out time to discuss the future and how your organization is going to accomplish its strategic initiatives. However, if you’re not careful, strategic planning can become routine or formulaic. Talk about your numbers. Complete the SWOT (which we don’t recommend doing). Set some goals.

 

But as Proverbs says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” 

 

Strategic planning for credit unions is a process—not a date on a calendar. With that in mind, there is a new exercise we are recommending some of our clients complete before the actual planning session:

 

Vision Casting and Strategic Planning for Credit Unions

 

While vision is certainly something discussed during the planning session, those talks can sometimes get tactical. You don’t even have to do vision casting every single year and not every person should complete it. In fact, I recommend C-suite executives do vision casting on “monumental” dates. These could include key moments like your five or ten year work anniversary. Or maybe three years before your retirement.

 

Why is casting a vision so important? Because when your vision expands, your credit union or community bank expands. Think now what your organization will look like in the next five or ten years. 

 

And then act as if that vision were a reality. We push our clients to start acting now like they already are the size they are striving to become. For example, a $500 million institution should already be acting like a $750 million organization because that is their vision. Don’t wait until you are your desired size. Have the vision and then take the actions as if the vision already were a reality.

 

When you do vision casting, carve out some time to think and reflect. Maybe even get away from the office if possible. Take a journal or a laptop. Answer some key questions.

 

Here are key steps you can take to cast your milestone vision:

 

1. Celebrate the wins

While casting a vision is all about the future, don’t forget about the past. Think of all the great things you, your leadership team and your organization have accomplished in the past several years. This is a critical first step because it’s easy in the day to day just to go, go and go. Pause. Reflect. Celebrate. 

 

2. Lessons learned

What insights have you gained in the past few years? If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. More than likely, you’ve taken some risks that didn’t go the way you expected. That’s okay. A wise friend once told me that you learn more from your failures than your successes. Keep in mind that not all “lessons” are failures either. But more than likely, you can make a pretty sound list of what you’ve learned lately.

 

3. Paint a picture of what the next 10 years looks like

Now we get to the “meat” of the exercise. This is where you really cast your vision. During this step you describe what you want your credit union or community bank to be during that given time period. These items could include numbers, financials, size, type of employees, branches, brand, philosophy, work place environment, key issues, etc. For example, during their recent vision casting exercise one CEO tackled five key areas: mortgage strategy, merger strategy, auto loan strategy, technology strategy, out of state strategy and commercial strategy. Your key items and issues will be different. Think like an artist: start with a blank canvas and start painting.

 

4. Make a list of your next inspired actions

If you stop with just casting the vision, your work is not done. Once that vision is set, you must answer the question, “what is the next immediate step we must accomplish?” In fact, it doesn’t matter what you say today, it matters what you do tomorrow. For example, if part of your vision casting is to become a more digital organization, then maybe some of your next inspired actions could include closing some of your non-performing branches, updating your core system and hiring a true digital expert to lead your strategy.

 

Growth will not happen automatically or by osmosis. It requires intentionality. The first step to that growth is casting the vision.

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