Looking for a good strategic plan, or perhaps a clear strategic direction? Let Glatt Consulting guide your credit union’s leadership team through a relevant and effective strategic planning process. 18 years of experience guarantees you will get lasting results!
Glatt Consulting offers credit union leaders a proven strategic planning process designed to uncover and solidify:
- Organizational priorities;
- Financial health and performance expectations;
- Strategies that best support priorities and financial performance expectations;
- Operational tactics that best support strategies.
In this post we explore the basics of our process, outlining how we go about delivering quality planning results for our credit union clients.
Our planning process consists of four defined phases, each building upon the previous phase and contributing to the accomplishments defined above. These phases include:
- Pre-Planning Discovery
- A Board/Management Session
- A Management Session
- Final Plan Presentation, Discussion and Ratification
Let’s explore each phase, starting with what we do before any planning meetings occur – pre-planning discovery.
Planning is really about finding leadership consensus on what an organization should be about, its priorities, and what should act as constraints as it fulfills its priorities – in particular, the constrains defined by financial health and performance expectations.
Before any planning session meeting occurs, we want to understand the breadth of leadership opinions on organizational priorities and financial expectations. We also want to understand if there is any degree of consensus in either of these areas. Such knowledge is important for one simple reason – if helps define the starting discussion point for the planning meetings themselves.
We determine the nature and level of consensus through the use of a two-part pre-session survey. The first part captures input on organizational priorities, the second part offers an opportunity for ranking these priorities as well as an opportunity to define financial performance expectations. The end-result survey report tells us whether we have consensus on priorities and where the general expectations are with regard to financial performance.
In order to identify organizational priorities, an activity in part one of our survey process, we ask individual participants to list everything they think should be a strategic priority for the organization. This is opinion-sharing in the least-threatening environment – we collect opinions via an electronic survey completed at the leisure of individual participants in the comfort of their own home or office.
Once all participants complete the part one survey, we collect all of the organizational priority suggestions, consolidate like ideas and concepts, and load the list into our survey system for part two of the survey process.
Part two involves two survey activities (delivered at the same time). In the first activity, participants are asked to rank the degree of importance for each priority using a 0-5 scale, with 0 being not at all important and 5 being extremely important.
In the second activity, identifying financial performance expectations, we make use of our HealthScore system to allow participants to easily “pick” their perspective on just where certain financial benchmarks and measurements should be set. Our HealthScore system scores financial performance in eleven different financial metrics, and also tracks an overall health score. We use a five-point scale, with 0 being the least healthy and 5 being the most healthy.
To complete this second activity, we present the credit union’s latest HealthScores along with score background information, and simply ask participants where the scores “should be” for each measurement using our 0-5 scale. For board members especially, selecting a health score benchmark on a scale of 0-5 is a much easier starting point than defining whether a particular ratio should 50 basis points or 55 basis points.
As mentioned earlier, planning is about finding leadership consensus on organizational priorities and on the constraints used to guide the fulfillment of priorities. The survey process is designed to determine the level of consensus on specific organizational priorities as well as on financial performance expectations, and the survey report, generated following the completion of the survey process, is an invaluable planning session preparation tool we share with all session participants.
In addition to the survey data, session participants are presented with a challenge question designed to uncover required strategies or organizational priorities – depending on the nature of the survey responses.
For example, if the survey data shows some degree of consensus on priorities and financial performance, we will ask participants to think about, research, and/or identify the broad strategies that might be required to support those priorities. If, on the other hand, there is little or no consensus on priorities and financial performance, we will ask participants to think about and/or identify which of the listed priorities are, and which are not, appropriate for the organization’s consideration.
In all cases we will also provide supplemental information designed to expand participant thinking about the nature of, and future opportunities associated with, the organization’s core business and range of priorities.
At this point we will be ready for an in-depth facilitated discussion about organizational priorities and strategy, which brings us to the second phase in our planning process – the board and management planning session.
Board and Management Planning Session
Prior to the meeting, participants will have received a report highlighting the range of participant opinions regarding organizational priorities, and illustrating whether there exists any consensus on the importance of certain priorities over others. Participants will also have been challenged to give thought to the kinds of strategies supportive of the array of priorities, and perhaps will have some defined ideas on the specific strategies worth pursuing.
Our task at the planning meeting, which should be attended by all board members as well as members of the senior management team, will be to utilize the outcome of the first phase of the planning process to engage in in-depth discussion and decision-making regarding the organization’s true priorities and strategic focus.
While client planning session agendas and discussion topics tend be unique to client circumstances, business, priorities, etc., there are certain “big picture” questions we drive participants to answer during most sessions we facilitate. These questions include:
- What are our real priorities, and what is the level of importance of each to the organization?
- What “unimportant” priorities can we remove from our realm of focus?
- Given our most important priorities, what strategies/market options exist to support them?
- Which of these strategies most effectively support our priorities?
- How much are we willing to spend/risk in support of our strategies, and by extension our priorities?
As facilitators, it is our objective to ensure that at the end of a session in which we focus participant efforts on answering these types of questions, the organization possesses a clear consensus on:
- The organization’s true priorities and the relative importance of each priority;
- The strategies required to support those priorities;
- The level of spending/risk the organization is willing to tolerate in support of the identified strategies and priorities.
The consensus decisions in these areas not only define the organization’s strategic focus, they also serve as a framework within which the management team must work to develop relevant, supportive execution strategy. This leads to the next phase of our planning process, the management planning session.
Management Planning Session
At this point the management team, having been a participant in the discussions and decisions regarding organizational priorities and strategy, will possess a firm understanding of and commitment to organizational expectations. Their task during the management planning session will be to define the specific actions required to fulfill these expectations.
While management discussion/planning session agendas and discussion topics tend be unique to client circumstances, business, the outcome of the board/management session, etc., there are certain “big picture” questions we tend to drive participants to answer during any session. These questions include:
- What actions are required to support our priorities and strategies in such areas as:
- Firm infrastructure;
- Human resources;
- Technology development;
- Marketing and Sales;
- With regard to the actions required to support our priorities and strategies, of those that we currently engage in, what do we do well? What do we not do well?
- Of those actions we do not do well, what do we need to do to improve?
- Of those actions we do not currently engage in, what is required to implement/support these actions?
- Of those actions we currently engage in, what are not required given our “new” priorities and strategies? Can we eliminate these actions?
As facilitators, it is our objective to ensure that at the end of a session in which we focus participant efforts on answering these types of questions, the management team possesses a clear consensus on:
- The tactical/operational actions required to support organizational priorities and strategies, and how such actions will be implemented and/or improved;
- The tactical/operational actions that will be eliminated.
With the end of the management planning session comes the need for the board and management team to review the whole plan in context, which brings us to the final phase of the planning process – plan presentation, discussion and ratification.
Plan Presentation, Discussion and Ratification
A strategic plan is simply the collection of decisions a board and management team make with regard to the priorities, strategies, and actions on which the organization will focus. Therefore, the end result of the first three phases of the planning process is the strategic plan. However, because the management phase of the process will have been completed without board involvement, it is critical to share with the board the “final” plan, including management decisions. Such sharing allows the board to discuss the complete set of decisions, and for the management team to gain final affirmation of plan content and approval for plan execution.
This is an important step that should not be overlooked as it provides an opportunity to remind everyone, board and management, of the commitments the organization is making and to which all will be held accountable.
Regardless of how the meeting is coordinated, the culmination of this “final” planning phase should be the full blessing of the plan by board and management, and a charge to the management team to execute the plan.
Subsequent Year Planning
Plans can change year-to-year, with the greatest change typically at the action plan level and the least change at the priority level. It is important, however, to ensure a proper review even of the areas least likely to change to ensure that the organization is properly focused.
The support we provide to subsequent year planning efforts follows a process similar to what has been described, but with subtle modifications as follows:
Phase 1: Pre-Planning Discovery
Rather than “brainstorm” organizational priorities, we ask participants to re-rank the importance of existing priorities (if necessary) and to assess the performance of the organization in terms of its priorities. We also ask participants to suggest new priorities, if any are believed to be required. Finally we ask participants to review financial performance and confirm, or redefine if necessary, financial performance benchmarks/expectations.
Phase 2: Board/Management Session
In this phase we still seek to challenge organizational priorities, working to ensure they are the right priorities for the organization. However, we spend more time discussing organizational strategy, including defining the strategies that remain relevant, identifying new “required” strategies, and eliminating strategies no longer relevant and/or that have been completed.
Phase 3: Management Session
Very little changes with regard to the process used for this phase. The end result objective remains valid from year-to-year, which is to define the actions required to support priorities and organizational strategy. To spark effective discussion, we may use a different set of challenge questions and methods.
Schedule Your Planning Session
Interested in putting this process to work for your credit union? Have additional questions? Use one of these three methods to contact Glatt Consulting: