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Top 7 Reasons Strategic Plans Fail


March 2014 – Vol: 37 No. 3
by Lisa Hochgraf

Are these getting in the way of moving your credit union forward?

March 17, 2014

Ancin Cooley answers a question from Execu/Summit® attendee John Collins earlier this month in Vail, Colo.

Ancin Cooley answers a question from Execu/Summit® attendee John Collins earlier this month in Vail, Colo.

Last Tuesday, Ancin Cooley asked attendees of CUES’ Execu/Summit what things they hated most about the strategic planning process at their credit unions. Principal of Synergy Credit Union Consulting, Elgin, Ill., Cooley got such answers as “being involved in a long process, but not really being able to give effective input” and “wondering whether any of the great ideas surfaced will actually get implemented.”

Cooley underscored the idea that a key way credit unions fall down with their strategic planning is in clearing roadblocks to actual execution. He identified seven top reasons CU strategic plans fail:

7. Overuse of strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats analysis. “You know these already,” Cooley said. Instead of spending a lot of time redoing a SWOT, make sure you spend some time translating strategy into execution.

6. Managers afraid to speak truth to power. Cooley said credit union leaders often tell him they have ideas about how to fix problems, but no opportunity to share them. An important goal is to get more individuals involved. Cooley suggested creating small groups of up-and-coming managers to identify and report back to senior management about issues that should be worked on and ideas for solutions. “They want to feel engaged, that they’re contributing, that they’re noticed, that their job is meaningful,” he said.

5. The problem is in the room. “When we do strategic planning, someone brings out a great idea, but you always know who the heavy is in the room,” Cooley said. “People check to see if that person is nodding, maybe a particular member of management. That may be the individual that’s holding the institution back.” To move forward you have to move through having one person holding things up because of things such as vested interests, detailed in the next item.

4. Unspoken vested interests. Maybe a loan officer is interested in growing the loan portfolio in a particular area, or keeping a particular individual happy. “You have to lay those out on the table” if you want to implement strategy, Cooley said.

3. Constant fire drills. Are your CU’s leaders managers or fire fighters? If they’re fire fighters, they’re not really delegating, and not training people properly, Cooley said. “If you’re putting out small fires, you’re not taking care of the big picture. You need to empower individuals” so they can carry out the strategic plan.

2. Lack of project management skills. Strategic plans need to be broken down into a framework with accountability, Cooley said. If your credit union needs to implement an appraisal review process, someone needs to own that. Make sure there’s a project charter and a project management plan.

1. Poor talent management. Sometimes the plan isn’t flawed, but the wrong people are in place to implement the plan.

Lisa Hochgraf is a CUES editor.

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