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Strategic plans: Focus on your goals for 2013
MADISON, Wis. (1/2/13)--The calendar has flipped to a new year. Credit unions have spent hours and dollars preparing their strategic plans, but daily tasks and to-do lists are likely distracting credit unions from their plan. In 2013, credit unions will need to stay focused on those plans to make sure their plan works.

Mark Arnold of the Louisiana-based On the Mark Strategies offered four tips to assist credit unions in meeting their strategic planning goals for the new year. At least two leagues--Texas and Delaware--have noted his tips in their newsletters (Lone Star Leaguer Dec. 21 and Together Dec. 31).

His advice:

  • Stay focused. "Don't start the new year chasing wild geese," Arnold said.  Although strategic plans have flexibility built into them so the credit union can pursue worthy projects, credit unions must stay true to their plan. "The question shouldn't be 'Can you do this project?' but 'Should you do this project?'" Does the new project fit into your plans and goals?  Arnold also cautioned against managing by crisis; putting out little fires diminishes accomplishing the goals.
  • Commit budget dollars. Allocate sufficient resources--both dollars and manpower--to the goals. Don't expect great results without realistic funding.
  • Follow up and measure.  Review the strategic plan and goals at least monthly, if not more often. Review important data like timetables and who is responsible for what action items. Update the status of each goal to determine overall progress. "One cardinal rule of strategic planning is 'What is not measured is not accomplished,'" said Arnold. "Follow up on your strategic plan, or it will die," much like a neglected houseplant in the office.
  • Motivate staff. Strategic plans are not just for the executive management or board level. They will be driven by the credit union's staff, especially the front-line staff.  Staff not only have to buy into the plan; they have to live it. Some credit unions provide all staff with a laminated index card "cheat sheet" with the top three to five strategic goals so staff can refer back to it often. Use staff meetings to remind employees of the importance of the strategic plan, and provide updates on the goals' progress. "Your front-line staff will help make or break the strategic plan, so keep them accountable by keeping them updated and involved," said Arnold.


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