Understanding the Credit Union Strategic Planning Process

credit union strategic planning with cu 2.0

Read the whole credit union strategic planning guide here.

What is a credit union strategic planning process and why should you use one? What kinds of topics should you discuss? Who should be involved?

If you are a new credit union executive or are thinking of doing your first credit union planning session, read on! This article outlines the process and methodology that other successful credit unions use.

Credit Union Strategic Planning Process

A strategic plan is a key tool for your employees, leaders and board members to make sure everyone knows where the credit union is going and why. The strategic planning process is a series of steps your credit union takes to determine its:

  • Vision: the direction of your organization.
  • Mission: what you’re going to do and for whom.
  • Goals: how to measure it and guide your strategy to get to where you want to be.

But what is the point of credit union strategic planning? In our experience, there are five main reasons:

  1. Get your team on the same page. Everyone should be aligned with the credit union’s vision, mission, and goals.
  2. Maximize resources. Make sure that you’re not spending excess resources in one area at the expense of another.
  3. Prepare for the future. Understand trends, scenarios, and situations that might impact the credit union in the next few years.
  4. Assess solutions. Review potential tactics and determine the best ways to accomplish your goals.
  5. Solidify your strategy. Develop implementation plans and goals for your team.

The process used to create your credit union’s strategic plan is every bit as important as the plan itself. Then, the method for communicating, updating, and re-evaluating it is essential.

Ultimately, we all have more things we want to do than resources allow. Consequently, it’s important to prioritize and make tough choices that will can deliver and take your credit union to the next level.

Four Key Considerations

There are four questions you should ask before (or at the beginning of) any strategic planning session. Your answers to them should give you a solid outline by which to develop a plan. These questions are:

  1. How did our credit union get here today?
  2. Where do we want to go, and which milestones will we celebrate?
  3. What might get in our way?
  4. Which resources (people, budget, etc.) will we need to get there?

If you begin your credit union’s strategic planning process without answering these four questions, you may not get far. Or worse, you might finish your session only to find that your plan lack cohesion or definite direction. You wouldn’t want to be scattered or pulled in too many directions!

The Seven Steps to Credit Union Strategic Planning

The following are the main steps to the planning process:

1. Gather Inputs

In this first stage, gather what worked in the past. Compile performance data, staff surveys, member surveys, and more.

Also consider, what are the outside factors? Are there any community, political, SEG, economic, social, regulatory, or technological issues to worry about? What keeps you up at night?

Try a SWOT exercise. Review your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Make sure you know how all internal and external factors might impact your credit union.

2. Establish Vision

What will your credit union look like in five years?  What is the “Champagne moment” when you get there? Is it your number of members, your loan portfolio, etc.?

Why is this important? What will the impact be if you get there?

3. Review Mission

Why was your credit union created? What is your mission? Why is that important and who is it for?

CU 2.0 highly recommends creating a painted picture to reveal and expand on these key questions. As leaders, we feel often that we have better intuition—that in fact, we just know intuitively where we are going. But communication is critical! The painted picture helps the rest of your team understand your direction… and how they can help your credit union get there.

4. Determine Values

Every credit union should have explicit values. Furthermore, everyone at the credit union, from executives down to the tellers, should agree to and understand these values.

What are the values of your credit union? Is it “people helping people”? Is there more to it than that?

Consider as well, which behaviors do your best employees exhibit? What won’t be tolerated? What is it like to be an employee at your credit union?

5. Competition and Roadblocks

Unfortunately, the path forward is rarely straightforward. There are twists, turns, bumps, detours, and roadblocks. Failing to account for these issues will throw off the entire credit union strategic planning process.

Ask, what could go wrong? What might change in the marketplace? Which competitors should we watch and learn from? Which should we watch and avoid?

6. Priorities, Goals, and Tactics

This is where the fun begins. Take the big picture and tie it into your credit union’s strategic planning process.

Make a list of priorities and action plans that align with your vision. Prioritize the key items and build a timeline, goals, and measurements.

7. Communication Plan

Finally, it’s time to get everyone else on board. Ask, who needs to know? What should we communicate? What are the key milestones?

Build a communication plan to board members, employees, and members. It should let everyone know what’s coming, where you’re going, and how you’ll know when you get there.

Finding Credit Union Strategic Planning Facilitators

Kirk Drake and Chris Otey take a unique approach to planning sessions. Their goals are to deal with some of the real issues facing credit unions. These include:

  • Who is your ideal member?
  • How do we improve board governance?
  • How do we get our board to look more like our membership?
  • How do we deal with the onslaught of fintechs and technology?
  • How do we change our culture to be more like a fintech?

As author of multiple books about credit unions, technology, and strategy, head of a large tech CUSO, and founder of CU Wallet, Drake has great insights from both his time working at a credit union through his entrepreneurship and board experience.

As board chair of South Bay Credit Union and former CU Wallet and Fiserv executive, Chris has worked with hundreds of credit unions to help them deal with board governance, CUSOs, and other technology challenges.

Contact us to discuss if we’d be a good fit for your credit union’s next strategic planning session.

Want to know the other options in the industry?  Click here for the Facilitators Guide

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