What Strategic Planning is—and What it Ain’t

Do you mind if I ask what on Earth you think you’re doing?

I’m sorry, that was rude. I’m not trying to be nosy. But I couldn’t help noticing that you’re doing the old “Mission Statement, SWOT, and Goals” thing. That’s fine. I’m SURE you don’t think that’s the same thing as strategic planning.

Do you?

At least tell me you’re not taking last year’s budget and making alterations and calling THAT planning. Budgeting is not planning—and budgeting does NOT create results. Never has. Never will.

But you know that. Otherwise you’ll be like the 95 percent of banks who limp along with a plan and execution process that allows for nothing more than marginal results. And right when the economy is culling the herd. But that’s not you, I’m sure.

Is it? Oh dear.

Strategy clarifies how you will operate your bank. It answers the essential “WHY” questions: Why are we developing this product? Why are we setting this rate? Why are we marketing to these potential customers? Will these efforts produce results that are in line with our values?

So, how do you not fumble this year’s strategic planning process? Some key questions to ask:

Does your strategic plan only apply to the banking industry? Think of the highest performing companies, both within and outside your industry, that have created powerful and sustainable results. Don’t pick the same handful of strategies all banks pick.

Are you limiting yourself to only a few strategies bank-wide? Compile a list of 25 or more strategies. Then whittle it down to those implemented bank-wide and those that might only pertain to segments of your company.

Does your strategic plan act more as a paperweight than a useable document? Consolidate your core values, 3- to 5-year targets, 1-year goals and key initiatives and a few other keys items in bullet point form on one page to make your plan more useful.

Do you put together your budget and then write your strategic plan to fit the numbers? Bad Plan. Your strategic plan has to set the course—THEN you provide a budget to get you there financially.

Do you review your strategic plan more than just at the beginning and end of each fiscal year? Things change. The economy convulses. You lose a really big customer. You need to report out weekly on items and impacts to your quarterly plan.

Do you think strategic planning has to be boring? In fact, if you create a brain “state change” of fun and winning, the chances of a great plan and execution of it go up substantially.

Do you think that only the President and CEO are responsible for the plan’s success? While those at the top may organize the strategic planning process, accountability for the plan’s success should be assigned. Those accountable then delegate the implementation on down the line.

Competition for financial dollars is fierce. You need a strong, smart strategic process to pull out ahead of your competitors.

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