Smartphone with city map application and marker pin pointer on phone screenThis post authored by Colleen Cormier, Account Executive for On The Mark Strategies.


I found a new feature on Google Maps a few weeks ago that made me think of strategic planning. I was on the road headed to pick up my child from summer camp – a two-hour drive from home – and was using Google Maps as my guide.

About 20 minutes into my journey, the voice on the app said something I wasn’t expecting: “There is an accident a mile ahead of you that will delay your trip by 10 minutes. We have found a new route. If you would like us to reroute you, press accept.”  I did, and sure enough, I drove right around the accident and stayed on course. I used the same app on the way home (which was in the middle of rush hour traffic on a Friday afternoon), and it did the same thing. It changed my route completely based on high traffic flow and got me home at least an hour earlier than expected.

I honestly had no idea Google Maps had such advanced real-time navigation capabilities. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an app like this for our strategic plans?

“Your core employee group will have a huge lay-off in three months. We have found a new strategy for your credit union. If you would like us to reroute your strategy, press accept.”

“Your competitor is about to merge with another financial institution and will double its branch presence. We have found a new strategy for your credit union. If you would like us to reroute your strategy, press accept.”

In his book Strategy is Like Pizza, Gerald Nanninga uses driving as an analogy to demonstrate how businesses can build GPS-like capabilities into their strategic plans:

  1. Aim High on Steering

The further out you set your sites on the road, the better your chances of anticipating blips on the radar that could slow you down or cause an accident. The same is true in strategic planning. When you plan several years in advance, you are better able to adjust to a curve in the road. Often, the destination is still the same. You just have to take a new route to get there.

  1. Keep Your Eyes Moving

Drivers shouldn’t only look forward. They also need to look in their mirrors from time to time. Translated to strategy, that means to look in many different directions. Know what your competition is up to. Know what consumers are seeking. Also, don’t drive with your head down. There is such a thing as too much data. If your people are so bogged down in data, they get stuck in the present and have a hard time looking to the future.

  1. Get the Big Picture

We drive better when we can adjust our driving to different conditions – pavement, weather, obstacles in the road and even time of day. The same is true of strategic planning. When you put all of your data into one big picture, you are more prepared to adjust to unexpected obstacles. Understanding the context surrounding strategy creates a better strategic process.

  1. Make Sure Others See You

Being in another driver’s blind spot is dangerous. The same holds true when you keep your employees in the dark about your credit union’s strategy. Employees cannot execute tasks and achieve goals if they don’t know where your credit union is headed. You should also use your strategy to make your brand known in the marketplace. Never assume people know who you are.

Your credit union may not have an app that will instantly veer you back on course after you hit an obstacle, but following these tips will help you build contingencies into your plan that will help your organization adjust as needed.