Strategic planning sessions should never be the same. But all too often they can devolve into a repeat of previous years. Even the usual exercises, like the SWOT analysis, are overused tools that result in a boring session.

Rather than repeat the same process, maybe it’s time to flip your planning session. In other words, “flip” your session so that it starts before the event.

Flipping your planning session actually begins with a mindset. Way too many credit unions and banks think of strategic planning as a “session” or a “date” on the calendar. It is neither. Strategic planning is a process. Understanding that concept means you can change how you plan.

Here are three ways to “flip” your planning session:

  • Conduct a pre-session—If you are only devoting one day a year to strategic planning, then your process is flawed. Rather than trying to cram everything into one day or even a day and half, consider doing a pre-session “session” so to speak. These typically take place several months before the actual session and help resolve some key issues, such as overall vision, direction and issues that must be addressed.
  • Read key material—Have you ever experienced one of those sessions where some of the people attending didn’t have a clue what is going on in the industry? One way to avoid that challenge is to “flip” your session and require participants to read select content ahead of time. And by this we don’t mean the usual financial reports or MCIF data. As an example, for our clients we prepare a pre session packet of four or five short articles regarding key issues challenging the financial services industry. These help ensure our clients are prepared for high-level strategic discussions.
  • Survey participants—The first time participants are exposed to addressing key issues should never be the “day of” the event. Rather, gather their thoughts ahead of time by asking important questions. Not sure what you should ask? Then check out these 10 questions to ask at your planning session. Compile the answers either on flip charts or a PowerPoint so that when attendees gather for the actual meeting you don’t waste precious time. In essence you have “flipped” much of the work.

The most successful financial institutions plan all year long. If you want to follow that same pattern, then begin by flipping your strategic planning session. For more information about On The Mark Strategies trademarked strategic planning process, click here.