In this installment we’ll examine the final five tips to help improve your strategic planning process. We hope you’ve enjoyed the series and can apply these easy tips towards improving the strategic planning function at your own credit union.

This installment’s tips include:

  1. Keep up to date about the industry. The key here is reading. Learn to cultivate an appetite for reading and build time into your day to devote to it. Read important credit union news sources, like Credit Union Times and Credit Union Journal. You can also follow credit union news aggregators like CU Water Cooler and CU Insight. And remember to check out the popular works in the general business and/or marketing sections of your local bookstore (or online at sites like and
  2. Know the difference between trends and fads. And there is a difference. Trends can be observed and predicted (like the explosion of cellular communications and home PCs in the 1980s and 1990s). Fads, on the other hand, come and go with little predictability (think of things like Furby, Hammer Pants and line dancing). Base your credit union’s future progress on trends, not fads.
  3. Conduct some pre-work prior to the session. This helps save time during the actual meetings and focuses the groups’ energy in the best places. You can easily save 2-3 hours of valuable meeting time by having attendees complete the usual SWOT analysis beforehand.
  4. Don’t focus on the numbers. Numbers are just measurements and measurements are not necessarily strategic. Some planning sessions take hours (or days) talking about ratios, numbers and balance sheets. There’s nothing strategic about that. Numbers can be misleading and you cannot measure true success on a simple spreadsheet.
  5. Get away. Your strategic planning sessions will almost always be more productive if you move them away from the office or boardroom. There’s something special and inspirational about being away from the routine. While your budget may not allow you to do this every year, finding a nice alternative location for your strategic planning session can pay big dividends.

Thanks for following this series of easy tips on ways to help improve your credit union’s strategic planning process. As always, we welcome your feedback and ideas. Please feel free to post and let us know your thoughts…please share your insights by posting a comment and joining the conversation.

Mark Arnold, CCUE, is an acclaimed speaker, brand expert and strategic planner. He is also president of On the Mark Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in branding and strategic planning. Some of the services Mark provides include strategic planning, brand planning, leadership/management training, marketing planning and staff training. His web address is and his blog is You can also contact him at 214-538-4147 or