Business People Meeting Planning Analysis Statistics Brainstorming ConceptDon’t let the title fool you…I’m not telling you that your credit union should not conduct planning sessions.

I’m telling you why you may need to change the way your credit union executes them.

Frankly, some credit unions (and other businesses) just don’t do planning sessions well.

It’s not that they don’t try. It’s that their day to day operational issues keep them from focusing on actually planning the planning session (and by planning, I don’t mean deciding where the planning session will be held, what you’re going to eat, or who will be on your golf team).

Don’t get me wrong. There is a time and place to discuss these things, but they should not take the place of the real work that has to be done before the planning session takes place.

For example, every productive planning session needs data. It’s impossible to make accurate, informed decisions without key information like how your credit union is performing in key areas, the status of your industry, how your credit union relates to is external environment, and so on.

You need the input of your key stakeholders (aka the staff members in the trenches who work with your members and hear their feedback daily). What do they know that can help your board create a vision for the future of your credit union?

Also, who will facilitate your planning session and what other outside speakers will you bring in to provide the necessary perspective that insiders can’t bring to the table?

These details matter!

Without them and without people who can provide different points of view, your strategic planning sessions are less about strategy and more about speculation.

Here are more tips for helping make your planning sessions more productive.

First, your board and leadership team must share a common objective to engage in strategic discussion and make decisions that are in the best interest of the credit union and its future. All too often, people view planning sessions as a necessary evil. The result is a planning session that becomes an item to check off the to-do list instead of a productive exercise in creating a vision and making tough decisions.

Don’t place unrealistic time limits on your strategic discussions. Effective planning doesn’t just happen during the planning session. It happens before the session and after the session, as well. Capture important ideas and relevant thoughts at the planning session, and use those to continue the discussions necessary to put your plan into action.

Look at the BIG picture…the important strategic issues facing your credit union now and in the future. Don’t get mired down on short-term operational issues or minor details. Those are things you can discuss later before the plan is finalized.

At the same time, don’t spend all your time generating ideas. Be prepared and willing to make difficult decisions. Narrow down that list of ideas based on a reasonable number of focus areas.

Allow decisions to be made using data analysis, rigorous debate, and critical thinking skills….not your gut feeling.

I’ll be honest…the things that limit the effectiveness of planning sessions are not always as apparent as those identified. Sometimes the real problem lies in the small details and little things no one considered.

However, all of these things work and will better position your credit union to conduct a more productive planning session that produces real results.

When you enter into the process with that in mind, the outcome of your efforts will have more impact in shaping the future of your credit union.