This past year, I sent my oldest off to college for the first time. Amid the tears (ours) and shouts of joy (hers) there was much hard work, paperwork and check writing involved to get her to this point. And while we want her to celebrate what she has already accomplished, we also want her to focus on the details needed to get her to the next milestone - College Graduation. Fortunately, she does have a mandatory Strategy 101 class that – among other things - requires her to map out her course schedule for the next four years. The focus is not to create a roadmap that she should not deviate from, but rather to get her thinking about how to build in nice-to-haves (study abroad), plan for some "what-ifs" (change of interests), and to regularly check back in to see if she is staying on course or needs to alter her path.
Reflecting on this reminded me of strategic planning that organizations go through – or should go through – regularly.
- We all need to reflect on the past, and appreciate what got us to where we are now - some "pat on the back" recollections or "let’s not do that again" memories.
- We need to set a big picture goal for the future – do we want to grow or shrink? Introduce new products or enter new markets? How will we respond to Industry trends? Be a leader or a follower?
- We need to break that big goal down into meaningful steps along the way – short term targets, medium term objectives, and strategies to get us to our long term goals.
- We need to review this plan regularly and make changes along the way.
Charting a course – whether to College Graduation in 4 years or building shareholder value for your organization – requires long-term planning and regular check-ups. And while we all know we need to do this, getting the momentum to get this started can be the biggest hurdle. We don’t have a Strategic Planning for Communtiy Banks 101 class that forces us to sit down and get this done, but we do have a fiscal responsibility to our shareholders, pressure from the regulators, and the general knowledge that this is a good idea for our long-term success.