4 ways to encourage big-picture thinking

Create an environment that encourages strategic thinking, white paper advises.

December 4, 2019

Encouraging strategic thinking among staff first requires an environment and culture that inspires that mindset.

“Part of creating an environment where strategic thinking is encouraged requires buy-in from the entire team that good ideas can come from anywhere and that it’s OK to challenge the status quo,” says Sarah Brenner, vice president of marketing at $865 million asset Andigo Credit Union in Schaumburg, Ill.

Her comments appear in ”Inspiring Strategic Thinking,” a white paper from the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council. “You have to get comfortable with being thoughtfully challenged and entertaining alternate solutions to what you’re already doing.”

Four ways to create that type of environment:

1. Adapt the organizational structure

There’s no perfect organizational structure. But your credit union’s strategy, structure, operating model, and employee capabilities must fit together.

2. Give staff time

Completing daily tasks is essential, but so is emphasizing the importance of forward-thinking.

“Give staff time and space to build strategic conversations,” says Tansley Stearns, chief people and strategy officer at $2.6 billion asset Canvas Credit Union in Lone Tree, Colo. “If  we don’t nurture creative confidence the same way we do in completing daily tasks, we won’t achieve our goal to transform financial services.”

Tansley Stearns

‘Give staff time and space to build strategic conversations.’

Tansley Stearns

3. Solicit input

Encourage employees to share their ideas. This provides a sense of ownership and lets staff feel they are contributing.

At Andigo, Brenner gives each of her team members a creative idea journal to capture their thoughts about both what the team is doing and what it’s not doing but could be.

 “It’s another signal you want their ideas,” she says.

4. Create checkpoints

Strategy doesn’t end when you create a plan. Check in with team members regularly to evaluate the plan and have continuing strategic discussions.

CUNA Councils

These discussions will create a common language about strategic planning and will allow strategic concepts to take hold throughout the organization.

“Creating strategy is hard and messy,” Stearns says. “Communication must be simple. We keep our vision and strategy in the forefront of all we do, and all of our efforts cascade from that.”