5 steps to prepare for strategy sessions

5 steps to prepare for strategy sessions

Do work ahead of time to lay the groundwork for the planning session.

February 27, 2020

Just like every credit union is unique, every strategic planning session must be tailored to meet your credit union’s needs.

Planning must take into account not only the credit union’s characteristics—asset size, marketplace, business model, field of membership, and degree of financial capacity—but also characteristics of the planning session itself—how often it’s held, whether it’s held on- or off-site, who is invited, and whether it’s facilitated or self-led.

While approaches differ, the intent of a strategic planning session remains the same: to build financial, member, and experiential value.

Here are five ways to ensure a successful planning session and process:

Directors NL subscribe1. Read up. Be a student of the industry. Subscribe to email news feeds and review state and national trade association websites. Build board-directed education sessions into board meetings. Join webinars, attend conferences, and earn certifications when resources allow. You serve your board well by expanding your understanding and involvement. And you serve the CEO competently by being better prepared to participate in and support the strategic planning process.

2. Shape the agenda. Before the meeting, survey board members to determine what topics, trends, and opportunities they would like to discuss. Look for common themes in the responses and incorporate three or four issues into the agenda. While educational in purpose, you may also discover the board’s areas of interest coincide with or further develop strategic initiatives.

3. Think forward. Last year’s results are in the books. Next year’s outcomes should be in the works. Instead of focusing on how your credit union serves its current 25,000 members, focus on how it should serve the next 25,000 members. What investments, infrastructure, and intelligence will be necessary to move forward? Ask your CEO for information and scenarios that reveal the road ahead.

‘There are no shortcuts to strategy or productive planning.’
Jeff Rendel

4. Expect a few strategic priorities. Your CEO likely has a handful of strategic priorities to address with the board for alignment, refinement, and approval. Your responsibility is to ensure these priorities are safe, sound, reasonable, and relevant for members. Focusing on three or four priorities provides enough room for success but allows your CEO to maintain focus and deliver material results.

5. Expect evolutionary change. Business models rarely switch overnight, but continuous improvement in access, delivery, engagement, and marketing remains constant. As a board, ask your CEO what changes the credit union needs for continued success and to serve members’ best interests. A consistent approach to renewal and reinvestment keeps your credit union top of mind—and wallet.

Hard work is a requirement for board service.

Members expect you to be their voice, and they deserve that for choosing your credit union over other providers.

There are no shortcuts to strategy or productive planning. Ask your CEO to focus on areas that provide the greatest return to members.

As a board, focus on activities and actions that provide the greatest return on its investment in strategic planning. Your members benefit from having a relevant credit union. Your CEO benefits from a well-informed and engaged board.

And your board benefits from focusing on member service and success.

JEFF RENDEL is president of Rising Above Enterprises ( Contact him at

This article initially appeared in Credit Union Directors Newsletter, which provides strategic insights for policymakers. Subscribe now to the print or PDF version.