A New Napkin: The Strategic Map



When devising a strategic plan, does your credit union opt for the impromptu napkin route or the multi-paged written binder. Neither approach is ideal. The Strategic Map provides a happy medium between the two. This two-sided one-pager combines the simplicity of the napkin with the sophistication of the lengthy physical document.

With Strategic Planning Season, as I like to call it, right around the corner, I thought this is the perfect time to share one of my favorite tools: the Strategic Map. While I’m a big fan of the value of the napkin as a tool to record the impromptu strategy for a new venture or new program, it’s a temporary tool at best. Napkins get wet. They get ripped. They get left in the pocket of a pair of pants that gets thrown into the wash. All of which has happened to me before.

The other extreme is to compile one of those 150-page strategic plan binders. The value of the traditional written plan has come into question in recent years. I would argue that there is still value in the process if your credit union is actually going to use such a document as a tool and not just something you can throw at the regulator and say, “See, we have a strategy!” For me, I’m one of those crazy people who actually will take a 150-page plan off the shelf and use it as a tool on a regular basis.

Case in point, when I had the pleasure of leading five credit union professionals a number of years back, we compiled a 90-page plan for the year. We included everything of a critical nature: organization drivers, brand elements, goals, individual objectives, event calendars and much more. I brought that binder to every meeting. That plan was used as a valuable tool. We would refer to it when we got stuck on a topic or idea. It helped us to remember the “big picture” as well as our logic when we compiled it.

With each meeting, that physical plan became even more valuable as I wrote notes on it. I crossed things out. I switched things around with arrows. We used that physical plan not as a set of directives that were set in stone but as a foundation with which to make decisions throughout the year. There were times we changed an objective because, while our original logic was sound, our environment or opportunity had changed. Having the written plan in front of us allowed us to build upon that original logic, rather than just discounting it or, worse, forgetting it all together.

Today, however, I find that getting clients to actually bring their written strategic plan to executive and board meetings takes an act of God. This is somewhat understandable. Who really wants to carry around a binder to a meeting like a teenager in high school between periods rushing to class?

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