Planning Process 2009.001I’ve been getting quite a few requests to facilitate planning sessions lately. It’s that time of year. Time to plan for our future. 

Which made me rethink my process completely. I have never SWOT-ted people (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). I think that’s kind of a waste of time. Why? Because I usually see the same answers:

Strengths – Our board. Our employees. Our members.

Weaknesses – Branch locations. Technology. Training.

Opportunities – Technology!

Threats – Economy. Regulation. Banks.

Instead I take a broader approach and talk about reputation. How do you really differentiate yourself in your marketplace? SIDEBAR: My definition of differentiation – especially now that credit unions can compete with each other – something your competition cannot easily copy

This year I think we need to talk about values. And not in a touchy- feely sort of way. If you have a values statement on the wall, I would pack it up and carry it along to your retreat. Then I would take a good long look at each word and describe how you practice that value. How do you measure it? Are you just paying lip service to some?

Let’s say you value “integrity.” That’s a powerful word.  

in-teg-ri-ty (noun): the quality of being honest and having strong morale principles

And forgive me, but based on the many comments on my Reputation Killer post I have to ask this. Let’s say you adopted the courtesy pay program that allows a member to “see” their courtesy pay availability on their ATM receipt. Does that fit your declared value of integrity? Are you running the fine line between educating the member and avoiding disclosure requirements? Imagine how lively that discussion would be? 

I totally agree with Carla Day’s comment. 

Over the years, it seems that there are becoming two distinct groups of credit unions that I like to call “credit union” credit unions and “bank” credit unions. The former really do look out for the best interest of their members and their members are their mission. The latter use the big bad banks as an excuse to promote programs that hurt members. They are doing it and want a piece of that pie. For example, if we don’t have courtesy pay and charge $32 each time, we can’t offer online banking, bill payer, mobile banking, etc.

What’s your credit union’s moral compass? What’s your filter for making decisions? Just the bottom line? I know it’s tempting in these times, but the purpose of planning is to look down the road – 100 years. 

We just celebrated the first 100 – what will the next look like?

Where’s a wealthy Boston merchant when you need one? 

NOTE: The quote at the beginning of this post comes from an amazing artist and story teller. Check him out at