What is the Value of a Strategic Plan?


Jim Blaine, former CEO of State Employees Credit Union North Carolina wrote, “Credit union strategic planning is about as useful as Bermuda’s long-rang plan for global domination.”

Some very successful CEOs have focused on operational performance as the best road to the future. And done very well.

The role of the plan

Most credit unions will not follow Jim’s observation. Planning is an annual ritual, often the key part of a board retreat.

These plans are a way of communicating within the organization and when necessary, to external stakeholders.

What matters, however, is performance results, not the paper intentions. Until outcomes are identified and tracked, a plan can be just a political exercise.

The benefit of paper  

Many plans describe strategic priorities, projects, and projections. The test of these goals should be the questions they appear to respond to, if not stated outright. Questions can be concrete or qualitative.

For example: how do I know if my credit union is becoming more or less relevant in my members’ lives? What advantages of cooperative design can we use more fully? How does my team show pride in what they do? What is the basis for our future confidence?

Leadership is asking the right questions about the short and long term. Around 1983-1984, credit unions began asking the NCUA if there was a better way to reach the 1% equity goal for the NCUSIF besides double premiums? That questioning led to a unique cooperative-inspired outcome.

Answers may be uncertain, but the first step in ongoing success is at least looking in the right direction.


  • Chip Filson

    A nationally recognized leader in the credit union industry, Filson is an astute author, frequent speaker, and consultant for the credit union movement. He has more than 40 years of experience in government, financial institutions, and business. Chip co-founded Callahan and Associates. Filson has held concurrent positions at the NCUA as president of the Central Liquidity Facility and Director of the Office of Programs, which includes the NCUSIF and the examination process. He holds a magna cum laude undergraduate degree in government from Harvard University. After being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, he earned a master’s degree in politics, philosophy, and economics from Oxford University in England. He also holds an MBA in management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School in Chicago.

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