Mediocrity: a quality that is adequate or acceptable, but not very good. There are very few instances, if any, where mediocrity is tolerable, especially in our industry. Yet, so many strategic plans are mediocre. Not bad…but not very good.

No one chooses mediocrity, but many choose to accept it.

Now is the time to take a look at your strategic plan and ask, “Is my plan merely mediocre, or is it a plan that will lead to greatness?” Setting the strategic direction of your bank must be nothing short of spectacular.

As a board, it’s your responsibility to set the overall direction. Without a clear, compelling, and specific vision of the future, captured in your strategic plan, executives and staff may “make it up as they go.” Not for lack of competence, but for lack of clarity. High-performance banking isn’t improv. Strong performance flows from actionable scripting.

For over 16 years, I have been in bank boardrooms and served as a strategic facilitator. During that time, hundreds of passive, pieced-together plans have come across my desk. Here are the six guaranteed signs of a mediocre strategic plan:

1. The plan fails to capture a tangible strategic path for the bank.
2. The plan does not clearly and concisely answer the question: “How will we maintain and expand profitability in the future?”
3. The plan fails to address the competitive forces beyond your immediate competition.
4. The plan doesn’t focus on relevant strategies…answering the “why.”
5. The plan is short-term in nature and fails to account for the long-term implications.
6. The plan fails to articulate clear benchmarks, deadlines and responsibilities.

The strategic plan should be the actionable battle plan, created with direction from the board, insight into execution from the executive team, and with clear, specific tactics to be rolled out for each major strategy. Without it, you’ll just have another binder to collect dust on the boardroom bookshelf.

Think You Have a Mediocre Strategic Plan? Use This 7-Step Test to Find Out

Your plan is mediocre if:

1. The core strategic vision cannot be summarized in a single paragraph.
2. The core strategic vision cannot be articulated by all directors and senior management.
3. It does not clearly state the top initiatives that will be used to achieve the core strategic vision.
4. It does not firmly define what “profitability” means to the organization.
5. It does not place responsibility on management with specific assignments, timelines, and expectations.
6. It isn’t reviewed every quarter.
7. It does not concretely answer: “How do we get a new customer?” and “How do we keep that customer?”

If you find yourself in possession of a mediocre plan for the current year, you need to uncover and accept the lack of excellence where it exists in your plan. Then start planning your next cycle today, allowing for a full and rich process. Take mediocrity and transform it into something dynamic.