Wipfli logo

Bank on Wipfli - Blog and Podcast


How a pivot to agile strategic planning can be game-changing

Jan 04, 2024
By: Robert H. Zondag

It’s a complicated time for the financial services industry to operate securely while meeting the constantly evolving needs of customers and clients. The need for planning that lays out your value proposition, goals and tactics is generally understood but often overlooked.

Traditional strategic planning is a dry process where the results can often become irrelevant, ignored or outdated within a short time after the completion of the plan.

Planning also often fails to engage the larger good (meaning the largest group of employees). For many organizations, this type of planning no longer seems to work.

It’s time for a new approach: agile planning.

Agile planning is a collaborative, iterative process that helps a board and executive team align on priorities, develop accountability and then have a framework to make good decisions while making consistent progress.

The agile strategic planning process focuses on the most important things the business must do to achieve results. We call them value streams. The value streams are the springs from which all other projects and initiatives are decided upon and then executed on, including the allotment of resources.

For leadership, it requires a mindset shift, especially in very complex industries such as financial services or healthcare.

Why the need for agile planning?

Why do organizations need agile strategic planning? We live in a world of rapid change (today, this is the slowest rate of change we will experience in our lifetime) and we experience constant distraction. Vendors, regulators and other stakeholders are trying to insert their priorities into our priorities.

Agile strategic planning inspires people to lean in and focus in a world filled with distractions. People (our human capital) need to have a clear understanding of the priorities — the sound bites. They need to be provided the ability to quickly evaluate whether a shiny object (or idea) is worthwhile, meaningful and aligned with where the organization is headed.

Once the strategic priorities are developed, the ongoing plan is broken into short-term increments with metrics that demonstrate results and champions to promote the results. It can incorporate sudden changes in the economy or technological advances that occur unexpectedly. The agile strategic planning process is reassessed more frequently than the traditional process, usually every other month or quarter. This way, the mindset and team conditioning are continuous and focused on the purpose of producing meaningful initiatives.

Given the challenges of adapting a new mindset, we recommend an accountability partner to help build “muscle memory.”  A third party can be objective in holding the board and team accountable to the plan and the process.

Other benefits of agile strategic planning

  • Helps disseminate the workload across the organization, especially in a human capital-constrained world
  • Allows a team to develop the “muscle memory” of success — creates small goals and initiatives that act as the building blocks toward achieving the priorities
  • Supports a pattern of continuity and a culture of accountability
  • If worked properly, builds a foundation of communication
  • Contributes to employees’ better understanding of the mission, vision and long-term success of the organization

Leaders and their teams must be prepared to pivot as needed. It’s the only way to move an organization forward. Agile planning provides a way for a business to realistically work on its strategic plan, so it leads to measurable, clear results amid the inevitability of changing circumstances.

Building an agile plan is likely to help your business not only operationally because leaders will make better decisions but also during regulatory assessments in which actionable nuggets inside a focused, readable plan inspire confidence in the direction of the organization.

How Wipfli can help

Organizations that adopt a new mindset, allowing for agile strategic planning, will be best equipped to thrive in the future. Employees, customers and regulators benefit from a strategy that recognizes the need for nimble and flexible decision-making. Wipfli’s team is ready to work with your leadership team to help devise an agile plan that aligns with your mission and will be with you every step of the way to help you assess and adjust priorities as needed.

Contact us today to get support for your strategic planning needs.

Sign up for more financial institution content in your inbox or continue reading:


Robert H. Zondag, CTP
View Profile
Bank on Wipfli blog
Subscribe to Bank on Wipfli - Blog and Podcast