Avoiding Vision Problems

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Most credit union leaders understand the importance of the strategic plan. Implement one, they realize, and you can see your organization grow through the stratosphere; fail to implement one and your CU's lack of growth may be the least of your worries.

Before credit unions jump into the waters of strategic planning, however, they should get their feet wet by developing comprehensive mission and vision statements. Why? Because mission and vision statements are the "foundations of an organization's strategy process."

Together and separately, these concepts describe a company's business, its short and long-term market position, and its points of differentiation from its competitors.

How do they differ, and how can a credit union create one that will ensure their future success? Read on to find out.

Map Out Your Future

A mission statement should reflect who the organization is, what they do, to whom they offer products and services and how they will be offering those products and services in terms of basic philosophy and technology. A vision, on the other hand, should take the "long view," expressing where the organization should eventually develop.

The mission and vision statements are maps to the company's future; they explain, with the former providing short- term guidance and the latter providing a long-term view of a desired destination.

Why should your credit union develop a mission statement? According to W. R. King and D. I. Cleland, co-authors of Strategic Planning and Policy, your organization needs a mission statement in order to:

* Ensure unanimity of purpose within the CU;

* Provide a basis, or standard, for allocating organizational resources;

* Establish a general tone or organizational climate;

* Serve as a focal point for individuals to identify with the organization's purpose and direction and to deter those who cannot from participating further in the organization's activities;

* Facilitate the translation of objectives into a work structure involving the assignment or tasks to responsible elements within the organization; and

* Specify organizational purposes and the translation of these purposes into objectives in such a way that cost, time and performance parameters can be assessed and controlled.

Making the Mission Possible

Knowing its importance, how should your credit union go about creating its mission statement? You can begin by asking yourself the following questions (the answers of which can help formulate your mission statement):

* Who are your members? With whom do your responsibilities lie?

* What are your credit union's major products and services?

* Geographically, where does your credit union compete? What is your market?

* Is your organization's technology current?

* Is your CU committed to growth and financial soundness?

* What are the basic beliefs, values, aspirations, and ethical priorities of your credit union? What is your philosophy?

* What is your organization's distinctive competence or major competitive advantage? What is your self-concept?

* Is your CU responsive to social, community, and environmental concerns? Do you have a concern for your public image?

* Are your employees a valuable asset of your organization?

Once those questions have been answered, you can move on to actually crafting the statement. Keep in mind, however, that your mission statement should:

* Contain realistic and obtainable concepts and define the benefits to stakeholders (your customers, employees, shareholders and the community).

* Differentiate your credit union for your competitors.

* Empower and enable everyone within an organization to align his or her efforts.

One thing your mission statement should not contain is financial or goal-related language. Creating "profit" is why a company is in business. Therefore, the mission statement should speak to "how" the organization will create profit.

A New View

With your mission statement completed, you can begin crafting your vision statement. Just remember that your vision statement should present your organization's long-term ideals and prepare the credit union for the future.

A vision statement must be evolutionary in nature. It must create an organization that is flexible and responsive to a constantly changing environment."

But how do you go about creating this evolutionary vision? You can produce such a statement by making sure it:

* Conveys a picture of what the future will look like.

* Appeals to the long-term interest of employees, customers, stockholders and others who have a stake in the organization.

* Comprises realistic, attainable goals.

* Is clear enough to provide guidance in decision-making.

* Is general enough to allow individual initiative and alternative responses in light of changing conditions.

* Is easy to communicate (you should be able to successfully explain it within five minutes).

What To Take Into Account

Your vision statement should postulate on the future, consider where the trends of technology, society and economics are going, and match (your organization) to the emerging opportunities within that future perspective.

Of course, if you want your credit union to continue down the road to success you can't stop with the creation and implementation of a mission and vision statement. You have to take all aspects of your organization's strategy, design and culture into account.

About This Article

This article is an excerpt from the manual, Strategic Business Principles, recently published by CUES. It is authored by

Jeffery A. Rigsby, president, CEO and founder of Virtual CEO, Inc. (www.virtualceo.com), and Guy Greco, executive vice president at the Calif.-based company.

For more info: www.cues.org.

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