Is It Time To Revitalize Your Credit Union?

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It's no secret that success in today's financial services industry depends upon a variety of factors. Perhaps none of these are more important than finding ways to appeal to a more diverse array of people and incorporating a technology that is advancing so fast, most of our heads are spinning.

The reality is that the world in which credit unions have gone about "business as usual" and relied upon the "tried and true" just won't cut it in the new marketplace. If your credit union is going to compete you must literally "breath new life" into your efforts at all levels.

Based on work with credit unions across the past half-decade, we've identified nine areas (The Nine Critical Pathways) that will ultimately determine your future success.

In my work with credit unions, we deal much time on each of these pathways-identifying specific action steps you can take in each area. In this two-part series we'll take a look at The Nine Critical Pathways, and provide some ideas you can use immediately, to begin taking your credit union to the next level.

A word of encouragement: organizations and people often get stuck where they are because the process of change seems extremely daunting. To be sure, guiding your organization to a new level of success is not an exercise for the timid, but your revitalization program can be broken down into three manageable stages.

Pathway No. 1-Board & Management

Your board and management share the responsibility of leading your credit union. To do this they need to have written and circulated both a clear vision and mission throughout the organization and its membership. With the vision and mission clearly spelled out, it becomes easier for management to develop policies, procedures, and even marketing campaigns that support the vision and mission.

The point is that there must be a focus to, and purpose for, everything your credit union does. All activities, plans, and procedures can be assessed more effectively when there is a clear plan that guides decision-making. When management knows what is expected of them, they can be more effective in communicating expectations to employees, and are better able to create day-to-day results.

Too often, credit union boards get so caught up in micro-managing everyday operations that they don't have time to do the most critical job for which a board is responsible-creating the strategic future of the credit union! If you have had the same board members, and/or if board members haven't changed roles for quite some time, there may be stagnation of ideas, insight, and inspiration.

The revitalization solution is clear: finds ways to bring a renewed spirit to your board and management. Develop their leadership abilities, expand their knowledge of what the credit union needs to ensure its continued success, and, most importantly, implement succession plans that bring new perspectives to both board and management on a regular basis.

Pathway No. 2-Your Strategic Plan

A strong strategic plan is based upon clarity of organizational values and provides a clear definition of the vision and the mission of the organization. From this foundation, roadmaps for each department within the credit union can be defined and monitored. Marketing campaigns, product initiatives and target outcomes are outlined in the strategic plan, which creates a framework for defining roles and properly delegating leadership and tasks.

Most important, the strategic plan answers two critical questions: "What are we doing that is not congruent with organizational values, vision and mission?" and "What are we doing that is congruent with our values, vision, and mission?"

From your answers to these questions, priorities, projects and plans will begin to reveal themselves. You have a framework within which to consider the possibilities and consider what scenarios will lead to the best results for your credit union, and your analysis of the available options will reveal the actions that are needed.

For example, if the vision includes an expansion of services to meet the growing needs of the community your credit union serves, the strategic plan must include an initiative to study demographics, and survey member needs, and develop a tactical marketing program that will reach those potential members not already being served.

Pathway No. 3-Operations

Unless a close eye is kept on daily operations, your credit union can get bogged down with many unnecessary things. The primary activity that must go on to improve operations is to have an updated and complete, written business plan, which outlines specific goals for each line of business. Each goal must have someone who is held accountable for its attainment and the measurement of its actual success. People love to keep score, so itemize milestone markers that are also measurable, on your way to the goal and celebrate achieving them with your team!

Equally important is to streamline operations through periodic examination of the "flow" of all processes and procedures. Make sure all the steps are in fact necessary and that they enhance your ability to deliver exceptional service. Look for ways to eliminate redundancies and improve efficiency in every aspect of your operation.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to solicit input from the people who are responsible for each process. They are the ones on the "front lines" and they know what's really working and what isn't. Using their input you can easily create flow charts of each operation and lists of action steps and timelines. Use these to assess the validity and necessity of each step. Are there ways several steps can be combined into one? Are there rules and limits bottlenecking progress? Is there someone involved in the process that might be given more authority and autonomy? Are there time-consuming ways of doing things that can be replaced with technology-driven solutions?

Your Action Plan

Take some time this week to evaluate how well you are doing in each of the areas outlined here. What opportunities exist for you to launch your revitalization effort and put your credit union on the road to success?

Think about it. In the next installment we will examine the remaining six of The Nine Critical Pathways your credit union must examine and improve, in order to compete in today's financial services marketplace.

Michael Hudson, Ph.D., a.k.a. The Everyday Leadership Authority, is a frequent speaker at credit union conventions and a consultant to individual credit unions on leadership, teambuilding, and business strategy. For more info:

Do you have some thoughts and insights you'd like to share? The Credit Union Journal invites input to its editorial pages. Contact Editor Frank J. Diekmann at fdiekmann

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