Ineffective Board Meetings Are No Laughing Matter

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I'm certain that I'm not the only Credit Union Journal reader who laughed out loud while reading Frank Diekmann's op/ed entitled, "Forget Room 1408: Far Scarier Hotel Room This Halloween" (CU Journal Oct. 29).

Unfortunately, our laughter was the painful kind since Mr. Diekmann's Halloween nightmare about dysfunctional credit union strategic planning meetings was, sadly, well founded in reality.

As the op/ed suggests, much too often during strategic planning meetings credit union officials are:

* Not informed about the compelling issues affecting the financial services industry,

* Only compare themselves to other credit unions rather than their entire competition,

* Substitute their own opinions rather than conduct real marketplace research,

* Rely only on flashy "feel-good" facilitators to frame the discussion, and

* Are too easily distracted by their lunch, their bladders, or the golf course.

A credit union that engages in such a dysfunctional strategic planning session truly is scary. The challenges awaiting them in the real world must be so frightening that these credit union officials morph into directionless zombies. Thank goodness there are some credit union officials out there who choose to wear superhero costumes instead and who take their strategic planning responsibilities seriously.

Every credit union planning session should include spirited (pun intended) discussions about pro-active mergers, mutual savings bank charter conversions, transparent governance, the cumbersome credit union business model, managing dissident members, serving the underserved, coping with interfering regulators, surviving the escalating battle between "movement" purists and "industry" pragmatists, re-defining consumer-member ownership, establishing institutional brand identity, implementing an aggressive convenience-driven branch footprint, and anticipating the potential loss of the credit union income tax exemption.

And that's just for starters.

These strategic topics may seem frightening to some officials, but there's no future for a credit union that ignores substantive environmental challenges. Hiding from these compelling issues while expecting positive strategic results is a nightmare waiting to happen. Instead, credit union officials should face their fears, wrestle with these scary issues, and strategically focus the credit union toward its best possible future. Maybe then the ghost of lost opportunity won't haunt the credit union for many Halloweens to come.

Thanks Frank, for the thought-provoking trick or treat!

Marvin C. Umholtz, President & CEO

Umholtz Strategic Planning & Consulting Services

Olympia, Wash.


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