Research: Research Rule No. 1: CU's Goals Must Be Driving Force

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What role should customization, trending and peer comparison play in research and what is their relative importance? The first rule in any research is that it should be driven by the organization's goals and objectives. In this case, using Stephen Covey's advice to "begin with the end in mind" means determining the questions to which the institution needs answers in order to advance and excel. The implication is that customization has the highest priority in research design.

The purpose of trending is to understand where the institution is headed, which is more important than knowing where it stands today. Think of trending research findings not as a score, but as a gauge to be moved up through improvements. While trending depends on the repetition of survey questions in each iteration, the institution's goals and objectives are paramount, which means customization should supersede trending considerations.

Peer comparisons provide perspective. For instance, if an institution's "excellent" and "very good" ratings add up to 63.7%, it may look like a "D" grade. However, if peer comparisons show that the average is 55.1% (which is, in fact, true), 63.7% actually places the institution in the top tier. Peer comparison is also a valuable adjunct to trending. If over time an institution's scores are falling while peer averages are falling faster, then the credit union, although trending down, is doing relatively well.

Customization, trending and peer comparison are all powerful tools, but are most effective when prioritized properly. Institutions that do not begin with what they want to learn may obtain results from trending and peer comparison that are neither relevant nor actionable. Without trending, institutions lose perspective on direction and improvement. Without peer comparison, institutions may respond inappropriately to seemingly low scores that are actually high or apparently high scores that are actually low. Focus and prioritization are paramount in research design. Start with goals (customize), watch performance over time (trending), and then gain insights from others (peer comparisons). This approach will maximize your return on your quantitative research investment.

Neil Goldman is President of Member Research. He can be reached at 310-643-5910 or by email at ngoldman 2008 Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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