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Your business strategy is coming together for 2009, which may prompt the current rallying cry: Take advantage of the competition’s banking crisis and capture the moment!
The direct path to taking advantage of this competitor instability is through all those strategic projects on the list for 2009. According to various independent studies, 80% of credit unions won’t be able to get them all done.
This article identifies seven common barriers keeping credit unions from getting projects implemented, to take advantage of current market instability and grow your business lines. Eliminating those barriers is key to introducing timely solutions to meet your members’ financial needs.
These seven common barriers with common sense solutions help you see where your organization stands on your ability to get ahead of the competition — and how to get past those barriers to achieve the results you want.
1. Barrier: Diffused approach to projects — The players are not on the same page, so it makes it difficult to get everyone on task. Everyone has a different way of doing projects
1. Solution: Standardize project management methodology throughout the organization (including all departments and employees — not just IT).
A common standard process includes Project Strategy (project filter, business case and ROI, prioritizing projects, and project scope) and Project Implementation (project phases, project scheduling, projects meeting minutes, project communication, lessons learned and shared). Everyone (even employees outside of IT and Marketing) needs to be trained on the process and be accountable for the process you implement.
If you create a Project Management Office (and/or simply hire a project manager), make sure the person you hire isn’t just a glorified project recorder. This person should be responsible for leading and implementing a project management methodology enterprise wide. This person should be given the power and authority to guarantee the process takes hold, just like your lending VP develops, implements, and ensures compliance to your lending process for optimal lending results. Project Management is CORE to strategy execution.
2. Barrier: Not doing the most important things — Everyone is so busy. Everyone is heading in different directions, not consistently giving the most important projects the priority they need. Most people do not understand why the credit union does the projects it picks, as it is unclear how they impact the organization (or if they were even selected for that reason).
2. Solution: Projects are KEY to strategy execution. But, first, the strategy must be developed and everyone must be on-board with the strategy (What is the vision, business model, scorecard to measure results, and expected employee behaviors?). Projects are a result of the executive team determining what is core to the business and “getting to the next level.” Projects usually fall into several categories: growth, member engagement, operational efficiency, employee engagement, and compliance/regulatory requirements. Using this as a guide, continually revisit strategy to make sure decisions about the priorities of the business are aligned according with your goals.
3. Barrier: Project ambiguity — The ongoing haziness regarding where to focus the project scope.
3. Solution: Leadership author, Steven Covey, says that to execute strategy, you must clearly communicate what you want people to do. Removing ambiguity around what you want people to do as a member of the project team is paramount to getting the results you want. If the scope work is clearly understood, project work efficiency will improve dramatically and the outcomes will be much closer to everyone’s expectations.
4. Barrier: Inadequate cross-functional cooperation — Department “silos” are not broken down, which makes it hard to complete projects. The people leading the project often forget to include all of the departments that are impacted by their project (which makes implementation very ineffective). Poor project planning costs dearly in project timing, as it takes a long time to get things done resulting in increased labor.
4. Solution: Silos are eliminated when people truly agree on the strategy — and agree on what project work is most important to do first. If they don’t agree, when it comes time to deploy resources they control (for projects), resources won’t be provided in a timely manner and implementation will be very ineffective.
Develop a Business Case outlining the project plan — including these elements: clear project goal, scope of work, project timing, impact on members or business and employees, risk of not doing it, resource implications (people and dollars), alignment and impact on scorecard, project evaluation, and bottom-line cost benefit. With a business case completed, all departments will be contacted regarding resources necessary to complete the project.
5. Barrier: Project staffing — A few people do all of the projects, while many employees are excluded. Sometimes employees feel all alone on getting project work done and managers rarely look to see if they have the capacity before we commit to a project.
5. Solution: Implement tools that provide managers feedback on the capacity their employees have available to work on projects — tools should provide information to manage “down as well as up” regarding resource availability. In this case, ignorance is NOT bliss.
If all employees are trained on your organization’s project methodology, you eliminate the excuse that there are only a few people who “can work on projects.” Considering all employees for project work can be a great way to continually develop enterprise bench-strength as well as keep from burning out your “go to people.”
6. Barrier: Poor communication — No one knows what is going on, and there is no easy way to find out. Poor cross-functional communication impacts project timing (it takes us a long time to get things done). The progress on projects is not shared because we cannot see the project plans or the progress the project team is making. It takes a lot of time to inform people what has been done on projects — so most people don’t do it.
6. Solution: Change the communication paradigm: The person who wants to know looks in the central location for information (one click) – when they want to know it. As part of the project management process, make sure that a standard for updating information on project progress is mandated (i.e. on the 1st and 15th of every month, EVERY employee who is accountable for a project or task must report on progress). Then you eliminate project leaders wasting a lot of precious time chasing information with phone calls, emailing, and setting up meetings just to report project updates.
7. Barrier: Soft project deadline management — Projects have no firm deadlines, it takes forever to get things done.
7. Solution: Make sure that when writing a project goal that an end date is part of the project goal statement. Using the Business Case to understand the project implications to the strategy and priority use of resources will help establish a realistic end date for the project.
Implementing and sustaining an effective project management process takes organizational discipline and committed leadership. If your credit union wants to take advantage now of opportunities in this financial services climate, take time out to establish what will become one of your organization’s most important competitive advantages – good project management.
For more information on effective project management and how it can benefit your credit union’s bottom line, please contact Jim Cardwell or Karla Norwood at Cardwell, 800-395-1410. Or visit our Connections Online website: www.connectionsonline.net.
September 22, 2008
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