4 Barriers Keeping You from Implementing Your Credit Union’s Strategy – and Tips to Eliminate Them

Changing the behaviors and culture of the organization is not always easy. It helps to know the challenges that keeping you from succeeding.




There are numerous factors in improving a credit union's performance today: adding to the membership-base, increasing products/services per household, improving productivity by adding new technology, etc. As we all know, there is no lacking for ideas in this performance-related area. The challenge for a credit union executive is to minimize the many barriers faced on a daily basis to get the best ideas implemented and embraced within the organization.

We recently hosted a leadership symposium representing executives from a number of successful credit unions. We asked these executives to use a diagnostic tool that assesses the strengths and barriers of their organization to implement their strategy. Bridges Consulting Group developed the tool to identify critical success factors for implementing the organization's strategy. The tool reflects 52 reasons why implementations fail. The purpose of their participation was to see what executives agreed were the top factors, or barriers, to implementing strategy within their respective credit unions.

Listed below are the top four barriers they selected, providing tips to eliminate them so your credit union's strategy will be easier to implement.

  1. Lack of inspiration and motivation from senior management. Simply put, senior management has to demonstrate they are passionate about the business and encourage others to feel that same kind of passion. They have to connect with their employees in other ways, too: listening to their employees, including them in the decisions they make, demonstrating integrity and giving people what they want within the executive's capability – i.e. if not money, then verbal recognition, or some other demonstration of appreciation for good work.

  2. No clear communications. Communication is about the creation of meaning and understanding, not simply moving information around. Senior managers need to dialog regularly with employees about the organization's purpose, goals, projects, differentiation, members, competitors, and how their departments and the employee's personal efforts contribute to the organization. It's about clarity – it's about inspecting what you expect. Repetition is a good thing – even if the executives themselves may be bored with the subject matter. Former General Electric chief and author Jack Welch said that it took him six years of constantly telling his employees, you are first or second in your business or you are out, before they really understood (believed) it.

  3. Inconsistency among management about what to do and how to do it. Standards are essential for any company that seeks to improve. Continuous improvement methods are based on a repeatable process – and employees leverage their learning from participating in the process. A stable process is a framework for collecting, and evaluating, performance. Once you are collecting performance information on the process, you have a platform to develop improvement opportunities. Consider the following two scenarios: When you are driving a car, you can be driving 50 miles an hour (or more) and you can predict that the other drivers barreling down the freeway will follow the “rules of the road.” Drivers have adopted a standard that is predictable to any other driver on the road – which makes driving FAST very productive – and relatively safe. However, anyone who owns a boat knows that a boat owner cannot rely on any other boat operators to behave according to waterways rules (or standards for operating a boat). Consequently, when you are speeding across the lake, assume there is another boat barreling down to cross your bow from the left. According to rules of the waterways, you have the right of way. The other boat is supposed to slow down and let you pass across his bow (allowing you to continue at your current speed). BUT because, there is no predictable standard for acting according to the “standard rules,” you will slow your boat to make sure you don't crash with the boat coming across your bow.

    Lacking standards, or lacking the organizational discipline to ensure everyone complies with the work standards you have, really slows down your organization. No one can afford to slow down, so be sure to review what standards your organization has in place and ask yourself this question: Is your organization disciplined enough to comply with those standards and use the learnings to improve those standard processes? One other big benefit to standardizing the process is it reduces inconsistency among management about what to do and how to do it – reducing stress and wasted effort among management's employees.

  4. We already have too much to do – and not enough time to do it. According to a recent Accenture study, the average middle manager is swamped by useless information and spends about two hours a day looking for the data he or she needs. Once the information is found, Accenture reports that half the information has no value to their jobs. Companies tend to have “silos” of information, each department having its own system for organizing data – structured or unstructured. This information is not shared or access is difficult by other people outside the “silo” who could benefit from it. At least annually, managers should conduct a communication audit of meetings and reports and eliminate certain meetings and reports that are not useful. Develop and implement standard systems for organizing data, making sure that access to information across the enterprise encourages organizational transparency.

An amazing insight when reflecting these barriers to strategy execution is that overcoming these issues doesn't really “cost” anything. It is a matter of changing the behaviors and culture of the organization – executives being more inspirational, being clearer on your communications, standardize your work processes so you can move to process improvement, and remove waste from your reporting and meetings. Even though these changes are “free,” the results are “priceless.”

For more information on eliminating barriers to implement your credit union's strategy, please contact Jim Cardwell or Karla Norwood at Cardwell, 800-395-1410. Or visit our Connections Online website: www.connectionsonline.net.




May 5, 2008


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  • Great reminders Jim and Karla! Something we need to hear and be reminded of. I couldn''t agree more with the 4 points!
    LeeAnne Giblin