There are numerous factors in improving a credit union’s performance today: adding to the membership base, increasing products and services per household, improving productivity by adding new technology, and many more. 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.

I recently surveyed a couple dozen credit union executives to use a diagnostic tool that assesses the strengths and barriers of their organizations to implement their strategies. Bridges Consulting Group developed the tool to identify critical success factors for implementing an 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.

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. If not money, then verbal recognition or some other demonstration of appreciation for good work.

No clear communication. Communication is about the creation of meaning and understanding, not simply moving information around. Senior managers need to discuss regularly with employees about the credit union’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 and believed it.

Inconsistency among management about what to do and how to do it. Standards are essential for any company that seeks to improve. Credit unions are no different. 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. 

Lacking standards.Lacking the organizational discipline to ensure everyone complies with the work standards you have really slows down your credit union. No one can afford to slow down. So be sure to review what standards your credit union has in place and ask yourself this question: Is your organization disciplined enough to comply with those standards and use the lessons to improve those standard processes?

One other big benefit to standardizing the process is that it reduces inconsistency among management about what to do and how to do it,  reducing stress and wasted effort among management’s employees.

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, ensuring that access to information throughout your credit union 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 need to be more inspirational, clearer on communication, develop more standardize work processes, and remove waste from reporting and meetings. 

Even though these changes are free, the results are priceless. 

Jim Cardwell is CEO of the Cardwell Group.
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