Successful Planning Starts at the Top
As the saying goes, when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. When making changes, if you don't have a strategic plan or road map for your organization, how do you know where you’re going? You don't.
Chaos at the top can spread like wildfire, impacting many, if not all levels of an organization (or government).
A recent example of this came after President Trump wrote a three-part tweet announcing: “… the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
The problem: The Department of Defense had not received a formal request for a policy change. Without proper planning and preparation for this dramatic shift in policy, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff was left confused and without guidance. In an internal memo, Dunford said, “There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president's direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance.”
Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Trump's proposed ban, at the center of the problem is the failure to plan. The leader of our country made an announcement without a plan in place on how to implement the announcement. This unexpected tweet left the Joint Chiefs unprepared to offer policy guidance, and the careers and futures of hundreds of service members, who have bravely served our country, unknown.
Proper planning is just as important in credit unions as it is in government. Having a shared vision allows you to send a cohesive message to your organization about what your vision and goals are. When leadership is on the same page, it provides clarity to the people you are leading and sends a message of what is expected.
Having cohesive, clear expectations, and providing the why and how, can support the empowerment of others because once they know where they are headed and the parameters in which they can move, they can make informed decisions on how to execute the plan. A good plan can mean the difference between failure and success at your credit union.
For example, if your credit union is launching a new loan program, there are multiple levels of planning that must take place, including educating loan officers, underwriters and tellers on new loan guidelines; outreach and marketing of new products; and website updates. If one or all of these systems aren't completed, the entire program may fail.
You wouldn't build your house on quicksand without a proper foundation, so why create a product or plan without a good structure in place?
Planning is just as important as the goal itself. Take a look at the Wells Fargo scandal where, according to a Fortune article, “… as many as 3.5 million unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts were opened going back to 2002, lawyers representing consumers in a class-action lawsuit have claimed.”
The company was solely focused on the goal of opening more accounts with seemingly no plan in place for what they were trying to achieve besides temporarily increasing revenue. The culture suffered and many employees were fired, and now the company is facing lawsuits. The Fortune article also said, “Wells Fargo's board is reviewing its own ‘structure, composition and practices,’ which will lead to actions to be announced later this quarter.”
It's no question that an overhaul in structure, composition and practices is needed there. Employees often do as they’re told, and this was seemingly a flawed directive from above that was funneled down and throughout the organization.
A report by the Filene Research Institute on the roles of personality and practices in CEOs said, “… credit unions need to have the best possible understanding of what a good CEO looks like and how to best develop a leadership approach. After all, the CEO serves as the credit union's principal representative to a wide range of external stakeholders … and is the key driver of strategic direction within the credit union.”
The report concluded: The three most critical personality traits – agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability – link closely to transformational leadership behavior and increase both employee engagement and credit union performance.
You have to plan and strategize on how to hire a good leader so the good leader can ultimately plan for the organization.
Here are a few things for leadership to keep in mind to prepare its credit union for success:
- If one doesn't already exist, create a succession plan for leadership.
- When making any big decision, inform and educate employees before implementing the change.
- Establish an effective method for internal communication (if a method doesn't already exist).
- When making any change, create a step-by-step flow chart of different possible scenarios. This allows you to troubleshoot and plan for any scenario and better prepare yourself for changes.
- Develop a communications plan for how to market new products.
- Create a method for feedback from your employees. They’re the ones most often interacting with members and likely know what's working and what's not.
- Get buy-in and input from employees on big decisions. For example, if employees don't support or feel personally connected to a product being developed, they’re less likely to want to promote it or sell it to members.
Send me your examples of how you’ve created successful plans for your credit union. What did you learn from the experience?
Tahira Hayes is a Correspondent-at-Large at Credit Union Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.