If your credit union is running smoothly, why should you make any changes? Do you really need to redesign your app, transform your branches, or shake up your product offerings?
When everything is going well people tend to get comfortable with the way things are done. This comfort builds up organizational inertia, the tendency for organizations to resist change, creating a barrier to any project that isn’t routine.
But in the rapidly changing financial industry, adaptation and innovation are necessary for credit unions to stay competitive and deliver the services their members want now and in the future.
Here are three strategies that can help you overcome organizational inertia in your credit union and set your projects up for success.
Set Ground Rules for Strategy Discussions
Many ideas are killed before they even have the chance to be discussed. Kodak famously dismissed the digital camera that an employee had invented because “we’re a film company.” How many great ideas have been killed in credit unions because they’re “not what we do”?
Setting one simple ground rule in brainstorming meetings can solve this: Ideas can’t be dismissed immediately after they are introduced.
Instead, focus initial discussions on the positive aspects of each idea and think about how it could help you advance your mission, better compete in your market, or provide value to your members. Give the idea a chance to take hold and be legitimately considered before shooting it down.
This may be uncomfortable, and not all ideas are good ones, but adding this buffer between introducing ideas and dismissing them may help you avoid missing your own “wait, we’re actually a picture company…” opportunity.
Look at Opportunity and Risk Before Cost
There’s no quicker way to lose a sale than starting out talking cost, and when you introduce an idea to your credit union you become that idea’s salesperson. Change is a hassle, and you’re telling your team that they have to pay how much for this hassle? If you begin with a discussion of cost before your team really understands what impact your idea will have on the credit union, they will have made up their minds before even considering it.
Instead, lead with both the opportunities that pursing your project will bring as well as the risk that not pursuing it will expose your credit union to. If it’s a branch modernization project, you could point out that transaction volumes are dropping and that you’re struggling to attract millennial homebuyers who want to come in and talk. What this does is disrupt the illusion that your organization is in a comfortable position. Sure, things are going well for now. But when weighed against potential opportunities and risks, the current way of doing things may not look as comfortable as it once did.
Appoint a Project Manager
Congratulations, the team is bought into your idea and wants to go forward! But things are busy these days, there may be competing priorities, and people will pick away at the work and it’ll get done in… well… eventually?
A project is a bit like a natural disaster. At the beginning it is pure chaos, and bringing order to the situation takes a lot of work by people dedicated to the task.
This is where a project manager comes in. You need to choose someone on your team who will drive this project forward from start to finish, and who will break the work down into tasks that need to be done and assign responsibility for these tasks. Having a clear idea what needs to be done and who needs to do it and a single person responsible for keeping the project on track will give your project energy, momentum, and a sense of direction.
Implementing Lasting Change
Overcoming organization inertia can help your project take off, but this is only the beginning. It’s another challenge entirely for your project to impart a lasting impact on your credit union.
When looking from the perspective of needing to make changes, this inertia can seem like a bad thing. But the reality is that organizational inertia can also be good. It is needed to make your changes “stick.” Effective change management extends beyond making change happen, it also includes building inertia around your ideas to create durable and lasting change that will endure until it’s again time to adapt and evolve. To learn more about the change management process, read 7 Steps to Implement Lasting Change.