What do the Spanish Grandees and English Printers of the 1600s Have to Do With Credit Unions?

Dealing with disruptive change is an ongoing strategic challenge for credit union executives. What, for example, does the prospect of NFC transactions by cell phone and the potential entry of companies like Verizon and AT&T as gatekeepers in financial services mean to your business five years from now? Or ATM technology that allows a member to talk directly to a member service rep via videoconference to a branch-centric organization? Or peer-to-peer and micro-lending networks to your core business?

In the short run, a dominant paradigm for commerce can be defended against technological innovation. But in the long run, winners are those that embrace innovation and adapt their business models and their organizations. If it helps you feel any better, this is not the first time executives have struggled with these issues:

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Dealing with Interchange: Over the Horizon or Over The Rainbow

One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to look out over the horizon and detect threats and opportunities, and then translate the vision into action for the organization.  This is the essence of strategic planning, and stands in firm opposition to the ‘hope and pray’ school of thought, which is to let competitors and exogenous variables dictate your future, and hope for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to solve your problems. Trust me, clicking your heels three times isn’t likely to yield a winning strategy! 🙂

Strategic planning outlines the handful of choices that drive the subsequent decisions and actions of the company, and which have the greatest impact on whether objectives will be achieved.  Let me start with a definition of strategy, so we’re all on the same page.

Strategy is the direction and scope of an organization over the long-term towards achieving its objectives; which achieves advantage for the organization through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfill stakeholder expectations.

That’s a mouthful – so let’s break it down into the specific questions that strategic planning answers-

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Take some tips from Peter Drucker

Every now and again I’ll go back and browse through a favorite business book from my stack, in part because their meaning to me changes with each new experience gained.  The beauty of this blog is that I now get to share with the world, instead of just everyone here at work.  Maybe that will make the process less painful for Kelly, Kirstin and Kristina!

So let me go back to one of my favorite quick business reads of all-time – “The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization,” by Peter Drucker with commentary from an all-star cast of business luminaries – Jim Collins, Philip Kotler, and others.  It cuts through all the BS you usually find in ‘mass market’ business books and gets right to some basic, timeless key points.

What is most relevant here are not just the top five questions, but the process of asking and answering them, which is often the more useful part of the exercise. You gain more insight from asking others with different perspectives within your organization and outside of it the same questions to see how their answers compare, and by coming to a consensus on direction within your key management team.

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