Article

Matrix Applies Vision to Decisions

By Karen Bankston

2 minutes

Neighbors Federal Credit Union has introduced a decision grid to guide executives and managers to assess how well potential initiatives, products, services, pricing structures and procedures align with the CU’s organizational vision.

The nine-square matrix provides a practical, visual device—a “quick pass/fail system”—for evaluating whether and to what extent new ideas would contribute to operational efficiency and member value, says CUES member Steve Webb, president/CEO of the Baton Rouge, La., credit union with $730 million in assets and 78,000 members.

For example, executives used the grid in assessing whether to bring a mortgage service in house. “After we applied the matrix, we could easily see this option wouldn’t save money or improve member service by speeding up the mortgage process, so we decided not to pursue it,” Webb says.

On the other hand, a proposal to develop a new checking account with special, value-added features and the potential for additional fee income, as an alternative to free checking, ranked high on the decision grid. Neighbors FCU continues to pursue this new product as a future option in the event of declining interchange revenue and other shifts in the payments arena.

“A high ranking on the grid is not the final determination of whether an idea is enacted, just an indication that we should continue to further research and develop it,” Webb explains. “Using the grid heads off spending a lot of time researching an idea that doesn’t align with what we’re trying to accomplish. And we can usually determine that in a quick discussion.”

The concept grew out of strategic planning meetings in August, when facilitator DeLania Truly, a VP/sales with CUES Supplier member and partner CUNA Mutual Group, Madison, Wis., suggested developing a matrix as a way for Neighbors FCU managers and executives to stay focused on the credit union’s vision statement, “To be the best by continually adding member value by creating an efficient operational model.”

Only in a few areas is the grid not useful, Webb says, such as when operational changes are required to comply with new regulations or to mitigate risks related to remote channel delivery or changes in the marketplace.

The decision grid is used in weekly executive leadership meetings and has been introduced at the branch level as well. To promote its use, the matrix has been printed on 3-by-5 dry erase boards displayed in every conference room. “Now we have a constant and consistent reminder to consider our organization’s vision in decisions from day-to-day operations to the highest level of strategic planning,” Webb notes.

Karen Bankston is a freelance writer based in Middleton, Wis.

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