April 22, 2014
Credit Union Management magazine’s Web-only “Good Governance” column runs the fourth Tusday of the month.
Andrian Slywotzky’s watershed 1996 book, Value Migration: How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition, suggested organizations wake up to the speed with which customer (member) value was shifting. He reminded us all to keep a close eye on the stages of our product and services lifecycles and be watching customer shifts more closely.
His call for increased awareness and less complacency came before things started speeding up for real. Google beta launched in 1998, the iPod and Wikipedia showed up in 2001, and Web 2.0 was declared by 2004. Recessions hit the European Union (2000-2001) and the world changed drastically with the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States in 2001. World economies have faltered ever since, with U.S. corporate failures in 2008 and the most recent European Union financial crisis. We’re not out of the 2008 backwash yet—just look at the National Credit Union Administration’s most recent risk-based capital requirements!
As the millennium dawned, talk turned to the aging population, the value shifts of Millennials and how technology was accelerating differences in generational behavior. The 24/7 instant news cycle, bloggers turning over rocks everywhere, social media exploding, and desktop computers left behind for tablets and handheld devices have forever changed access to information.
Value migration (evolutionary shifts in values) has given way to volatile value bounces where shifting trends accelerate at such a velocity they seem to skip a step. It was only three years ago that I heard a financial institution CEO tell the chief marketing officer not to bring up mobile banking again. It was only a few years ago that the millennial generation was badmouthed as lazy and selfish. Today, we’ve discovered that they are volunteering and philanthropic in a ratio to their wealth similar to that of baby boomers.
In today’s world the “Volatile, Unpredictable, Complex, Ambiguous” principle, first articulated by the Army War College, rules our business environment and challenges us all to stay alert to changing expectations. What does this acceleration in value shifts have to do with how you must lead your organization? You might wish to take several immediate gut checks in the following areas:
Metrics: How well are you tracking customer/member value? Value is different from satisfaction. Value refers to the benefit accrued to the person who does business with you. Today’s credit union should be formally tracking member values with quarterly surveys—and daily in real-time virtual connections, such as blogs, Facebook and tweets. The once a year “check in” on how our members are feeling/thinking has gone the way of the Victrola phonograph.
If you compare today’s survey of customer wants, expressed needs and wishes with that of three years ago, you can see emerging value shifts early and begin redesigning your products and services today.
Benchmarking: Organizations way ahead of you in product and service innovation are out there somewhere. These risk takers see trends over the horizon and like to be first to the alternative future. Frequently they can afford to launch early and are talented enough to re-design in fast moving space as feedback comes in. Who are these folks in the financial services industry? What are they doing that seems so scary you think they might be crazy? By tracking three to five of these organizations and their portfolio of changes, you can energize your strategic planning process, stretch your own thinking, and discover new questions you should be asking about the next generation of services and products.
Employee engagement: Ever wonder what your employees are thinking today? If you’re relying on the once-a-year employee survey to find out, you’re getting out of date quickly. Technology makes more frequent employee surveys possible. Find out where employees talk about your organization and its culture, and get management to listen in. Better yet, give employees a virtual outlet. Wherever you need to go in the future and however fast you need to move, you’ll need highly engaged employees moving right along with you.
Innovation: Internal to your own organization are hundreds of new ideas—for refreshing your current portfolio, bringing in brand new thinking, and even designing “new, new” designs. To get a feel for how fast innovation is moving as a “core competency” of organizations read Fast Company magazine regularly. Put together a virtual focus group of big thinkers and critics within your own organization and use them as a think tank of possibilities. If you can’t handle the chaos and criticisms that come from that, you might not be ready to keep up with the future.
Crowdsource your members: Somewhere in your universe of members, new thinking is evolving regarding your value to them. Why not give them a microphone and listen carefully to the conversation? Find a cadre of your most vocal, possibly even more critical, members/customers and crowdsource their thinking regularly.
Biggest critics: What are your biggest critics saying about your organization, your portfolio of offerings, and your methods of operation? Don’t dismiss them, embrace them—there’s gold in their perceptions. While the disgruntled frequently don’t apply the same political savvy or manners of other members, they do represent a set of eyes and ears that might signal future value shifts. Recent movement in “transparency,” “customer/user blogs,” “real-time information,” “product enhancements,” “customer/member choice,” “virtual education” all came about because disgruntled constituents pushed organizations to keep up with shifting values and available technology.
Les Wallace, Ph.D., the 9Minute Mentor, is president of Signature Resources Inc. He is co-author of A Legacy of 21st Century Leadership and author of Principles of 21st Century Governance. He is a frequent speaker and consultant on leadership.