Winning Your Credit Union’s Amazing Race

Avoid the easy-to-fall-into blunders and make winning, collaborative decisions as you prepare for future success.




According to an Open Source CU interview with marketing guru Seth Godin, author of The Big Moo , at least half of today’s credit unions won’t be around within the next 15 years. To remain in business for the next decade and well beyond, most credit unions are currently running a race like that of the reality TV show Amazing Race. The Amazing Race teams know their objective – cross the finish line first. They all have the same general rules – set by the show’s producers. Based on the objective and rules, each team deploys unique strategies and decisions to be the winner.

Credit unions’ teams have a similar objective – be financially viable for the long-term for their members. They have the same general rules – “set” by vendors and regulators . Then credit union teams, too, deploy unique strategies and decisions to be winners. So how can credit unions improve the odds of winning their “amazing race?”

By making "winning" decisions.

Paul Nutt, author of Why Decisions Fail: Avoiding the Blunders and Traps that Lead to Debacles , has researched more than 400 decisions made by executives of large companies. From his research, Nutt found that half of all decisions fail. Failed decisions mean you probably won't reach the winner's circle.

Nutt says the failed decisions share three common blunders. Managers rush to judgment, misuse their resources, and repeatedly use failure-prone tactics to make decisions.

First Not Always Best
Rush to judgment means managers use the first remedy that they come across, meaning they don’t take time to think through the issues that “need” a decision. This behavior often happens whether it is a simple decision with few consequences or a highly complex issue requiring a disciplined, analytic approach. Reasons are numerous, but this blunder is due to job pressure – getting it done now is more important than the outcome of the decision.

Nutt found that failure is four times more likely when decision makers quickly embrace the first idea they come across.
To counter this issue, it is best to follow a five-step decision making plan:

  1. Identify and clarify the problem
  2. Gather information
  3. Evaluate the evidence
  4. Consider the alternatives and implications
  5. Choose and implement the best alternative.

Use Your Resources Right
Misuse of resources occurs when managers spend their time and money on the wrong things during decision making . For example, a credit union decides to introduce two new products (which have high resource costs associated with them), and then don't make resource trade-offs by stopping other projects to free up resources.

To minimize this blunder, before you decide to deploy resources for a decision, create a quick "case study" for the decision. Ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Why are we doing this?
  2. What goal does it support?
  3. What is the resource budget - time and dollars?
  4. What is the difficulty and risk for implementing the decision?
  5. What is the payback and when will you start getting your return?
  6. "No" should be acceptable if the answers to these questions don't support the alternative.
  7. Prone to Failure

Nutt found that two-thirds of all decisions are based on failure-prone tactics. Success, however, increased up to 50% when better tactics were used.

For example, most managers are aware of the importance of collaboration in the decision-making process. Nutt's research indicated decisions based on collaboration succeed more than 80 % of the time. Unfortunately, his research found that collaboration is used to implement only one in five decisions.

In addition, Nutt discovered that 60% of the time managers use only their position power or "charismatic personality" and expect employees to do what they say.

Examining the Decision Process
In our fast-paced business climate, it is easy to get in the habit of using these three decision blunders. Avoid these bad habits. Use the following checklist - for yourself, or for your direct reports - when you need to make a decision for the benefit of your organization:

  1. Did you conduct your research and prepare your "case study?"
  2. Did you uncover and reconcile all competing claims?
  3. Have you looked at people's interests and commitments?
  4. Did you use collaboration to help determine the decision?
  5. Are you "telling" people what to do rather than "engaging" them to participate in the decision implementation?
  6. Are your expectations clear and have they been communicated to stakeholders?
  7. Have you researched solutions?
  8. Have you really given a good review of evaluations?
  9. Have you anticipated - and answered - ethical questions?
  10. Have you learned anything about your decision making process that can apply to this decision?

So if you want your members to benefit from your credit union's success over the long-term , play your amazing race to win. Avoid the easy-to-fall-into blunders and make winning, collaborative decisions. Your credit union and membership will not disappear in the next decade but will prosper for a long, long time.

For more information on creating a Winning Decisions, please contact Jim Cardwell or Karla Norwood at Cardwell, 800-395-1410. Visit our Connections Online website: