Embracing Change: Become Agile to Thrive in the New World of Financial Services


Are most credit union cultures fast, flexible, and agile? They should be working in that direction. Considering non-traditional competitors are increasingly able to give “instant gratification” to consumers, the Credit Union Movement needs to embrace change and become agile. Fast.

Attendees at the recent Executives@Skamania2018 summit, sponsored by the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) and the Oregon/Washington CUES Council, got a snapshot of CUNA Mutual Group’s  transformative migration to an agile culture.

Agile cultures are nimble. They inspect and adapt along the way. In a slow-moving culture, planning and executing strategy can take years, and by then, the concept could long be dated.

“Credit unions need to be nimble and get to market quickly,” said Andy Schuman, director of transformation for CUNA Mutual Group. “The barriers to entries don’t exist like they used to.”

Schuman and Joe Haas, Senior Transformation Lead & Agile Coach, recommend credit unions start with a “minimum viable product” (MVP). They suggest delivering your new product or capability in an incremental and iterative manner.

For example, instead of embarking on a three-year project to develop a Swiss Army Knife with 15 attachments, build a Swiss Army Knife with a single blade and deliver it to your customers in only three-months. This approach will allow you to get something of value to the market quickly while also getting feedback from your customers for improving the product.

“Gone are the days of spending two to three years to get to market,” Schuman said.

Why Adapt?

Agility enhances an organization’s ability to manage changing priorities and be more responsive.

Haas identified four elements of effective agility: mindset, team behaviors, execution, and leadership. He offered some ideas about behaviors agile teams value, such as a leader who understands the team’s velocity, and commits to the right amount of work so the goal is achievable.

“If you have incremental progress, the team really feels like they are adding value,” Haas said.

A critical step for agility success, Haas and Schuman noted, is for leaders to stop acting as subject matter experts and move toward empowering the team to execute.

“Rather than directing teams, leaders need to challenge agile teams with insightful and thought-provoking questions because the teams are closer to the customer and project details,” Schuman said. “As a leader, you’re really just holding the team accountable to delivering business value and making sure they have the necessary resources to be successful.”

Another key takeaway from CUNA Mutual Group’s successful journey is that when teams collaborate, there is no longer a need to over-document.

CUNA Mutual Group believes an agile organization should look closely at anything it may be doing that isn’t adding value – and stop investing in it.

Agility, Haas said, “isn’t telling you what to work on, it’s telling you what not to work on.”

Editor’s note: Connect with your business solutions partners from CUNA Mutual Group during the MAXX 2018 Convention in Tacoma, Wash., Oct. 16-18. Find them at the Strategic Link Trade Show in booths 56 and 57. Missed out on the 2018 Executives@Skamania? Set the date for next summer’s Executive Summit to be held in Sun Valley, Idaho, Aug. 13-15.

Posted in Industry Insight.