Musings from the CU Suite

Jun 21, 2012

Blow It Up

Written by Anthony Demangone

A long, long time ago, I read the classic book, Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco.  It told the tale of the leveraged buy-out of RJR Nabisco.  If you think that sounds dry, think again. The book is a classic page-turner.  And it introduced me to Ross Johnson.

He was president of RJR Nabisco, he put his company "in play," only to have everything spiral out of control - eventually leading to a leveraged-buyout of RJR Nabisco by KKR.

But enough about that. Johnson seemed to be a true character.  According to the book, he liked to shake things up when he took over a new company or division.  He'd shake up the organizational chart. Or he'd swap a manager with his direct reports.

His theory was this:  If you blow up a process or procedure, you are likely to improve it.  As you rebuild the process, you'll first reassemble the things that work.  You'll then discard things that don't work.  And you'll finally add things that are needed.  

But why do we let things get stale?  Perhaps it is human nature. And I'm as guilty as anyone.

At NAFCU, we put on a fairly respectable compliance training event.  I inherited the conference, which had at the corp of its make-up, a decade-old manual.  We had made small tweaks to the manual year after year.  But as time moved forward, it was harder and hard to keep the manual fresh.  We were no longer building anything.  We were patching someone else's work.

Roughly three years ago, we simply had enough.  We blew it up.  We started from scratch to rebuild school, and the manual that serves as its text book. And the results were pleasing.  A fresh school, and a new-and-improved manual. 

So, I challenge you to find something that is stale at your credit union.  Perhaps it is the format of your press releases.  Or the format of your newsletter.  Maybe the planning process for your annual picnic.  Or the advertisement for your annual skip-a-payment program.  A good candidate is anything that is simply retrived, dusted off, updated with new dates, and then trotted back out as if it is new.

Now, blow it up.

Tell all involved that they are to forget what happened last year. They are to build something new.  Start small, and see what happens.

I bet you'll be glad you did.

Have a great weekend, guys.  I'm off to Deep Creek Lake to vacation with parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews.  I plan to eat blackberries, not read them.