It’s the time of year when many of us are once again anxiously engaged in the strategic planning process. For some of us, strategic planning affords us an opportunity to revisit our mission statements.
Good mission statements create focus
Given the increasingly competitive landscape, regulatory distractions, and intense cost controls, leaders everywhere are discovering that focus – the concentration of resources – is an important part of any solution. To achieve this focus, managers must share a common understanding of the very foundation of their charter. They must develop their credit union’s “mission.”
A credit union mission statement is an articulation to its members, employees, and the entire world of the purpose of its existence. In order for a credit union to be successful, it has to have a clear and broad mission that resonates with the public and tells them why it would be beneficial to do business with the credit union. The mission statement should represent the credit union’s vision of how it would like to be seen by its membership and community.
The best credit union mission statement of all time
Leading up to the Great Depression, the emerging credit union movement outlined the very clear purpose (mission) of credit unions. The purpose was easy to understand: credit unions existed to promote thrift and provide affordable access to credit for provident and productive purposes. The greatest credit union mission statement of all time was timely and congruent with consumer’s lack of affordable access to credit. Credit unions had what consumers needed. Credit unions understood why they existed, and consumers understood the importance of credit unions.
The mission was very successful. It created a hyper-focus that lead to the rapid expansion of credit unions. The mission also attracted and inspired movement evangelists such as Roy Bergengren, Dora Maxwell and Louise Herring. These pioneers were driven by the belief that credit unions make a significant difference in improving the quality of life for millions of underserved consumers. The mission became a movement. This is not just “feel good” stuff; the proof is in the numbers. Consider that between 1929 and 1932 the number of credit unions increased from 1,100 to 1,700 – that’s 600 new credit unions chartered during the depth of the Great Depression. Growth momentum continued for many years after the depression, finally peaking at 29,761 credit unions in 1969.
Evaluate your mission statement
Whether it’s part of your formal strategic planning session or in a separate session with your team, evaluate your current mission statement. Here are a few steps to help you with the process:
1. Ask the right questions
- What business are we in?
- Why are we in this business?
- What do we want for our members, team and community?
- What are the three or four objectives or attributes that define us?
- Think about the spark of excitement that initially ignited your credit union’s desire in the first place. What will keep it burning?
2. Say it clearly
- Your mission statement needs to clearly state your objectives.
- It should explain what you do, what niche you inhabit, and how you will make a difference in the lives of members, the team and the community.
3. What makes you different and better?
- How do you stand out from your competitors?
- Identify the philosophies or values that guide your credit union.
4. Build your brand
- Use your mission statement to build your unique brand.
- Make sure to communicate your key values to the members and communities you serve.
5. Keep it short and sweet
- You should be able to summarize your mission in a few sentences.
Your mission statement, as wonderful as it might sound now, should not be set in stone. As your business grows and changes, so too might your credit union’s mission. Revisit your mission statement on a regular basis to evaluate whether it should be revised or updated. If you’ve hit the nail on the head the first time around, you probably shouldn’t have to alter it significantly as time goes by.
An ideal mission statement should be inspiring and the statement should bring a certain focus to the staff as the purpose of their work crystallizes and they are able to see the value of their contribution. Few things in life are as fulfilling as the knowledge that you are contributing to something greater than yourself. The mission statement should allow each employee to see their own personal role in the credit unions success. Great mission statements create focus, passion and bigger results!