To make the most of the pandemic experience, it’s important to acknowledge and quantify last year’s successes.
Most boards and management teams are extremely proud of what they were able to accomplish in 2020, and rightly so. Until COVID-19, the rapid reactions and quick pivots the pandemic required had rarely been experienced. It is important to acknowledge and quantify those successes so they aren’t relegated to mere anecdotes in the future.
Traditional metrics were less of a focus for most in 2020—loan growth, deposit growth and ROA targets became far less relevant. Some did reset their targets mid-year, but even organizations that did found that their primary focus was elsewhere, especially in the second and third quarter. When asked what 2020 success looked like, the most common answers were:
- We helped our customers when they needed it. We waived fees, deferred payments (often without a difficult burden of proof) and worked individually with many to help them weather their financial storms.
- We protected our employees. We implemented physical distancing protocols almost instantaneously, provided flexible work schedules, relaxed sick-time rules, and communicated early and often about what was happening, even if it was just to say that we were working on figuring things out. Employees expressed deep gratitude and told us that these measures helped them stay focused and productive.
- We became a remote workplace. We went from essentially no one working remotely to almost our entire team working remotely. We did it in a matter of weeks—and our IT support was outstanding.
- We reacted quickly and were able to scale up and down as needed. We reallocated resources to rapidly create a Paycheck Protection Program and handled the shift from consumer to mortgage and business lending with little disruption.
- We still moved our strategy forward. We used a disciplined approach to prioritize the initiatives with the most strategic impact. As a united team, we postponed or let go of the others. As a result, our strategy progressed and our leadership team is stronger and more focused than we have ever been.
Teams were proud of these accomplishments. They felt they were the right things to do.
Identifying what was most important to your institution during the unusual circumstances of 2020 is the first step in measuring success in a meaningful way. Then, use either quantitative or qualitative measures to communicate those successes to stakeholders so they can be preserved for the future.
Keeping the Momentum—Unexpected Benefits
Beyond the successes, going through the wringer of 2020 also resulted in countless learnings that can be applied going forward. Some of those were the result of successes, and others were gained when things didn’t go quite as well. Regardless, they are incredibly valuable and worth the effort to put them into place permanently. Gathering the team to identify the learnings is a good first step to lock in their benefits before they fade from memory. Here are some of the takeaways we’ve heard:
- Strategic sprints. Getting things done quickly in sprints (with great focus over a short period of time) was extremely effective and gratifying. We’re going to continue to use sprints for selected projects or pieces of projects.
- Strategic focus. The mindsets of the board and leadership team were forever shifted. We agreed that, going forward, we would approach our strategy and strategic initiatives with the same intensity and urgency—even without a pandemic.
- Strategic implementation. The crisis taught us what we needed to do and forced us to move unimportant stuff out of the way. Having a clear, coordinated approach to managing the portfolio of projects was critical. It’s how we were able to make the right decisions at the right time for implementation and it’s how we intend to handle our project portfolio going forward.
- Business model focus. We were relentless about keeping the most crucial parts of the business in our sights. In a crisis, it’s hard to look more than a few inches beyond the immediate, but we did not push lending to the back burner for long. We used the time freed up during the initial drop in demand to gear up with more efficiency and better experiences. We agreed that, regardless of crises, revenue shortfalls or revenue windfalls, we will not take our eyes off the core business model.
- Strategic thinking. The strategic thinking conversations we had were crucial to deciding on the best responses possible. As the situation developed, we dove deep into how expansive the crisis could get, how long it might last, and how extensive our customer and employee needs could be. Waiting to act until all is known isn’t feasible, but thinking strategically through various potential outcomes helped us address this crisis and will help us to address a wide variety of situations going forward.
Measuring success in such an unusual year starts with articulating what 2020’s highest priorities actually turned out to be and finding ways to measure them. This helps teams understand and celebrate their successes and helps align stakeholders around 2020’s accomplishments. To make the most of your experiences, identify and take actions that enable you to use those valuable learnings going forward. 2020 was a wild ride that highlighted what was truly important in a time of crisis and revealed lessons that can be used to excel well into the future.
c. myers helps financial institutions take control of their future by linking strategy, desired financial performance, and consistent execution with the right talent. Their experience and thought leadership allows them to work as a strategic collaborator and help uncover opportunities that result in continuous business model optimization. They have the experience of working with over 600 financial institutions, including 50% of those over $1 billion in assets and about 25% over $100 million. c. myers helps credit unions think to differentiate and drive better decisions through strategic planning & business model optimization, strategic solutions and implementation, strategic leadership development, real-time ALM and financial planning, education, and thought leadership.