“Revving up Organizational Performance”
CU Journal Best Practice Award Winner 2006
By: Jo Dee Martinez, Sr. Mgr. of Strategic Projects for Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union ($982 million, 55,000 members)
Prior to implementing its performance management solution in November 2004, Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union’s projects, goals, and tactics were managed and reported ineffectively. Goals set by the credit union’s Board, which were tied to the “at risk” pay of senior and executive managers, were tracked in a spreadsheet. Financial goals were tracked in the same spreadsheet. This was a “static” tool, meaning that Sandia Labs didn’t update it regularly so if and when projects were completed, it didn’t have a dialog about what the next most important project should be and whether it had the resources. Each department had its own method for tracking and prioritizing projects and initiatives. There was no cohesive, systematic way to see all of the various projects that were happening or the progress of goals and projects across the organization, which made it difficult to request resources for a project or initiative; therefore, some projects would go on for years and years. There was also no method to link or prioritize all the various projects and initiatives back to the overall corporate goals and objectives. Sandia Labs had attempted to solve these issues by tracking projects in tools such as Microsoft Project, Excel and Word. The credit union spent a lot of time attempting to gather all the input for each department so that it could have a comprehensive list of projects, but that took so much time and effort that it never got to the point of being able to address the real concerns. Sandia Labs knew what was giving it pains, but the credit union couldn’t get its arms around everything. It was draining the credit union’s ability to get all the things done that it thought needed to be done.
Sandia Labs decided to deploy Cardwell Group’s Connections Online web-based management automation tool to improve management alignment, tracking, and reporting on the progress of goals and projects. Connections Online’s performance management processes and methods were aimed to help management align goals and projects to the credit union’s mission, vision, values, and objectives.
The credit union began by implementing the system throughout the executive and senior management team. This project included the development modules such as SLFCU Organization Connection, Team Connections, and Individual Connections, and the launch of dialog processes for each. The project included the development of three Department Connections: Branch Administration, Human Resources & Training, and ITS.
As of March 2005, the system was fully implemented and operational at the executive and senior management levels. It helped the credit union to clearly identify and align SLFCU’s core purpose, BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), core values, measures, and business priorities. As Sandia Labs continued the process and used the system, the new solution enhanced its value to the organization.
Today, more projects are completed on time because the credit union is more focused on what is important. Everyone in the organization can see every project’s focus, goals, and objectives. Staff knows what the current business priorities are and what’s in the queue. The identification of project management roles and responsibilities helps facilitate shared responsibility for project success and overall ownership. This process ensures that there is project sponsorship before a team is assembled and the work begins. Also, the project management processes enabled through our new management system helps teams to clarify scope, roles, deliverables, and tasks, all while helping develop team and individual leadership skills that, over time, translate directly into developing the core processes of leadership within the organization.
Summary of Results:
- 30 percent more projects completed in the first year (several large-scale projects simultaneously).
- 43 percent time savings in senior leadership meetings, which amounts to approximately 240 fewer executive hours per year spent in traditional leadership team meetings.
- By standardizing the monthly coach/employee dialog process, the credit union has increased the quality of the individual performance management meetings and, thus, made performance management an ongoing process of leadership rather than a yearly ritual tied to the annual appraisal process. Even more beneficial is that these meetings are initiated and led by the employees, which naturally increases personal accountability.
- 100 percent of the senior leadership team has agreed that the benefits of the project outweighed the time and costs.
- As of the time of this paper, we have 100 of our 200 employees using our performance management processes and system for organization, department, and individual performance management.
- Implemented a process that allowed us to systematically link all the work that gets done in the organization as well as linking all of the people to support the objectives.
When Sandia Labs started this journey, one staff member half-jokingly asked the age-old question: “Can we teach old dogs new tricks?” The credit union has proven that the answer to this question is “yes.” It has seen enough positive changes to produce results — some measurable and some intangible, but impressive enough to warrant continuing down the path and continuously improving Sandia Labs’ performance processes.