It seems that everyone talks constantly about the need to innovate to put your credit union on the path to long-term success.

But innovation often requires radical changes that take time to produce results. And if the direction chosen is the wrong one, it can seriously cripple and potentially kill your credit union.

The reality is that most credit unions really don’t need to identify and implement an innovation. They simply need course corrections from time to time.

In One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, author Robert Maurer reveals that the key to making such course corrections effectively is to adopt the kaizen philosophy.

The essence of the kaizen philosophy is that it is much easier to create change by taking small steps. In doing so you are pursuing continuous improvement and creating significant impacts over time. Fear ceases to be an obstacle because the size and simplicity of the task make the risk of failure virtually nonexistent; and the repeated practice of kaizen leads you to quickly identify problems so that you can take immediate corrective action to minimize negative impacts.

Throughout the book, Maurer shares illustrative examples of using the kaizen approach to deal with various personal challenges such as losing weight, stopping smoking, or launching an exercise program. It is easy to see that these same approaches would work equally well on common credit union challenges such as increasing efficiency, expanding membership, or growing a loan portfolio.  The key is adopting the philosophy and searching for opportunities to take small steps.

Though the book is not one you would expect to find on the bookshelves of credit union leaders, it should be. It would be virtually impossible for any credit union leader to learn the power of the ‘small step’ approach that is the essence of kaizen without pondering potential applications that could improve their organizations. And that’s where the real value of this book lies—in revealing the potential to produce significant gains from small, easy, relatively low cost actions.

ACTION ADVICE: Read this book and keep a note pad handy to write down the ideas that occur to you for applying the Kaizen approach in your credit union.  Share the book with your Board and your leadership team and use the concept at your next planning session to identify small steps that will move your closer to your strategic vision.  Engage your team at all levels in considering the power of the small step approach and take action to improve your credit union.

It’s Your Turn…Do you have any experience using the Kaizen or small step approach in your credit union?  What are some areas where you think it might have merit for your team?  Please share your insights and examples by posting a comment and helping us all learn from your experiences.