Why should credit unions do research? First, according to W. Edwards Deming, father of TQM, there can be no improvement without measurement. Further, without measurement, there can be no innovation because innovation is irrelevant if it's not improvement. Research provides the baseline from which to judge improvement, innovation and success.
Another reason for research is "that which is measured tends to improve," as demonstrated in the Hawthorne Experiments. Measuring something and communicating that it is being measured sends a message that it matters. Measurement that generates improvement is one of the powerful outcomes of research.
A third reason for research is that "results come from behaviors, and behaviors come from beliefs," according to management guru Vance Caesar. In other words, people act in accordance with what they believe. Only through research can one understand their thinking. If a credit union wants to entice people to utilize services, it is wise to understand drivers of how people act, which in turn is a function of what they believe.
Finally, research is indispensable in strategic planning. Typical strategic planning involves the board and senior management, omitting three important constituents: employees, members and potential members. These three stakeholders need to be included in the process, which requires research into what they think and know.
One of the focal points of research is asking people why they do what they do. There is little point in asking them what they do because actions can be directly observed. For example, don't ask members how often they use an ATM because the transaction record will provide a more accurate answer. Rather, ask them questions that focus on "why" or "why not."
Management guru Stephen Covey said that to change people's actions, change the way they think. Only research can lead to an understanding of what people are thinking and hence how they are acting. This knowledge leads to better decision-making for the organization.
Neil Goldman is President of Member Research. He can be reached at 310- 643-5910 or ngoldman<at>memberresearch.com.