LOWELL, Mass-Jeanne D'Arc CU went from completing 12 department-level and companywide projects a year to 76 in 2009-including constructing a new headquarters-by employing a project management portal.

The CU uses Cardwell Group's Connections Online, a program that resides on the CU's intranet and emphasizes individual accountability and inter-team communication among project teams. CEO Mark Cochran said the $900-million CU knew it needed to become more efficient at completing projects. "We just needed a tool to give us a disciplined process to get there," he said.

Projects are entered into Connections, which then makes team members' roles and tasks visible, along with their progress and deadlines. "It prevents procrastination. It's the visibility of the entire project process that has the greatest impact. This is not about harassment, but more about the fact no one wants to feel they are not pulling their weight. Everyone can see what everyone is working on," Cochran said.

The result: a greater sense of accomplishment among staff, Cochran explained. "It is a tremendous rush to see how our projects are moving along."

Being able to see the progress of individuals toward a task has increased inter-team and inter-project communication, said Cochran, who noted Connections Online includes dialogue, leadership development, and team-building components.

"Employees meet with their manager at least once a month, and it is the employee's meeting, not the manager's," Cochran said, which helps create a real back-and-forth dialogue between employee and manager.

Jim Cardwell, CEO of the Cleveland-based Cardwell Group, said the price for Connections Online is between $30,000 to $40,000. "It is about the same price you would pay to have a strategic planning consultant work with your credit union," Cardwell added.

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