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CU takes cue from Harvard Business School to drive strategic planning

USF Federal Credit Union in Tampa, Florida, has come up with a unique approach to strategic planning that is compatible with its academic and select employee group membership. Many of the 65,000 members of the $934 million credit union are students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University of South Florida. In fact, several of the board members are USF faculty and staff themselves, so it’s no surprise that they would be receptive to an idea for guiding their strategic planning process that has its origins in a well-respected teaching method.

The method comes from the Harvard Business School and directs students to delve into discussion cases based on real-world events to hone their decision-making skills. Modeling HBS’s case method, the USF FCU board of directors puts together an annual discussion case to analyze key areas of concern for the credit union. After gathering input from all nine directors and four supervisory committee members to prepare the discussion case, the volunteers from the board and supervisory committee meet to examine the case and then subsequently create a prioritized list of directives to pass onto management. The board, supervisory committee and management address the list, among other relevant concerns, at a joint strategic planning session, during which they develop final strategic goals and objectives for the year ahead.

Taking the Approach Full Circle

The idea to use the HBS case method at USF FCU came from Board Chair Rick Will, Ph.D., emeritus professor who taught qualitative research methods, project management and other IT classes at USF. Will, a CUES member, first used the Harvard case method at the university with undergraduate students investigating technology needs of USF FCU. At the time, he was a director on the USF FCU credit union board and wrote up some discussion cases derived from actual events at the credit union. Eventually, he had a revelation to take the case study method out of the classroom and bring it into the boardroom. “So, in essence, the process came full circle—from the real world to the classroom to the real world again,” Will reports.

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