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Establishing a project management culture

October 20, 2014
Read Time: 0 min

Among the various characteristics that make up a company’s culture, one of the most important aspects often goes overlooked. Ancin Cooley, principal of Synergy Bank Consulting, Inc. states that a mix of value-based cultures is pivotal in the effective management of a bank. A sound project management culture, Cooley argues, should be in the forefront of financial professionals’ minds.

In his article, Cooley defines a project management culture as one that focuses on the “application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently.” Simply put, it is the mindset that turns thought and theory into positive results.

Institutions that possess a rich project management culture are readily able to adapt to regulatory changes, quickly funnel tasks through the pipeline to deliver actionable results and as a whole they embrace effective practices and implement them throughout the organization.

This, in theory, may seem quite broad. Banks and credit unions on any given day have myriads of tasks they must execute. How, then, would a financial institution improve their project management culture across the board?


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The first step, Cooley states, is to build a foundation that embraces this project management culture. He lists a few steps institutions can take to build from the ground up:

Get buy-in and lead from the front: Cooley states a top down approach, led by executive management and the Board, should be taken to clearly communicate expectations.

Set up project management as an opportunity, not a punishment: Reward those who are capable of delivering results by tasking them with manageable goals. It is costly to hire new employees, and often talent can be found within institutions' existing employees. Give employees that have proven themselves the opportunity to grow further and manage new tasks.

Help your team pick low-hanging fruit at the beginning: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start with less complicated initiatives to build confidence and foster acceptance of the new culture.

Document and proclaim successful projects early and often: Solidify the importance of this new culture by sharing successes. Reward team members and those that have performed well in their tasks early on for continued buy-in. This will facilitate cooperation as tasks grow more complex.

Next, Cooley cites an example – how a credit union might improve loan documentation. In this instance, management should cite the business case for the project and generate a list of goals and tasks. A sample checklist of objectives follows:

•Create standard loan documentation requirements for each loan type in the next 60 days.

•Continue training of loan administration personnel on standard loan documentation.

•Reduce the number of loan documentation errors.

•Integrate a loan documentation check into the audit process.

•Define success criteria, i.e., “To achieve success, the following objectives must be met within the designated time…”

•Develop a standard, foolproof methodology for determining which documents to use to secure different types of loans within the next 20 days.

•Create checklists for each loan type for use by loan administration staffers within 45 days.

•Develop an evaluation/testing process for loan administration personnel.

•Introduce, via half-day training, the standards and checklists to loan administration within the next 60 days.

•Test loan administration personnel on commercial loan documentation.

•Add loan documentation to annual internal audit schedule.

A determined project management culture will enable institutions to successfully execute tasks such as improving loan documentation, per the example above. What’s more, a culture that embraces these principles will be better-suited to take on larger projects, such as rolling out a new product.

As the banking industry continues to redefine itself, establishing a foundational project management culture will become increasingly important to keep up with change and to face challenges head on. 

About the Author


Raleigh, N.C.-based Sageworks, a leading provider of lending, credit risk, and portfolio risk software that enables banks and credit unions to efficiently grow and improve the borrower experience, was founded in 1998. Using its platform, Sageworks analyzed over 11.5 million loans, aggregated the corresponding loan data, and created the largest

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