Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - September 23, 2015

Check the Settings on your Force-Field!

We've all seen it, on TV or in a movie: the invisible "dome" or "bubble" over a city that exists sometime far in the future. This force-field may be defensive, making sure that the enemy's weapons do not reach the city. Or it could be something that keeps people from escaping, that restricts where people can go.

Some science fiction tales even have smaller force-fields that protect an individual from harm.

The point is, these force-fields let some things in and keep others out. Oxygen: permitted. Ray-gun blasts: prevented.

Now, in the classroom, at the convention center, and in the boardroom, I talk to hundreds of credit staff and their managers from a wide range of institutions every year. And it is clear from those conversations that just about all of us work underneath one of these invisible domes.

But we don't call them "force-fields". We call them "culture". We have a common understanding of "how we do things around here", and that constantly filters information.

That filtering can be very good. After all, if there are some types of loan requests that the institution knows it doesn't want to handle, keeping them outside the dome makes sense and improves results. Maybe there are certain types of businesses or industry niches that you just feel you don't handle well, as you do not have the expertise to manage the risk associated with them.

Maybe, too, the dome keeps credit staff from even thinking about recommending certain requests for approval. Under my dome, for instance, I want to block out situations where we are really providing start-up equity to the borrower. And write-ups that cite "working capital" as the "purpose" without tying that purpose to something much more specific also bounce off my dome.

On the other hand, maybe your dome is pretty porous. Or perhaps it excludes opportunities that would be worth pursuing. It could be the case that useful chunks of information, or productive analysis habits, are overlooked because they are not part of "how we do things around here".

The most important thing about the "culture dome" is whether or not you know it is there! In science fiction stories, sometimes the dome is secretly imposed on a community, and they only discover it when they bump into it. They do not "see" the force-field until it keeps them from a desired destination or outcome.

Do you only think about your culture when you "bump into it", when it creates a problem that cannot be ignored? Or do you explicitly manage your culture, periodically reviewing and adjusting the settings on your dome to produce optimal results for your credit business?