Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - February 22, 2017


Some years ago, when I was working on a commercial credit curriculum for a large bank, the members of our team kept coming back to the theme of "How We Do Things Around Here." We used it so much that we started using the short version, HWDTAH, in memos to one another.

HWDTAH was an attempt to look at the culture that we wanted to establish. And if you've read this e-zine for a while, you know that I consider culture an important determiner of success. It's not a "soft" concept, but a crucial element in how well your institution performs over the long haul.

So when I go into an organization to provide training or consulting services, my antennae are up for any hints of HWDTAH, for any clues to the institution's culture. Often the participants in a training session give away information about their culture without even realizing it. But of course, I may also ask the contacts who hire me to describe their culture.

Often, when I pose that question, they point me to "The Manual", their documented policy and procedures. They are assuming that the practices described in the manual and the ones embraced by the culture are the same.

There are two things wrong with that assumption:

  1. Whether the manual influences actual practices is itself a matter of culture.
  2. The manual doesn't cover every possible situation.

To the first point, some manuals gradually become irrelevant. Practices evolve, documentation does not keep up, and pretty soon HWDTAH encompasses many practices that look quite different in the manual.

And in some cultures, what's in the manual can't compete with other influences. After all, did the Wells Fargo manual contain a section titled, "Diverting Funds to Set Up a New Account Without the Customer's Knowledge"? Of course not, but the culture made that happen an astronomical number of times.

To the second point, it is impossible to anticipate every credit situation and document it in advance. When a new wrinkle arises, staff have to make judgment calls. And they make them based on the prevailing practices and values of the culture that surrounds them.

I strongly believe that a comprehensive, relevant, up to date manual is a valuable tool for your success. (In fact, I spend considerable consulting time helping institutions create effective manuals.)

I just believe, equally strongly, that the manual is not enough. Take explicit care of your culture, so your culture can take care of you.