DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

How organization’s can become great…

Written by: on September 5, 2015

My recent work has taken me into several Christian organizations that are struggling under financial pressures, and are experiencing declining customers or members. Their day-to-day operations aren’t driving successful outcomes. They’ve fallen into what Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, calls “the Doom Loop”[1], or a downward spiral. Hence, these organizations are forced to figure out what they can do to begin operating in a more efficient manner, to improve marketing efforts, etc. Often, they have tried advice or techniques from the latest leadership trends, without the success they hoped for. When I begin to discuss operational standards and employment practices with these organizations, I often see resistance and an attitude of ‘we are not a business’. There is a general avoidance and distrust of those practices that seem ‘too corporate’. It is often assumed that operating like a business will limit an organization’s ability to follow the Lord’s leading.  I typically find that there is a strong desire to serve Christ within these organizations, but lacking strategic focus in the day-to-day operations, policies, and programs.  The good news is that there are many business practices that can enable an organization to more effectively reflect the image of Christ and to fulfill a specific purpose in the body of Christ.

In Good to Great, author Jim Collins discusses what he terms ‘the Hedgehog Concept’. [2] The Hedgehog concept demonstrates how an organization’s strategic focus contributes to their ability to be successful.  Organizations should identify what they are best at, what drives their economic engine, and what they are passionate about. For Christian organizations, this is where their calling and the Lord’s leading come into play. Too many churches and Christian organizations begin the task of evangelizing the world and doing ministry in a broad context, without understanding the specific scope of work that the Lord has called them to do. Often, they strive to follow the same models that worked for the church or organization down the road. They look for opportunities and often leap into new programs, projects, and ministries without having a clear vision or understanding how the work enables them to better fulfill their specific mission or calling. They lack strategic direction and focus.

Collins, in Good To Great And The Social Sectors[3], offers the following advice for social organizations:

  • Identify what success looks like, and how it will be measured.
    • How will outcomes be measured?
    • What evidence is available to assess mission effectiveness?
    • Are appropriate reporting and tracking mechanisms in place?
  • Put strong (level 5) leaders in place. These leaders will have a passion and drive for the organization. They aren’t afraid of conflict; rather they will focus on the greater good. They don’t have personal agendas.
    • Do people follow the leader(s)?
    • Do the leaders propagate healthy behaviors and collaboration?
    • Do they encourage healthy conflict and innovation?
    • Do they demonstrate a passion for the cause?
    • Do they have the right skills and technical or subject understanding to make good decisions?
    • Do they know how to navigate the system and to get things done?
  • Place the right people, on the right seat, on the right bus.
    • Do workers have the skills necessary to complete their job tasks?
    • Do teams have camaraderie?
    • Is everyone motivated to achieve greatness for the organization?
    • Are there any conflicting personal agendas?
  • Work hard and persevere – take the flywheel approach. Avoid hopeless, heroic measures and meaningless campaigns that don’t really fix issues. Instead, work steadily and know that success requires effort, tough decisions, and a strong push forward over a sustained time period.

Scripture (I Corinthians 9:24-27) teaches that we are to run the race to obtain the prize. We do so by being disciplined and maintaining control. We don’t run aimlessly. Collin’s research demonstrates that organizations must have disciplined people, thought, and actions in order to be great.[4]

 

[1] James C. Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap–and Others Don’t (New York, NY: HarperBusiness, 2001), 164.

[2] James C. Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap–and Others Don’t (New York, NY: HarperBusiness, 2001), 95.

[3] Collins, Jim (2011-09-27). Good To Great And The Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great (Kindle Location 452). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

[4] Collins, Jim (2011-09-27). Good To Great And The Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great (Kindle Location 452). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

About the Author

Dawnel Volzke

Christ follower, wife, mom, teacher, student, professional...my passion is to serve Christ and my calling is to help organizations become great at fulfilling their mission.

7 responses to “How organization’s can become great…”

  1. Travis Biglow says:

    Dawnel, it is important to utilize some of the business principles that we have learned from the business world in our churches. I know that for some reason some Christian leaders think that to be more spiritual you cant adopt the business principles of the world. I think that we cant help but do this because we have to be legal in our country even to operate a church. I think that many of the principle the book discussed are important for Christian leaders and how they should operate. One of the attributes of the level 5 leader was “humility” and i think that if we operated in humility most of the job is already done.

  2. mm Dave Young says:

    Dawnel, A good summary, starting point for Christian Organizations to do their best at what they are called to do. I knew this book would be right up your alley. 🙂

  3. mm Brian Yost says:

    Dawnel,
    Great post. Thanks for reminding us of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. It is intriguing to see how closed the church can often be to learning from other disciplines. I think Paul would agree with you that we can and should learn from other disciplines that focus on operational expertise, organizational structuring, etc. After all, Paul told the early church that we should learn from the military, fighters, and runners.

  4. mm Mary Pandiani says:

    I remember an old joke that went something like this: “Pastor Charles, when you preached this week, I know you said you relied on the Holy Spirit with the second half of your sermon, but I really liked the first half better.” Granted we always need to rely on the Holy Spirit, but the point to be made was that preparation and strategic thinking are also part of God’s plan. I think Jesus had a definite “hedgehog concept” that drove his specific three years of ministry. I think all organizations can learn from Collins’ book. From your experience, it appears that a more could benefit from taking some of the principles and applying them. For that I am grateful for “Good to Great.” In fact, I think it is a must read. My only concern is that people read it using a critical mind with a reflective heart.

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Mary,
      Your concern is quite valid, and one that I hear expressed by many. It is possible to implement good operating practices and still remain sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is what makes a Christian organization distinct from secular counterparts. Unfortunately, the reality of what happens in most organizations is rarely so simple. Often, operations evolve and workers get caught up in daily work tasks. Leaders are faced with making decisions each day that fall into gray areas, so they must very carefully listen for the Lord’s leading.

      • Jon Spellman says:

        Dawnel and Mary, yes and this “living in the gray (grey?)” is also where church leaders (pastors especially) can find themselves in moral trouble… When we get comfortable in an environment without clear cut “yes, do this!” and “NO, don’t do that!” the migration from principles to ethics and then on to morality is pretty easy to spot.

        Some business-level rigidity can go a long way in keeping a church leader on the straight and narrow him/herself!

        j

  5. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Dawnel, I think you nailed it with your line … “There is a general avoidance and distrust of those practices that seem ‘too corporate’. It is often assumed that operating like a business will limit an organization’s ability to follow the Lord’s leading.” I think there has been so much damage to the Church because of a misunderstanding and mishandling of healthy organization practices that work in both the sacred and the secular. I think that is why Collins book has been so helpful to many churches is that it helped them bridge the gap. Sounds like your job is very interesting and definitely frustrating when the church is your client.

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