Do You Feel Like You’ve Been Run Over by Change?

In the hyperactive world we live in today, you’re either going forward or going backwards – but you’re never standing still.

Based on that premise, a lot of organizations, churches included, are going backwards. 

Historically, organizational leaders didn’t have to worry about fundamental paradigm shifts. They could safely assume that their basic business model, their way of doing things, would last forever. Over the last few decades, that thought has not only gone by the wayside, it’s been blown to the side of the road by in increased speed of, well, life.

In the case of the church, the paradigm was loyal pew-warmers who showed up each week, sat passively through the same unvarying service, dropped five dollars into the offering plate as it passed, and politely shook the pastor’s hand as they headed off for Sunday lunch.

Repeat next week.

But as we have found out over the last few decades, organizational models aren’t eternal. Increasingly, we have witnessed profound paradigm shifts in the world of business, where rigid adherence to one particular model causes the organization to atrophy when its model no longer works – or at least, works well.

What’s true for the world of physics works in the world of organizations as well – over time, entropy increases. As Gary Hamel writes in What Matters Now:

Visionary leaders pass the baton to steadfast administrators who milk the legacy business but fail to reinvent it. The bureaucrats extrapolate but they don’t rejuvenate. As the years pass, the mainspring of foresight and passion slowly unwinds. The organization gets better but it doesn’t get different, and little by little it surrenders its relevance.

Recognize the Church anywhere in that statement? Better yet, do you recognize your church in that statement?

As Christianity has become institutionalized it has become encrusted with elaborate hierarchies, top-heavy bureaucracies, highly specialized roles, and reflexive routines.

Your church won’t regain its relevance until leaders chip off those calcified layers and rediscover its sense of mission.

 

Inspired by Gary Hamel’s What Matters Now as part of my research in preparation for a presentation at WFX Atlanta 09/19/12

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Four Disciplines of Organizational Health

An organization doesn’t become healthy in a linear, tidy fashion.

– Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage

Patrick Lencioni’s latest book The Advantage is a comprehensive, practical guide, covering many of the topics introduced in one of his eight business fable books. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is just a repackaging – The Advantage goes far beyond that. In it you will find some very practical, hands-on tools to help your organization become healthy.

Previous posts here and here introduced the book. The central theme of the book is today’s topic: The Four Disciplines Model. Here is Lencioni’s overview of the Four Disciplines.

Discipline 1: Build a Cohesive Leadership Team

An organization simply cannot be healthy if the people who are chartered with running it are not behaviorally cohesive in five fundamental ways. In any kind of organization, from a corporation to a department within that corporation, from a small, entrepreneurial company to a church or a school, dysfunction and lack of cohesion at the top inevitably lead to a lack of health throughout.

Discipline 2: Create Clarity

In addition to being behaviorlly cohesive, the leadership team of a healthy organization must be intellectually aligned and committed to the same answers to six simple but critical questions. There can be no daylight between leaders around these fundamental issues.

Discipline 3: Overcommunicate Clarity

Once a leadership team has established behavioral cohesion and created clarity around the answers to those questions, it must then communicate those answers to the rest of the organization clearly, repeatedly, enthusiastically, and repeatedly (that’s no typo). When it comes to reinforcing clarity, there is no such thing as too much communication.

Discipline 4: Reinforce Clarity

Finally, in order for an organization to remain healthy over time, its leaders must establish a few critical, non-bureaucratic systems to reinforce clarity in every process that involves people. Every policy, every program, every activity should be designed to remind your team what is really most important.

I hope today’s post and the previous two have enticed you to get The Advantage. The book certainly stands alone, but there is also a great deal of web content available on organizational health.

What are you waiting on?

The health of your organization is at stake!

Smart vs. Healthy

Being smart is only half the equation in a successful organization. Yet it somehow occupies almost all the time, energy, and attention of most leaders. The other half of the equation, the one that is largely neglected, is about being healthy.

– Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage

In Patrick Lencioni’s latest book The Advantage, you will find the following chart:

Lencioni comments: “Whenever I list the qualities for leaders, I usually get one of the following reactions, and sometimes both. Often they laugh quietly, in a nervous. almost guilty kind of way. Or they barely sigh, like parents do when they hear about a family where the kids do what they’re told the first time they’re asked. In either case, it’s as thought they’re thinking, ‘Wouldn’t that be nice?’ or, ‘Can you imagine?’

None of the leaders – even the most cynical ones – deny that their organizations would be transformed if they could achieve the characteristics fo a healthy organization. Yet they almost always gravitate to the left side of the chart above, retreating to the safe, measurable “smart” side of the equation.

Why?

Because it’s relatively safe and predictable, which most leaders prefer. That’s how they’ve been trained, and that’s where they’re comfortable.

It takes discipline to move beyond the safe and predictable, into the sometimes awkward and messy area of organizational health.

Tomorrow: Four Disciplines of Organizational Health

Adapted from The Advantage, by Patrick Lencioni

The Case for Organizational Health

The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.

– Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage

With that bold statement, Patrick Lencioni delivers perhaps his finest work to date – no mean feat considering that his eight business fables remain required reading for leaders in any organization – especially ChurchWorld.

Instead of trying to become smarter, Lencioni asserts that leaders and organizations need to shift their focus to becoming healthier, allowing them to tap into the more-than-sufficient intelligence and expertise they  already have.

What’s the secret to discovering organizational health? Or to put it more bluntly, why do leaders struggle to embrace it?

According to Lencioni, it’s because too many leaders quietly believe they are too sophisticated, too busy, or too analytical to bother with it. In other words, they think it’s beneath them. Before leaders can tap into the power of organizational health, they must humble themselves enough to overcome the three biases that prevent them from embracing it:

  • The Sophistication Bias: organization health is so simple and accessible that many leaders have a hard time seeing it as a real opportunity for meaningful advantage. It doesn’t require great intelligence or sophistication – just uncommon levels of discipline, courage, persistence, and common sense.
  • The Adrenaline Bias: becoming a healthy organization takes a little time; unfortunately, too many leaders suffer from adrenaline addiction, hooked on the daily rush of activity and firefighting within their own organizations.
  • The Quantification Bias: the benefits of becoming a healthy organization are difficult to accurately quantify. It requires a level of conviction and intuition that many overly analytical leaders have a hard time accepting.

To close this post, possibly one of the boldest, most audacious quotes you will ever hear or read:

Once organizational health is properly understood and placed into the right context, it will surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage. Really.

Tomorrow: Would you rather be smart or healthy?