STRATEGIC PLANNING & A Simple QSPM Grid To Assess Which Visionary’s Idea is Best

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/17/15.

A former student told how a congregant abused the power of “vision” to push through an idea that was not in the best interest of the church.  The student wished there could be a way to prevent persuasive forecasters from selling the church on ideas, that though they may look good in a vision, in reality are not good for the church.

Here is his observation with some comments on how to evaluate such persuasive vision-casters:

Dear Dr. Whitesel, For years ____church name___  has debated two issues. Do we build an elevator or remodel the kitchen?  The elevator ended up being built.  I remember how it all went down.  A board member gave a vision statement of why we needed an elevator and painted a picture of the future of our church and how an elevator would benefit us.  The board unanimously voted in favor and the elevator was built.”  Sincerely, ___Name of Student___

My comments:

I reminded the student about how we learned about a “Quantitative Strategic Planning Matrix” (QSPM).  Basically this is an exercise (via a grid) through which we can measure numerically which of several tactics (e.g. an elevator for a church, a kitchen remodel or teaching English as a second language) will best help a church attain a vision that is based upon a SWOT.

Basically, with a vision statement and accompanying SWOT analysis, the student could then create a Quantitative Strategic Planning Matrix (QSPM) and numerically compared the two strategies (elevator or remodel a kitchen).

See Figure 5.8 (Smith, et. al. 2011, p. 100, click to enlarge) to see a QSPM for a church that was comparing its options of either relocating or starting a new service.

FIGURE ©Whitesel Ch MBA Figure 5.8
From this figure, I think you can see that in the ecclesial world we often lack knowledge about management tools, such as a QSPM, that would allow our leaders to make better choices regarding programming.  Usually churches make decisions about programming based upon the four Ps: Proximity (a church nearby tried this program and it worked), Popularity (a new program is so popular that your church wants to try it), Propensity (a leader in the church has a propensity, or partiality for a program), or Persuasiveness (of the presenter – and what happened in this case).

All of these ways to choose a strategy would be criticized in the business world as nothing more than hunches.  This is why many of our lay leaders, who are successful business people, are bothered by our cavalier attitude to tactic selection.  If they’ve taken business courses in undergrad or graduate school, they are already familiar with a QSPM.  And thus they often wonder how we can lead such an important organization as the church without an understanding a basic principles of planning such as a QSPM.Church Leader's MBA cover

Sometimes students struggle with using a Quantitative Strategic Planning Matrix (QSPM) and think, “this looks too complicated, I don’t think I will use it.”  But, it is a great exercise for a leadership retreat.  A QSPM can give an actual rating (a number) whereby you can compare two worthy ideas and see which one better matches up with your vision.

Now, you don’t need to use a QSPM every time you have a new idea.  But, when there two competing ideas (like in the story by the student above) then it is best to use a QSPM and get an actual numerical comparison.  It can take the emotional vision-persuasion elements out of important decisions and make these decisions more balanced.

PLANNING & Avoiding Missteps When Picking a Program by Preference, Popularity or Scripture

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/9/15.

In a previous post I suggested a SWOT analysis is a simple tool for picking programs that is better than the typical trial-and-error way most ministries pick tactics.

Let me explain what this exercise was designed to drive home. And that is that we often pick strategies because of a preference for that strategy, because a strategy is popular or because someone has tried to tie the strategy to a specific scripture.

Therefore, I made up a short three answer question to stir discussion.  As you remember, Baumhart (quoted in the section on ethics in The Church Leader’s MBA) found that business leaders gave similar answers when asked how they made their ethical decisions.  Here is what Baumhart found (1968, pp. 11-12):

Baumhart asked: “What does ethical mean to you?”  The answers he received were:

1)  What my feelings tell me is right.  50%

2)  In accordance with my religious beliefs. 25%

3)  Based on the Golden Rule. 18%

Here is the rationale given by Baumhart why these are ineffective ways to choose ethical behavior:

1) Baumhart explained that feelings were an inconsistent guide to the right choice.

2) Baumhart also emphasized that great injustices (slavery, bigotry, murder, infanticide, etc.) have been done in the name of religion. Thus, religious beliefs are sometimes not suitable guides to right choices.

3) Finally, the Golden Rule is not a good guide to right choices because it is often used in a negative form (“do not hurt others if you do not want them to hurt you”).

My earlier posting on ethics was designed to get you to see that all three (3) of the answers are helpful to a degree, but not “definitive” when picking a strategy.  Let me explain by analyzing each of the responses.

How do you choose programs for your ministry? (Possible answers are below.)

1)  What my feelings tell me are right.

As we saw with ethics, your feelings are an inconsistent guide to making choices.  How many of us have been excited and passionate about a strategy because we primarily “feel good” about it?  Often when I ask pastors why they choose a strategy, they will say “I just felt it would work for us.”  Now, there is definitely a possibility that this is a leading of the Holy Spirit bearing testimony upon our heart (e.g. Rom. 8:14-16).  But feelings can also be misleading, as a Judge for Israel (Samson) found out when he spied a beautiful, yet forbidden, Philistine woman (Judges 14) and cried out in covetousness, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife” (Judges 14:2).

2)  In accordance with what my local friends in the ministry think is best.

Often we think that because our ministry friends think a strategy is right, then it is good for us.  But because friends do not know your unique situation like you do, their advice can be unconstructive.

3)  Based upon a Scriptural passage.

There are many good Scriptural principles for strategic tactics (for instance caring for the needy which might result in a clothing shelf).  But Scriptural principles alone can be insufficient to determine if a strategy is right for your church.

Still, most people just choose a strategy based upon their preference, its popularity and/or Scripture and try it out to see if it works. The leaders recruit volunteers, get them enthused about the idea, get them involved and then the leader watches to see if the idea succeeds.  If it doesn’t, the leader ends the program and moves on.

But I have found that many good volunteers are hurt in this process. They have been inspired and stirred to action to do this new tactic, and then when it is ended because it was not suitable in the first place, they can feel duped and discarded.

Thus, use this discussion to start thinking about the process of strategy selection. But please don’t stop there!  Hours of volunteer time and treasures are at stake.  Also use management tools to discover if a strategy matches up with your SWOT.

A helpful tool is a Quantitative Strategic Planning Matrix (QSPM).  It’s a long name for a helpful comparison tool.  A QSPM can save your volunteers many hours of wasted time, by helping your church concentrate on those strategies that have the greatest change of building upon your strengths, opportunities while minimizing your weaknesses and threats.

Baumhart, R. (1968). An honest profit: What businessmen say about ethics in business. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Wilson.