STRATEGY & If You Don’t Want to Be a Boring Leader, Stop ‘Strategizing’ and Do This Instead

Commentary by Professor B: I research/teach strategy and have led organizations from churches to denominational executives through the strategizing process. And, one of the biggest missteps is to create a strategy with too many people or too few involved. By “too many,” I mean having in the room people who are there because it is politically prudent to do so, instead of having experts in strategy involved. And by “having too few,” I mean not having people in the room who are involved in front-line, person to person tactical application of the strategy. For more on that see John Kotter, in his seminal article on “Leading Change: Why change efforts fail” in Harvard Business Review. And, for another overview of how to prevent these missteps, check out this INC. Magazine article.

If You Don’t Want to Be a Boring Leader, Stop ‘Strategizing’ and Do This Instead

by Robin Camarote, Inc. Magazine, 10/30/17.

The process problem is that we approach strategic planning as a group exercise. After spending literally hundreds of hours watching groups try to think together, I can assure you that no (okay, very few) brilliant strategic ideas come out when people gather.

The people problem is a touchy one. People invited to strategic planning efforts get there because of their title and their position — not because of their insight, energy, optimism, or even knowledge of the real issues facing the organization. They’re there because they have to be…

So, what could we all do better to avoid these process and people pitfalls?

  1. First, recognize that the strategy part of strategic planning is better done upfront and individually rather than in a group. Organizations should be training their staff on an ongoing basis to build critical thinking skills, stay connected with customers and the broader industry, and anticipate problems. These skills will make them more able to diagnose problems in the company and keep abreast of what’s trending in their market. Then, instead of bringing groups together, you can challenge the managers (at a minimum — you could include other members of the staff in this as well) to state the biggest problem they see facing the organization and how they’d propose to fix it. From there, you can either set up an organic process by which managers must build coalitions of support to move their solution forward, or, if you’re the team leader, you could simply pick the solutions that you see as most viable.
  2. Second, get in the habit of creating mixed planning teams. There is no reason that the most important planning exercise should be limited to those with certain titles. They might have earned the promotion, but they shouldn’t be the default group included. At a minimum, include representatives from various tiers in the organization, including junior staff and back-office support functions. If you’re really ambitious, add a representative customer and industry expert. Bringing in external perspectives is the best way to ensure you’re not stuck in an echo chamber and that this critical planning process doesn’t become just another thing to do among your senior executives. Most people tend to be on their best, most professional behavior when there is an outsider in the room — so facilitating the conversation becomes easier, as well.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/robin-camarote/if-you-dont-want-to-be-a-boring-leader-stop-strategizing-do-this-instead.html

strategic planning strategy forecasting strategy Wesley Seminary

PLANNING & Growth by Accident, Death by Planning (The Book’s Premise Stated)

“Most of the time young, growing churches make a series of decisions based not upon careful planning and analysis, but rather upon necessity and intuition. Thus these decisions are not planned strategies, but strategies that often occur by accident, owing their genesis to circumstance. These unplanned strategic decisions are driven not by knowledge, but often simply by the church’s environment. When that growth slows, these same churches begin to engage in more careful planning. The problem is that this planning so often ignores the considerations and decisions that led to the church’s growth to begin with. The result is stagnation and eventual decline.”

Premise of the book Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How NOT to Kill a Growing Congregation by Bob Whitesel.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004.

Retrieved from http://www.abingdonpress.com/product/9780687083251#.V795L7Ws3Y8

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 & How to Create Plans Built Upon an Organization’s SWOT Analysis

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

In several other postings, I have explained how a simple SWOT analysis can help ministry leaders make better planning decisions.

And, the best tactics are those that build on an organization’s Strengths and Opportunities, called SO-strategies.  

To show how the same SO (Strength Opportunity) strategy can have different tactics, I will share a dialogue between myself and two former students.  This should help clarify how you get tactics (i.e. planning processes) from the SO quadrant (i.e. cell) of the TOWS matrix (which is a grid made from your SWOT analysis).

It began when a student noted that for his church an “Opportunity” was that there were many “working poor” in the church’s neighborhood.  And he also noted the church had a “Strength” for teaching and education.  So, the student suggested an  SO (Strength/Opportunity) strategy in their TOWS matrix which built on the church’s strength and an opportunity would be: “Offer Financial Stewardship Classes with childcare and a meal provided.”

My question in response was the following:

Hello (student name).  I wonder how other churches have addressed the working poor. I’ve heard some anecdotal feedback that financial stewardship classes don’t reach the working poor, but the middle-class. 

Thus, can you do a bit more online sleuthing (and other students can chime in and help you as well – they will then receive more points too) and tell us some more programming to help the working poor?

 Thanks in advance.  Your research can make your church (and other students’ churches) more effective. Dr. Whitesel

Here is how another student in the cohort proficiently responded. I’m sharing it here to help everyone see how there can be different tactics (financial stewardship classes or long-term solidarity with the poor) for the same SO strategy: help the working poor.

—–

Author: Jack (last name)
Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 8:14:13 PM EST
 Subject: RE: SWOT & TOWS

Dr. Whitesel’s statement, “I wonder how other churches have addressed the working poor. I’ve heard some anecdotal feedback that financial stewardship classes don’t reach the working poor, but the middle-class planning poor,” is very true.

Here’s more anecdotal feedback for you Adam, but it’s based on eight years of experience working with low-income families through a local non-profit social service ministry and the United Way. The most critical thing to recognize is that programs for addressing financial stewardship with low-income families do not work unless they take into account cultural differences between generational low-income people and situational low-income people. This is where the distinction in Dr. Whitsel’s comment between the “working poor” and “middle-class planning poor” is so important. If we assume that the “working poor” have been low-income for generations and the “middle-class planning poor” are low-income only due to a job loss, demotion or other circumstance, then how you reach them is very different.

Ruby Payne, Ph.D. has done some tremendous work on the cultural differences between typical low, middle and high income families in her book “Bridges Out of Poverty.” In it she points out factors like how these groups different core values impact their stewardship of money. For example, middle-income people tend to value the Puritan work ethic, gaining more financial security than the previous generation, etc. Wealthier people, who have typically always had money, value things that transcend monetary value (like art, culture, etc.). Low-income people, who often feel like they’ll never have money, value relationships. Thus, when one of their own starts to achieve financial independence or pursue higher education they can hear statements like “you’re getting above your raising.”

Another key difference between middle income and low income values is the tendency for low income people to feel like they’ll never get ahead. Thus, when they get a financial windfall, they are apt to spend it on something fun instead of save it. Saving for the future is a middle income value, not a low income value. These values often stick with a person even if their income status changes later in life. For example, I have a friend who grew up with generationally low income parents. He’s been low income his whole life. A few years ago, he got a $6,000 bonus at work. He spent it all in one weekend on a trip to a Nascar race using the rationale that “I’ll never have another opportunity.” Years later, he is now middle income but still lives paycheck to paycheck and is often facing financial trouble because his attitudes about money prevail. On the other hand, I was poor growing up but my family was situationally poor. Dad grew up in a middle income family and money was tight because he was getting his business going. I learned from him the values of hard work and saving.  So, even though I was poor growing up and when my wife and I were first married, by saving and being disciplined, we have managed to become financially secure. Dr. Payne’s work was based on American society, but I assume it would translate for Canadian society as well.

The main point is this, often well-meaning middle-class people can set out to help the “poor” by offering financial programs erroneously thinking that the “poor” just need more education and opportunity. While it’s true that education and opportunity are necessary bridges out of poverty, it’s wrong to think that if they are offered for free, the working poor will see the fantastic opportunity before them and pursue it.  The “middle class planning poor” probably would, but the “working poor” probably would not. It takes long-term relationships with generational low-income people to help them out of poverty and an understanding of the values they hold dear. You can’t impose your values on them and just say “here’s the plan….work it and you’ll be successful.” I think Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University stuff is good. But, it’s designed for people with a middle-class mindset and value structure. The same principles are lost in translation with most generationally low-income people.

STRATEGY PLANNING & ; The Essence of Strategy is Choosing What Not to Do

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Many Christian organizations try and do every thing for which they are given an opportunity. This is not strategic thinking. Strategic thinking is deciding what things to do and what things not to do. Napoleon Bonaparte summed up strategic thinking this way: ‘In order to concentrate superior strength in one place, economy of force must be exercised in other places.’ More recently Michael Porter said, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” When leaders are struggling to understand strategy read this article … and remember Porter’s adage.”

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2014/05/3-myths-that-kill-strategic-planning/

STRATEGY & 5 Common Strategic Planning Pitfalls #IncMagazine

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Learn how to avoid newbie pitfalls when using a SWOT analysis by reading this article (and in doing so, students can shorten the number of my comments on their SWOT homework). For more insights see the new strategic planning book “Winning the Long Game: How Strategic Leaders Shape the Future by Steven Krupp and Paul J.H. Schoemaker.”

Read more at … http://www.inc.com/paul-j-h-schoemaker/five-traps-swot-analysis.html

STRATEGY & 3 Myths That Kill Strategic Planning

by Mick Tasler, Harvard Business Review

Read more at … http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/05/3-myths-that-kill-strategic-planning/