SWOT & My video introduction to conducting a strategic audit #LEAD600

Here is another video introduction I provide to students and colleagues regarding how to conduct a SWOT (strength/weakness/opportunity/threat) analysis and a related TOWS matrix.  Watch this a 5-minute introduction to these important strategy and tactic evaluation tools.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

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.

STRATEGY & Is Yours Deliberate or Emergent?

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Henry Mintzberg, in his classic “Strategic Management Journal” article (see link) pointed out that there are two types of strategies: deliberate & emergent. I explored this difference for the church in my book “Growth by Accident, Death by Planning: How NOT To Kill a Growing Church (Abingdon Press). Here is a brief explanation.

  1. “Deliberate” strategies are based upon analysis of strengths, opportunities, etc. (i.e SWOT).
  2. “Emergent” strategies occur when unforeseen opportunities are taken advantage of, sometimes accidentally. Emergent strategies are almost impossible to replicate. But in the church world this is often when we see rapid church growth.

The lesson from Mintzberg’s classic article is to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities, but to spend the majority of your time making deliberate long-term plants.

Strategic Managemtent Journal, Vol. 6, 25 7-2 72 (1985)

Of Strategies, Deliberate and Emergent

HENRY MINTZBERG
Faculty of Management, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

JAMES A. WATERS
Faculty of Administrative Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Summary
Deliberate and emergent strategies mnay be conceived as twvoends of a continuumn along which real- world strategies lie. This paper seeks to develop this notion, and So?le basic issuies related to strategic choice, by elaborating along this continum various types of strategies uncovered in research. These includclestrategies labelled planned, entrepreneutrial, ideological, umZ1brella, process, uinconnected, consensuts anld im-posed,

Download the journal article here … http://sjbae.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/93336366/Mintzberg,%20Waters%20(1985).%20Of%20Strategies,%20Deliberate%20and%20Emergent.%20SMJ.pdf

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.

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.

PLANNING & A Better Option Than Just Trial-and-error (A Leadership Exercise)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/8/15.

I created this exercise to help leaders see that strategy planning is often undertaken in the church in a emotional and imprecise manner (and that is something we must change).

And so in previous postings, I explained how to rate various plans with a simple SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Yet some readers and students (especially those with strategic/operational leadership leanings) sometimes find such quantitative analysis a bit tedious. (I did actually when I was in seminary.  But as I progressed through graduate school I came to enjoy research).

Thus for the above two reasons, sometimes those with strategic/tactical gifts and those with tactical/operational attributes will find this exercise helpful.

A Leadership Exercise

Let’s start by recalling that Baumhart asked business people “What does ethical mean to you?” (Church Leaders MBA, p. 29)  The following were the answers he received:

“What does ethical mean to you?”  Answers:
1)  What my feelings tell me is right.  50%
2)  In accordance with my religious beliefs. 25%
3)  Based on the Golden Rule. 18%

Now, let’s see if this also might be true regarding how Christian ministries pick their strategies (and select programming).  Here is an adaption of Baumhart:

How do churches usually decide upon programming?
#1:  What they feel is a good program.
#2:  In accordance with what other Christians and churches think about a program.
#3:  A program based upon a bible passage.

So, pick either #1, #2 or #3 and tell why it isn’t (or is) a good way to choose a strategic ministry tactic.  And, give an example if you know of one.

For example, you might explain why “relying on your feelings” is not a good way to choose a program.  And, you might site a personal example.  Or you might share why basing a strategy on a merely bible passage could be misleading.  Again, you could give an example from your personal history with the church.

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

Smith, Mark and Wright, David. W. (2011). The church leaders’ MBA: What business school instructors wish church leaders knew about management. Circleville, OH: Ohio Christian University.

CORE COMPETENCIES & How to find them and why they matter (A Leadership Exercise)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/6/15.

In other postings (and in my chapter on “Strategic Management” in the book, The Church Leaders MBA) I explain how church leaders can easily plan their organization future with a simple SWOT analysis.

When doing a SWOT analysis, my students often wonder about the difference between a “strength” and a “core competency” (CC). I explain that a core competency is a strength that is so strong, that the community basically knows your ministry by this.

Therefore, all core competencies are strengths, but not all strengths are core competencies.

(NOTE: If you need a reminder about how to conduct a SWOT analysis, here is a downloadable copy of my chapter on “Strategic Management” from the book, “The Church Leaders MBA” [as always, if you enjoy the chapter please consider supporting the publisher and the author by buying the book]: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – MBA Strategy Chpt. 5 ).

Examples of Strengths That Are NOT Core Competencies (and some that are)

So, to help distinguish which strengths are core competencies, I’ve embedded my comments (below) to another student’s question about this (with their permission).  Student comments in italics, my responses in parenthesis:

Dr. Whitesel, here are our church strengths that I think might be core competencies too. Can you give me your thoughts on this?

A significant small group program:  81% of average adult attendance is committed to a small group.
(Dr. W.: That sounds like something for which the community would recognize your church, and thus could be a core competency.)

An intimate atmosphere and setting:  Set 4 miles outside of town in an agrarian area – could appeal to some.
(Dr. W.:You may be not as well known for this unless you are on a major thoroughfare, thus not likely a CC.)

Volunteerism: A significant number of people volunteer each week.
(Dr. W.: Because this is primarily known internally, it is probably not a CC which is usually known more externally.

The Wesleyan connection: It keeps us rooted theologically and provides stability.
(Dr. W.: Again, primarily known internally, and thus is probably not a CC which is usually known more externally.)

Preaching and Teaching: We have above average preachers and teachers.
(Dr. W.: This could be a CC if it is what your church is known for [e.g. Mars Hill, MI and Rob Bell].)

Risk-taking and educated leadership: Pastor is willing to try new things and pursues further education.
(Dr. W.: A definite strength, but not maybe a CC that is widely known.)

Children’s ministry: We do it very well and it is a high priority.
(Dr. W.: Could be a CC if your church is known for this in the community.)

I think these examples can help distinguish between core competencies (CCs) and regular strengths.  You may also want to look at Figure 5.2 in The Church Leader’s MBA (p. 80) for business examples (see the downloadable chapter above).

Remember this saying: A core competency is a strength that is so strong, that the community basically knows your ministry by it.

A Leadership Exercise

Here is a exercise they can help you distinguish between strengths and core competencies (CC) by which you are know in a community. And if you are one of my students that was directed to this post, this is your follow-up assignment for the week.

Create a list of well-known ministries (give their URL) and tell us the core competencies for which they are known. (Pick ministries for which many of us may be familiar, or give us a website so we can see for ourselves).  You can also add or challenge the conclusions of others (but of course, do so in a respectful manner 🙂

I’ll start (just add to my initial list.  If you are a student, just copy-and-paste the most recent posting and add your insights below):

Mar’s Hill, Grandville, MI and its former pastor Rob Bell

St. Thomas’ Church, Sheffield, UK

  • Core competency: missional clusters (i.e. midsized missional communities or culture-specific sub-congregations)
  • http://www.sttoms.net

North Coast Church, Vista, CA

Now its your turn.

Use this exercise (above) with your leaders to sharpen their strategic skills.  Or if you are a student who was directed to this post, finish the rest of this assignment in our online discussion room.

And finally, share one paragraph telling why you think knowing a ministries’ core competencies is good for a ministry.  In other words, how can discovering a ministry’s core competencies help an organization minister more effectively?

#FlintFirst