Culture Catalyst: Seven Strategies to Bring Positive Change to Your Organization
A church in the Midwest grew rapidly, but the growth curve gradually flattened. In recent years, they saw almost no growth at all. In the early days of explosive growth, the senior pastor taught seminars and spoke at national conferences to instruct other pastors in how to grow their churches, but in the past few years, he received very few invitations to speak. When the curve began to flatten, he took his senior staff to hear noted speakers. Surely, he thought, they could learn something new and overcome stagnation. When that didn’t fix things, they hired consultants to analyze the situation and prescribe a solution. When this strategy didn’t effect the change they wanted, the senior pastor began “cleaning house.” He hired and fired so many people that the offices needed revolving doors. Still, the church didn’t grow.
Out of frustration, the pastor left the church. He moved his family a few miles away and started another church with about two hundred people who followed him there. Some would call this a church plant; I think it was a glorified church split.
At the original church, a new pastor came into the office full of fresh ideas and a clear vision of where the church could go; that’s exactly why he was selected. After a long, grueling first eighteen months with the new pastor on the job, however, the church’s growth curve had barely budged. When he called me, he was frustrated and tired. In our first meeting, he told me sadly, “I don’t understand. We spent time and money to reenergize the congregation. We took our top staff on a retreat to instill the new vision into them. We hired more staff, and we reformatted our worship experience. We started plenty of new programs. We redesigned our stage set. We created a killer Web site, reconfigured our offices, redecorated to create a fresh ambiance, and designed a new logo for the church. We even wrote a song about how great we are! But none of this has made a bit of difference. We haven’t gone backward, and I’m glad of that, but I thought we’d be way ahead of where we are today.” He paused for a second and then asked, “What am I missing?”
This senior pastor had done a lot of good things, but he failed to understand the impact of the existing organizational culture on his new, exciting vision for the church. It was like changing the engine on a sports car to make it faster, but it was spinning its wheels in the mud. Or to use a different metaphor, he tried to transplant a heart into a patient whose body rejected the foreign organ. No matter how perfect the new heart was, the patient had no chance at all unless the body accepted it.
Culture—not vision or strategy—is the most powerful factor in any organization. It determines the receptivity of staff and volunteers to new ideas, unleashes or dampens creativity, builds or erodes enthusiasm, and creates a sense of pride or deep discouragement about working or being involved there. Ultimately, the culture of an organization—particularly in churches and nonprofit organizations, but also in any organization—shapes individual morale, teamwork, effectiveness, and outcomes. In an article in the magazine Executive Leadership, Dick Clark explains how he took the pharmaceutical firm Merck to a higher level: “The fact is, culture eats strategy for lunch. You can have a good strategy in place, but if you don’t have the culture and the enabling systems, the [negative] culture of the organization will defeat the strategy.”1
Table of Contents
1.CULTURE TRUMPS VISION
3.SEVEN KEYS OF CULTURE
4.VOCABULARY DEFINES CULTURE
5.CHANGE STARTS WITH ME
6.THE CATALYST OF CHAOS
8.YES, YOU CAN!
Appendix 1: OVERVIEW OF THE FREE CULTURE SURVEY
Appendix 2: STRATEGIC PLANNING GRID
Appendix 3: TO-DO LIST AND STATUS REPORT FOR MAJOR ITEMS
APPENDIX 4: SURVEY – Overall Survey Result Template
About The Author
Other Books by Dr. Samuel R. Chand
The Services of Dr. Samuel R. Chand Consulting
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