Leading Change Part 1: Replace Complacency with Urgency

It has become almost a cliché that the only constant today is change.

What moves it from a cliché to a truism is that the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said the same thing – 2,500 years ago.

In spite of that historical background, we all feel that change is different today: it is without end, and increasingly complex. We talk not of a single change, but of change as an ongoing phenomenon. It’s a collage, not a single simple image; one change overlaps with another, and it’s all change as far as the eye can see.

To some degree, the downside of change is inevitable. Whenever human communities are forced to adjust to shifting conditions, pain is ever present. But a significant amount of the waste and anguish we’ve witnessed in change management is avoidable.

The typical church has not operated well in a rapidly changing environment. Structure, systems, and culture have often been a drag on change rather than a facilitator.

The failure to sustain significant change recurs again and again despite substantial resources committed to the change effort, talented and committed people “driving the change,” and high stakes. In fact, leaders feeling an urgent need for change end up right: organizations that fail to sustain significant change end up facing crises.

This isn’t the sort of challenge you take on because it sounds good.

Adapting to and mastering change is not a choice. A significant part of a leader’s responsibility deals with being a change agent in the organization’s culture. In a time when changes come so fast and from so many unexpected angles, change is no longer a luxury but an imperative.

Even though change is a must for your organization, the “how-to’s” can often prove a problem. Many people lunge into change with no idea of its rules, its guiding principles, its nuances – and its dangers. Quite often disaster is the result. The only thing worse than ignoring change is leaping into it willy-nilly.

SOLUTION #1: Replace complacency with an urgency that motivates people

THE QUICK SUMMARY – A Sense of Urgency, by John Kotter

Most organizational change initiatives fail spectacularly (at worst) or deliver lukewarm results (at best). In his international bestseller Leading Change, John Kotter revealed why change is so hard, and provided an actionable, eight-step process for implementing successful transformations. The book became the change bible for managers worldwide.

Now, in A Sense of Urgency, Kotter shines the spotlight on the crucial first step in his framework: creating a sense of urgency by getting people to actually see and feel the need for change.

Why focus on urgency? Without it, any change effort is doomed. Kotter reveals the insidious nature of complacency in all its forms and guises.

In this exciting book, Kotter explains:

· How to go beyond “the business case” for change to overcome the fear and anger that can suppress urgency

· Ways to ensure that your actions and behaviors — not just your words — communicate the need for change

· How to keep fanning the flames of urgency even after your transformation effort has scored some early successes

Written in Kotter’s signature no-nonsense style, this concise and authoritative guide helps you set the stage for leading a successful transformation in your company.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

You know your organization needs to change.

You may even know what the change needs to be: a new strategy, new personnel, new technology, or a significant change in direction.

But somehow, change comes too slowly, or it feels like you are pushing a boulder uphill, or that the implementation of that great new idea has stalled – again.

What’s missing, and is needed in almost all organizations today, is a real sense of urgency – a distinctive attitude and gut-level feeling that leads people to grab opportunities and avoid hazards, to make something important happen today, and constantly shed low-priority activities to move faster and smarter, now.

The real solution to the complacency problem is a true sense of urgency. Real urgency is an essential asset that must be created and re-created.

This set of thoughts, feelings, and actions is never associated with an endless list of exhausting activities. It has nothing to do with anxious running from meeting to meeting. It’s not supported by an adrenalin rush that cannot be sustained over time.

True urgency focuses on critical issues, not agendas overstuffed with the important and the trivial. True urgency is driven by a deep determination to win, not anxiety about losing. With an attitude of true urgency, you try to accomplish something important each day, never leaving yourself with a heart-attack-producing task of running one thousand miles in the last week of the race.

Increasing a True Sense of Urgency

Strategy

Create action that is exceptionally alert, externally oriented, relentlessly aimed at winning, making some progress each and every day, and constantly purging low value-added activities – all by always focusing on the heart and not just the mind.

Tactics

  • Bring the Outside In
    • Reconnect internal reality with external opportunities and hazards
    • Bring in emotionally compelling data, people, video, sites, and sounds
  • Behave with Urgency Every Day
    • Never act content, anxious, or angry
    • Demonstrate your own sense of urgency always in meetings, one-on-one interactions, memos, and email and do so as visibly as possible to as many people as possible.
  • Find Opportunity in Crises
    • Always be alert to see if crises can be a friend, not just a dreadful enemy, in order to destroy complacency.
    • Proceed with caution, and never be naïve, since crises can be deadly.
  • Deal with the NoNos
    • Remove or neutralize all the relentless urgency-killers, people who are not skeptics but are determined to keep a group complacent or, if needed, to create destructive urgency.

John Kotter, A Sense of Urgency

A NEXT STEP

Author Jon Kotter has developed a set of useful questions to consider when facing complacency and false urgency.

Discuss the following questions with your team, and identify – and eliminate – sources of complacency and false urgency.

  • Are critical issues delegated to consultants or task forces with little involvement of key people?
  • Do people have trouble scheduling meetings on important initiatives?
  • Is candor lacking in confronting the bureaucracy and politics that are slowing down important initiatives?
  • Do meetings on key issues end with no decisions about what must happen immediately (except the scheduling of another meeting)?
  • Do people run from meeting to meeting, exhausting themselves and rarely if ever focusing on the most critical hazards or opportunities?
  • Do people regularly blame others for any significant problems instead of taking responsibility and changing?
  • Are failures in the past discussed not to learn but to stop or stall new initiatives?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 102-1, issued September 2018.


 

This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

Each issue SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

>> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Healthy Pastoral Succession Establishes Vision Apart from Identity

Every organization, like the people who comprise them, goes through changes and transitions. The organization called “the church” is no different; in fact, it probably goes through more seasons of change and more types of change than almost any other type of organization.

Growth always requires change. It’s true of any living thing, and it’s true of the church. And while change for the church is necessary, many churches often change reluctantly.

In particular, one type of change in churches seems to be more daunting than most: when a senior leader – especially one with a long tenure of service – steps down.

This act of leadership transition – succession – is intricate and complex, and requires the cooperation, coordination, and communication of dozens of individuals and groups, often extending over many months.

It is not to be entered into lightly, yet many churches – even those who know succession is in the very near future – do not know when or how to start the succession conversation.

Healthy pastoral succession establishes vision apart from identity.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Leading Change, by John Kotter

Millions worldwide have read and embraced John Kotter’s ideas on change management and leadership.

From the ill-fated dot-com bubble to unprecedented M&A activity to scandal, greed, and ultimately, recession—we’ve learned that widespread and difficult change is no longer the exception. It’s the rule. Now with a new preface, this refreshed edition of the global bestseller Leading Change is more relevant than ever.

John Kotter’s now-legendary eight-step process for managing change with positive results has become the foundation for leaders and organizations across the globe. By outlining the process every organization must go through to achieve its goals, and by identifying where and how even top performers derail during the change process, Kotter provides a practical resource for leaders and managers charged with making change initiatives work. Leading Change is widely recognized as his seminal work and is an important precursor to his newer ideas on acceleration published in Harvard Business Review.

Needed more today than at any time in the past, this bestselling business book serves as both visionary guide and practical toolkit on how to approach the difficult yet crucial work of leading change in any type of organization. Reading this highly personal book is like spending a day with the world’s foremost expert on business leadership. You’re sure to walk away inspired—and armed with the tools you need to inspire others.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Vision clarity is a key factor in the healthy implementation of a leadership transition strategy.

Ministries, and the contexts in which they serve, change over time. Communities change. What was once the new development that brought young families and their children to the facility’s front door is now home to empty nesters. The neighborhood that was once Caucasian is now predominately minority. Church ministry facilities built in a rural context are now in the middle of the urban sprawl. Ministries once located in vibrant areas now watch as the neighboring buildings put vacancy signs in the front widow. Conversely, ministries that committed to stay in downtown settings are seeing resurgence as more and more people flock to city centers. As communities change over time, so do the people that make up those congregations.

Ministries with long tenured leadership are wise to invest in a process that helps them recapture their sense of what makes their church unique.

Vision refers to a picture of the future with some implicit or explicit commentary on why people should strive to create that future.

In a change process, a good vision serves three important purposes.

Clarifying the general direction for change

Vision simplifies hundreds or thousands of more detailed decisions. Second, it motivates people to take action in the right direction, even if the initial steps are personally painful. Third, it helps coordinate the actions of different people, even thousands and thousands of individuals, in a remarkably fast and efficient way.

Clarifying the direction of change is important because, more often than not, people disagree on direction, are confused, or wonder whether significant change is really necessary. An effective vision and back-up strategies help resolve these issues.

With clarity of direction, the inability to make decisions can disappear.

With clarity of direction, inappropriate projects can be identified and terminated, even if they have political support.

Facilitating major changes by motivating action

Many times, change is not necessarily in people’s short-term self-interests. The alterations called for in a sensible vision almost always involve some pain.

A good vision helps overcome this natural reluctance to do what is (often painfully) necessary by being hopeful and therefore motivating.

Aligning individuals

Aligning individuals coordinates the actions of motivated people in a remarkably efficient way.

Without a shared sense of direction, interdependent people can end up in constant conflict and nonstop meetings. With a shared vision, they can work with some degree of autonomy and yet not trip over each other.

John P. Kotter, Leading Change

A NEXT STEP

The process of pastoral transition demands vision clarity. If your church does not have this clarity as you prepare for the upcoming succession, it’s time to take a journey on the Vision Trailhead.

The Vision Trailhead is a two-hour trek designed to safely start the “where are we going” conversation with your leadership. This engaging tool will calibrate your visionary communication using challenging assessment questions and memorable church-personality profiles.

The Vision Trailhead will help your team:

  • Unpack your communication baggage in order to properly prepare for the vision journey ahead
  • Plot your “Trailhead Type” using key waypoints of missional language and church age
  • Step onto the clarity pathway with experienced trail guides cheering you onward

Download the Vision Trailhead here and provide a copy for each member of your team. Set aside 2 hours in an upcoming leadership team meeting to walk through this TeamUP tool.

Excerpted from SUMS Remix 53-1, issued November 2016


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Is Your Organization Optimized for Efficiency or Strategic Agility?

Organizations everywhere are struggling to keep up with the accelerating pace of change—let alone get ahead of it.

Most people don’t feel the full rush going on around them, which is a part of the problem. But on almost every important index, the world is racing ahead. The stakes – the financial, social, environmental, and political consequences – are rising in a similar, exponential way. What we need today is a powerful new element to address the challenges posed by mounting complexity and rapid change.

The solution, which internationally known business thinker John Kotter has seen to work astonishingly well, is a second system that is organized as a network – more like a start-up’s solar system than a mature organization’s Giza pyramid – that can create agility and speed. It powerfully complements rather than overburdens a more mature organization’s hierarchy, freeing the latter to do what it’s optimized to do. It makes an enterprise easier to run while accelerating strategic change.

This is not a question of “either/or.” It’s “both/and,” two systems that operate in concert.

A dual operating system.

We still have much to learn. Nevertheless, the organizations that get there first, because they are willing to pioneer action now, will see immediate and long-term success—for stakeholders, customers, employees, and themselves. I am convinced that those who lag will suffer greatly – if they survive at all.

>> Learn more about the dual operating system in this download from John Kotter.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Telltale Signs of Being Out of Alignment

You’ve probably had the experience of driving a car that is out-of-alignment. At slow speeds, the wobble may be just bothersome. But when you get up to highway speeds or faster, that wobble becomes violent enough that you think your car is going to come apart. In most cases, it’s a trip to the auto repair shop and it’s smooth sailing.

Churches can be out of alignment, too.

When it comes to churches who are in a visioning process, alignment is the critical work that must be done early in the rollout of vision. You don’t just hit the gas pedal when you see where God wants you to drive. You must work on the front end before you put the pedal to the medal. Unfortunately, some leaders don’t have the patience.

But consider the alternative: a car out of alignment limits your top speed and may be dangerous. For the church, being out of alignment means severe limitations to missional effectiveness and efficiency.

How do you know if your church is out of alignment?

Watch to this brief video as Kotter International consultants Randy Ottinger and Dennis Goin discuss some telltale signs of organizational misalignment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

See additional thoughts about organizational alignment here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Missing Element in Your Organizational Strategy

In a cover story for a recent issue of Harvard Business Review, Professor John Kotter described a new type of organization that combines speed of execution with agility to seize new opportunities quickly. “Speed plus agility” is the holy grail that leaders of organizations seek to achieve. Many don’t. There are two big missing pieces that are overlooked by a majority of leaders. This blog describes one of them.

Recently, I was presenting to a group of senior executives from 40 different companies. They represented many different industries and were from different parts of the world. I asked them to work collectively to design the perfect, high-speed, fast-executing organization. What would it look like? What would it feel like? What processes would it have in place? I kept gathering ideas until they had exhausted all of their thoughts and insights.

What they came up with was an organization with a clear strategy, where everyone is urgent and aligned toward a common goal, and where execution of those strategies flowed smoothly with all of the management processes you would expect in place. They had designed the typical process most people think successful companies use to implement new strategies.

“So what is missing,” I asked? “Nothing,” they responded. “Let me ask you all a question,” I continued, “Tell me how well this model works at seizing new opportunities or going after new strategies that require a lot of change?” They scratched their heads as they thought about this, but they came up with an answer that is confirmed by research, that only about 30 percent of organizations are good at seizing new, strategic opportunities. Put another way, 70 percent fail trying to do so. So I asked again, “What is missing?” Silence.

One answer that we have uncovered in our work — and it’s something John Kotter learned a long time ago — is that a missing piece required for speed and agility is an “urgency process.” When I say an “urgency process,” I mean including an actual process — as essential as your strategic planning and execution processes — that is dedicated to creating urgency.

 

 

 

When I mention an “urgency process” to groups of executives, I’ll often hear things like, “What is an urgency process?” and “We did not learn this in business school.” Well, here’s one way of defining it: An urgency process is a quantifiable and repeatable way to generate alignment, urgency, and engagement in a majority of employees in a company, division, functional area, or large team. Some of the elements it contains are:

  • Senior leadership team alignment around a market opportunity
  • An urgency team
  • Urgency initiatives to create alignment, urgency, and engagement
  • A way to capture names of urgent employees that want to volunteer to help
  • A means of measuring urgency to ensure at least 50 percent of the organization is urgent

To be clear, an urgency process is not a communications plan. A communications plan is typically a one-way set of activities designed to inform and create awareness. It is not typically designed to align and engage employees as volunteers to take action.

So what do you do when you have 50 percent of your employees in your team, division, or organization urgent and raising their hand to help? How do you put them productively to use?

Read more from Kotter International here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Randy Ottinger

Randy Ottinger

Randy Ottinger is an Executive Vice President at Kotter International, a firm that helps leaders accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Danger in a “Mostly Aligned” Team

My two worlds collided one recent weekend. I introduced my young daughters to the classic film, The Princess Bride. I also had just completed a number of interviews with executives and stakeholders of a client I’m working with on Leading Change in these remarkable times. These things may seem unrelated, but watch how this comes together.

My girls loved Billy Crystal as Miracle Max. The minute the credits ended, they began quoting him. “Girls, come down to dinner,” was met with, “Why don’t you give me a paper cut and rub some lemon juice in it?” My youngest daughter punctuated her kiss goodnight with, “Bye bye boys, have fun storming the castle!” When I asked the girls to retrieve a book for me, they responded with, “It will take a miracle!”

“It will take a miracle” — this is how many business leaders feel as they try to rally their organizations around a big opportunity. After the girls went to sleep, I started reviewing my interview notes from earlier in the week. During these interviews, we always ask about strategy, opportunities and challenges. We also ask how aligned the leadership team is around where they are going, how they want to get there and how quickly and boldly they are planning to move. As I read their responses, I kept hearing Miracle Max. The most common response for this client, as with many of our clients, was “mostly aligned.” Miracle Max had a great line about “mostly”: “Mostly dead is slightly alive.”

I believe executive alignment—really, any alignment—is binary: you either are or you are not. I think about the wheels on my car being “mostly aligned” and what that would feel like. Yet most leadership teams stop at “mostly aligned” and accept it as sufficient. They tend to forget that “mostly aligned” is amplified exponentially further down in the organization, creating more and more distance among an organization’s members. By the time you’ve reached the rank-and-file, the organization is only slightly alive.

One interview answer particularly caught my eye: “ We are aligned on the things we need to be aligned on. The other stuff … we don’t play in each others’ sandboxes.” We talked to the people who worked for this interviewee. They too, recognized this leaders’ attitude, which they translated as, “They do their best to not work together with others or have us coordinate our efforts.”

This may seem trivial, but here are the downstream and long-term effects of this lack of alignment:

  1. Inconsistent instructions based on different interpretations of a new strategy;
  2. Conflicting priorities across silos and departments;
  3. Performance metrics and expectations that reward silo performance and individual achievement over organization-wide results and customer satisfaction;
  4. Vastly different content, focus and messages from meetings.

So, what will it take for these executives to get from “mostly aligned” to aligned? It won’t take a miracle, or even a really big (though chocolate-covered) pill. It will demand the courage to create the time and space to have a conversation about what needs to change so they can accelerate their strategies toward success. Often executives will say they are too busy to make that kind of space. Later, they recognize the turbulence, lost opportunities and wasted energy they’ve caused, and how it has crippled their strategic efforts.

But with a little effort—no magic required—an organization can go from “slightly alive” to thriving.

Read more from Kotter International here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ken Perlman

Ken Perlman

Ken Perlman is an engagement leader at Kotter International, a firm that helps leaders accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations. Ken is the father of Ruby and Sadie and lives in southern California with his wife Anastasia.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Management is (Still) Not Leadership

A few weeks ago, the BBC asked me to come in for a radio interview. They told me they wanted to talk about effective leadership — China had just elevated Xi Jinping to the role of Communist Party leader; General David Petraeus had stepped down from his post at the CIA a few days earlier; the BBC itself was wading through a leadership scandal of its own — but the conversation quickly veered, as these things often do, into a discussion about how individuals can keep large, complex, unwieldy organizations operating reliably and efficiently.

That’s not leadership, I explained. That’s management — and the two are radically different.

In more than four decades of studying businesses and consulting to organizations on how to implement new strategies, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people use the words “leadership” and “management” synonymously, and it drives me crazy every time.

The interview reminded me once again that the confusion around these two terms is massive, and that misunderstanding gets in the way of any reasonable discussion about how to build a company, position it for success and win in the twenty-first century. The mistakes people make on the issue are threefold:

  • Mistake #1: People use the terms “management” and “leadership” interchangeably. This shows that they don’t see the crucial difference between the two and the vital functions that each role plays.
  • Mistake #2: People use the term “leadership” to refer to the people at the very top of hierarchies. They then call the people in the layers below them in the organization “management.” And then all the rest are workers, specialists, and individual contributors. This is also a mistake and very misleading.
  • Mistake #3: People often think of “leadership” in terms of personality characteristics, usually as something they call charisma. Since few people have great charisma, this leads logically to the conclusion that few people can provide leadership, which gets us into increasing trouble.

In fact, management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial — but it’s not leadership.

Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.

There are very, very few organizations today that have sufficient leadership. Until we face this issue, understanding exactly what the problem is, we’re never going to solve it. Unless we recognize that we’re not talking about management when we speak of leadership, all we will try to do when we do need more leadership is work harder to manage. At a certain point, we end up with over-managed and under-led organizations, which are increasingly vulnerable in a fast-moving world.

Read the full story here.

Read more from John here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Kotter

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why Changing Your Church’s Culture Rarely Works Out

The Boston Globe recently ran a front-page story in their “Ideas” section on organizational culture, inspired by some depressing events involving the Boston University hockey team. It was much more impactful than the average writing about culture, and raised the important question: Why do conversations about an important topic like culture typically go nowhere, leading companies to waste time and money with “cultural change efforts” which very seldom work?

Here is the problem: First, virtually no one clearly defines what they mean by “culture,” and when they do they usually get it wrong. Second, virtually no one has read the original research that shows why culture – when clearly defined – is so important, how it is formed, and how it changes.

Definition: Culture consists of group norms of behavior and the underlying shared values that help keep those norms in place. Take your work, for example, a place where almost everyone shows up between 8:55 and 9:05. Why? Not because the CEO has decreed it, or because people are fired if they don’t do it. That’s just the way it is! That is a group norm. Why does it exist? And why doesn’t it go away when Gen X or Y individuals are hired? My guess: People are hired who embrace the value of respecting others, including other people’s time, so they also show up to meetings on time, and anyone who doesn’t gets a glaring look from everyone else.

Where does culture come from? It usually comes from the founders of the group. For whatever reason, they value certain things and behave in ways that seem to help the group succeed. Success is key. So it seeps into the group’s DNA.

How does culture change? A powerful person at the top, or a large enough group from anywhere in the organization, decides the old ways are not working, figures out a change vision, starts acting differently, and enlists others to act differently. If the new actions produce better results, if the results are communicated and celebrated, and if they are not killed off by the old culture fighting its rear-guard action, new norms will form and new shared values will grow.

What does NOT work in changing a culture? Some group decides what the new culture should be. It turns a list of values over to the communications or HR departments with the order that they tell people what the new culture is. They cascade the message down the hierarchy, and little to nothing changes.

In summary, that’s the whole story.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Kotter

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.