Good to Great

I finally got around to reading Good to Great, a book that’s been on my bookshelf for a long time.  There’s a ton of great information in there and I wanted to share one thing I learned from it.  The book is the result of years of studying companies that went from good to great.  Meaning, they were regular companies averaging profits on par with the market standard, but eventually became great and averaged much more than the market average for years.  The book shares the differences between those companies, and companies that just stayed good, or got worse, that were in the same market. 

One thing they found was that the good-to-great companies all broke through at some point, beginning a steep incline in market share.  But, none of them could point to one event, decision, investment, technology, or anything that produced that breakthrough.  In all of their cases, they said it was years of hard work, consistency, and development.  So, from the outside it looked as if they had a revolutionary breakthrough.  But the truth is, it was really the result of a lot of consistent development for many years.  And, for the people involved in that development, the insiders, it did not feel like a breakthrough at all, because they experienced all of the hard work for many years whereas people on the outside didn’t even notice them until they were great.  Like, after the Tipping Point.

I think we all look at other successful people and organizations and want what they have, without the years of hard work.  We want a better lifestyle than our parents had, 20 years before our parents had it.  We want churches as big as other churches, right now.  We want to be financially independent…..now.  We want to be the manager, CEO, director, or whatever, 15 years before the person who currently holds that position was.  We expect more, earlier. 

I’m reminded of the parable of the talents – "You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things."  We want the responsibility without showing faithfulness.  I know I do, so it’s a good thing God knows better. 

Do we risk enough?

Most people fall in one of 2 camps when it comes to risk.  They either like to take risks, or absolutely hate to.  Tony Campolo did a sociological study with people over the age of 95.  The survey asked them, if you could do life over again what would you do differently? Most responses fell into three categories:

1. Reflect more
2. Risk more
3. Do more that will live on after I’m gone
{read more here}

I think it’s obvious why risk was in the top 3…… the reason people don’t risk as much is because there could be a lot to lose.  But, when looking back after a long life, you think about what could have been.  Plus, by that time everybody has probably experienced some failures and realized that failing every now and then isn’t the end of the world.  So, the risks don’t seem as great when there’s less to lose and therefore not as much fear.

I hope I take enough risks in my life.  It would be great to look back and not have to regret being afraid to take chances.  At the same time, that desire to take risks has to be balanced with wisdom and discernment.

Trust, Leadership & Agendas

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a huge NFL fan, so I follow aspects of the game that most people would be bored by.  One such thing that came up recently was Matt Stover (best kicker ever, for my beloved Ravens) wrote an email to the NFL Players Associate (executives and team reps).  What I wanted to highlight was how he concluded his email:

As I make this suggestion, I will only hope that every one of us will put any personal agenda aside and remember who each of us represent. Both the old and young players in our locker rooms have voted us in because they trust our judgment. This is about the future of our organization. Not now … not 1 or 2 years from now, but 5, 10, 15 years from now. Thanks.

I think we all need a gut check every now and then to remember who we represent, what our agenda is, and how far into the future we’re planning.  I liked how he said that the players voted them in because they trust their judgment.  Everybody has people who are trusting in them in some way.  Are we setting our personal agendas aside and setting them up for success 15 years down the road? 

By the way, if you follow the NFL as closely as I do and want to read the rest of Matt’s email, click here:

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3336021

Systems & Processes :: Quality 4

Portable

Great systems are portable.  They don’t just work in one context or environment.  A system that is portable can be used in different contexts or environments – such as different locations, buildings, regions, economies, cultures, etc.  A great system doesn’t have to work in every context, but it should be portable enough to work in many.

Take fast food chains, or any other franchise for instance.  They’re basically a system that has been nearly perfected, and then ported to places all around the country and even the world.  They might have different prices, people, settings, sizes, customers, etc. but it’s all still the same system.  There are probably tweaks here and there, but the base system is the same and it works because it’s portable.

At CCC we’re going multisite.  What that means is that most of our systems need to become portable.  In multisite terms that’s usually called reproducible.  We need to be able to reproduce our systems across any number of campuses in order to achieve the goal of becoming one church in many locations.

So, those are my thoughts (probably not even worth $.02) about what 4 qualities make up a great system.  They’re effective, efficient, flexible and portable.  I’m sure that’s not it, so what do you think?

Systems & Processes :: Quality 3

Flexible

Great systems are flexible.  They can adapt and change to the current environment in order to continue working well.  Obviously every system has limitations but great systems are flexible enough to continue living on. 

About 6 years ago a friend of mine’s dad found out that he had over 95% blockage in one of his arteries.  What the doctors then discovered, was that his body (vascular system) had already begun creating a new artery around the blocked area in order to fix the problem.  It was almost complete and resulted in him not needing surgery.  That was a great system being flexible.  Now most of us know of similar stories that went the other way (surgery needed), but even in those cases the vascular system still had to be flexible and adapt to new conditions. 

It’s hard to change systems we didn’t create and fortunately most of the systems we may have to change are not God-sized in their complexity (like the human body).  No, most of the systems we work with were man-made but still need to be flexible in order to be great.  Because great systems work for a long time and most systems can’t go that long without changing in some way.