One of my favorite experts in the field of Strategy Planning is Verne Harnish. I have been using a slightly modified version of his One Page Strategy Plan for years to help churches get a grip on planning for the future. I was recently going over a brief paper of his called “Four Decisions” http://www.gazelles.com/articles/four_decisions.html . I find a lot of good information here for churches. Here is the second of his four decisions, followed by my applications for church leaders:
Strategy challenges are indicated by a slowing in top line revenue growth. If revenue is not growing as quickly as you like, then it’s time to re-examine your strategy i.e. what you’re selling to whom. It’s important to have a concise articulation of that strategy so you can get everyone aligned and on the same page without wasting sales or operational energies on activities not useful to the business.
Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great”, calls this precisely articulated strategy a company’s “hedgehog.” Alan Rudy, founder of growth company incubator Into Great, calls it the “ping” of the business. Others call it a unique selling proposition (USP), differential advantage, or brand promise.
Whatever you choose to call it, you know you’ve nailed it if revenues are growing as rapidly as you want. Turbulent economic times tend to expose weak strategies which are why we’re seeing many companies re-examining their business models.
Since the church is not focused on “revenue growth” we need to change the language a bit. Instead of: “Strategy challenges are indicated by a slowing in top line revenue growth”; we would say “Strategy challenges are indicated by a slowing of growth.” In the church world we talk about Mission/Vision/Values as a church’s “DNA”. When things aren’t going well in the church it is time to re-examine these to make sure we haven’t gotten off track.
In talking about the “hedgehog concept” Collins says:
“Are you engaged in work that fits your own three circles: what you are passionate about, what you are genetically encoded for, what you can get paid for? Do you need to change? Which circle is hardest to get right? Why? ” Good to Great Overview – Discussion Guide
This is a simple idea. Think of a Venn diagram, made up of three interlocking circles. The first circle represents your church’s passion, what motivates and excites your church. The second circle represents what you are naturally good at – as he says, what you are “genetically encoded for”. What is that thing you can do better than the people around you? What does your church do better than the other churches in your community? And the third circle represents what you can make money doing. Again for the church we would look at what you are able to do that has growth potential.
In the center of the interlocking circles is that one small sweet spot. If you can operate within it, the church should do well. When things aren’t going well, maybe it is because you are no longer in your sweet spot.
Of course, this is an over-simplification. And, churches have a whole other dynamic going on in the spiritual realm. But still, there is some truth to it. A church that is passionate about worship, with an excellent worship ministry that connects with the people in that community is likely to grow through that ministry. A church that is passionate about children, with a great children’s ministry in a community of young families will probably be a growing church.
In this section, Harnish also mentions the importance of alignment. It is important that the people of the church are going in the same direction. Take for instance, either the passionate worship church or the child friendly church I just mentioned, if they get out of alignment things can start to come apart. Imagine a new bunch of people coming in who really aren’t passionate about what the core is passionate about. And this new group tries to change the focus and direction. Eventually the growth momentum will weaken. It is at that point that the church needs to reaffirm its DNA and recommit to its passion.