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Good Strategy Can't Work in a Bad Culture

I've been lucky I guess. I have been able to work in some amazing environments with amazing people that have been sold out to a vision of the organization and would do whatever it took to accomplish the objective. I've also been a part of organizations that have devalued their employees, created dissension among the staff and didn't "practice what they preached". Now, I typically write about church culture, this post and its illustrations are both observations from business world and the church.


There is a famous quote by business guru, Peter Drucker that says, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast". What Peter Drucker is implying in this statement is that the culture of the company always determines success regardless of how effective your strategy may be. Now for the sake of this article, lets see how this can be applied in the church for a moment.


When he said that culture eats strategy for breakfast, Drucker pointed out the importance of the human factor in any company. No matter how detailed and solid your strategy is, if the people executing it don't nurture the appropriate culture, your projects will fail.


Culture isn't about comfy chairs and good lighting, nor is it about the aesthetic environment. Rather, it's more about the ways your employees act in critical situations, how they manage pressure and respond to various challenges, and how they treat people and each other. For the church, everything rises and falls on current leadership. No matter how strong your strategic plan is, its efficacy will be held back by members of your team if they don't share the proper culture. When it comes down to it, the people implementing the plan are the ones that make all the difference.


Let me illustrate it this way, suppose a church's vision is to Love God and Love People. That vision sounds good, their strategy may include elements of providing a seeker sensitive worship experience and loving their community as God loves them. Again, I'm totally making this one up. But the culture is shaped by the ones who are implementing the strategy. If the leaders are disgruntled, rude, gossipers and genuinely don't seem excited for new people to come in the doors. The culture will be just that of the church, thus the strategy will be meaningless.


Perhaps this is a good place to define the leadership. Obviously your pastor is where you start but there are other layers of leaders. Any and all associate staff, deacons, greeters, worship team, key teachers, even long tenured lay persons can be a leader. Ultimately anyone who has a strong enough voice to influence the decision making of the church. That is the culture. and if those folks are bad, then your good strategy cannot work.


However, in a perfect scenario, culture and strategy complement and nurture each other. Strategy and culture should be created simultaneously, making sure they are perfectly aligned. When in sync, they enable each other to create incredible organizational transformations.


When you're aware of the true culture of your church, it is easy to create a strategic plan because you're familiar with all the factors. Think of culture as a landscape on which you execute your strategic plan. A walk on pavement takes less time and energy than climbing through a mountain pass.


Knowing your culture means knowing what to expect from your team, which comes as a valuable resource in planning a strategy. Your strategy plan has a greater chance of being efficient if you apply a realistic perspective to it. Culture and strategy make a powerful duo when combined perfectly, and you should always incorporate both in your plans if you want your vision to succeed.


How to create a healthy culture in your church?

  1. Ask Questions: Conduct a survey and encourage your team to be open about the things they would change in the church. Ask them what they would like to see in the future and work on making that input part of your churches vision.

  2. Develop a solid vision: Your team needs to know where the organization or church is going, and how their work contributes to that end goal. It's with a solid vision, you will know if everyone is on-board or not. If they are, then the production from each person will be of such that they are working towards something bigger than themselves.

  3. Celebrate small wins along the way: Frequently share the progress and remind the congregation that the work is not unnoticed and is making a difference.