One of the most important things we have learned about organizational momentum is just how fast it can change. Organizations were once much more resilient to large and rapid fluctuations of momentum than they are today.
If your organization is losing momentum, there is a good chance it is because one or more of the following is present and sucking the life out of it.
1. Too much talk, too little action.
Leaders, staffs, and boards sometimes have a tendency to talk, analyze, and plan themselves to a slow painful death. While conversation, analysis, and planning are vital, they can sometimes become a detriment to producing momentum if they do not result in timely action. Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck once said, “The best decision-makers are those who are willing to suffer the most over their decisions but still retain the ability to be decisive.”
2. Too many voices.
While collaboration and seeking input from others is very beneficial in a visioning process, you can reach a point of oversaturation. Like a plant, water is vital for growth but too much and it drowns. There is a difference between 1) how many voices are needed in creating a vison and related strategy versus 2) testing the vision by seeking in-put and buy-in.
3. Too complex a planning process.
Complexity is often the death blow to many visioning processes. When the process involves 30 people working through six phases spread out over 12 months, you likely have too complex a process. Remember, unless you are planning for an extraordinarily large undertaking such as a once in a life time capital expansion, merger or acquisition, or building a four star hotel on Mars, vision planning does not need to be as complex as it is often made out to be.
4. Too much confusion over roles.
Whose job is it to cultivate the vision of the organization? Whoever has the gifts and passions that are worth following! While it is a senior leader or leadership team’s job to ensure there is a compelling vision, this does not necessarily mean they are the only ones who possess the qualities needed. Quite often, the best vision is already resident in the DNA of the organization and its people. The leadership’s primary job is to be listening and discerning what that vision is and how to feed it.
5. Too much fear of risk.
In their book Flight of the Buffalo, author’s James Belasco and Ralph Stayer said, “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” We have seen this too often in churches and other organizations where the leaders fear losing the safety and stability of what already is and therefore, find very dignified and legitimate sounding excuses to avoid any major risk or change. Leaders who are driven by anxiety create an anxious organization, one where political factions and conflict grow due to the indecisiveness of the leadership. In other words, the fear of conflict that leads to inaction will most likely result in the very conflict leaders are trying to avoid!
6. Too much confidence.
In Jim Collins' excellent book, How the Mighty Fall, he describes the stages that lead to the demise of organizations. The first stage in the process is pride that grows out of previous success. Success is a wonderful thing to experience but the more you have of it, the greater the risk that a leader or organization can begin to believe they cannot fail. Such confidence usually tips over into an arrogant spirit, one that feels invincible, one that does not seek counsel, and one that over-extends itself.
The purpose of raising these points is not to discourage you. Instead, it is my hope that you will be able to identify and root out what is scorching the life in your organization so you can begin to grow to a healthy state.
For more detail on this subject, read the article "Organizational Vision and Momentum" in our book GUIDE – Building the Team. Setting the Direction. Fulfilling the Mission.
Jay is the Executive Director of The Center and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton. Jay brings experience in the areas of ministry assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.Ed in Instructional Systems Design and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership.