Good to Great (Discipline, Flywheels, Core values, Goals)

A culture of discipline

Collins recommends these four disciplines —

1) Focus on your Hedgehog.
2) Build a system of freedom and responsibility within a framework.
3) Manage the system, not the people.
4) Practice extreme commitment.

Focusing on your hedgehog

Once you’ve figured out what your focus will be, say “no thank you” to other ideas, even if they are “once in a lifetime” opportunities. Stick with what you know. This may well include killing popular programs that aren’t within your hedgehog.

Never chase growth for the sake of growth. Growth should result from doing what Christians and churches do, not from seeking growth. But if you aren’t growing, you may not be doing what God has called you to. Nonetheless, growth is not the inevitable result of doing the right things, but if growth doesn’t happen, you should know why. It’s never adequate to blame God: “God didn’t give the increase” is blame shifting, not theology.

Building a system of freedom and responsibility within a framework

Within the church’s vision, there has to be great freedom. Moreover, members aren’t given jobs so much as responsibilities. They aren’t just to do a task, they are responsible to see it succeed — and “success” is defined in hedgehog terms.

Managing the system, not the people

By placing people where their talents and passions reside, the church can spend very little time in motivation. Rather, the task itself is motivating when the right person is doing it. And this means that relatively few rules are needed. Creativity is therefore not stifled by bureaucracy.

In church terms, this means that if a couple of parents want to start a children’s sandlot league, they can speak to a single person — perhaps the involvement minister — and get permission. The only questions are whether this is within our hedgehog — our vision — and whether this conflicts with something else we are doing.

This leads to certain amount of chaos. The elders may well not know all that’s going on, because lots of things got started without their approval. And that’s okay, so long as the members understand the overall vision and enough organization is provided so that people don’t get in each other’s way.

Thus, elders have to get used to not knowing all the answers and seeing things done in ways they wouldn’t have recommended. The elders learn to get out the way.

Practicing extreme commitment: The flywheel

A flywheel is a heavy, metal wheel that’s hard to start and hard to stop. Great churches have to understand that building greatness never happens in one fell swoop — that there is no single defining action, no one killer innovation, no knight on a white horse, no wrenching revolution, no book, no seminar, and no hire that can by itself bring about sustained greatness.

Rather, greatness is built by a cumulative process — step by step, action by action, day by day, week by week, year by year — turn by turn of the flywheel. While some pushes on the flywheel are bigger than others, no single push by itself accounts for the majority of our momentum. Rather, it requires hundreds of additional pushes to turn any big decision into a successful decision.

Hence, a great church has consistency of purpose, consistency of values, consistency of Hedgehog, consistency of high standards, consistency of people, and so forth.

This means the pulpit has to constantly sound the refrain, reminding the church over and over what the vision is — our hedgehog, our one thing. The classes, small groups, and youth program have to all point in the same direction. Everyone has to understand — in his bones, in his DNA — what this church is about.

Remembering what’s really important

The following are direct quotes from the diagnostic tools, that is, a business book —

We have a passionately-held set of core values that we adhere to, no matter how much the world changes around us.

We are honest about what our core values actually are.

We don’t worry about what outsiders think of our values; they are for internal guidance, not marketing. If these core values were to become a competitive disadvantage at some point in the future, we would still hold them.

We have an enduring purpose or mission — a reason for being — that that goes beyond just [growing].

We are clear on the difference between our core values (which should never change) as distinct from our operating practices, cultural norms, goals, strategies, and tactics (which should remain open for change).

While we hold our core values constant, we stimulate progress — change, improvement, innovation, and renewal — in the operating practices, cultural norms, goals, strategies and tactics that surround the core values.

We understand that if our list of core values is too long, we are very likely confusing core values with practices and aspirations; we have no more than six values that we consider to be truly core.

Sounds pretty spiritual, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s a pretty orthodox statement of what the Bible says about how to do church. Our problem is that we struggle to figure out our core values.

Big, hairy, audacious goals

The great church sets big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAGs) — goals so big they’ll take years to achieve. They are realistic, but hard.

The leadership then breaks the BHAG down into smaller tasks that can be accomplished in just a few years. The church works on on intermediate goal at a time, with the BHAG always in mind.

Every few years, the church achieves an intermediate goal, celebrates, and moves on to the next one.

Now, a BHAG is not “get big” or “be the biggest.” After all, God never called us to have gigantic congregations. If being gigantic helps us accomplish God’s goals, then we need to be big. But bigness only seems inherently important because we’re Americans (and many of us are Texans!)

I think it’s critically important that each church set its own goals — within God’s mission — as the discovery process is, I think, critically important. We need to talk about these things. The conversation itself is one means by which God changes us.

We may need to spend a couple of years in internal conversation. I doubt you’ll get there in a weekend seminar.

The big test

Finally, the big test (and this is another quote) —

The organization makes such a unique contribution to the communities it touches and does its work with such unadulterated excellence that if it were to disappear, it would leave a hole that could not easily be filled by any other institution [in the community].

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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