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9 Principles to Get You Unstuck

There are three types of leadership required in any organization. There’s thevisionary. Someone has to cast a compelling vision for a preferred future. There’s the manager. That’s the person that gets tasks done through other people. They execute the plan. Then there’s the strategist. The strategist figures out how the vision will be accomplished and makes sure the structure is in place to accomplish that purpose.

We hear a lot about vision and management. Very little is shared about developing good strategy. Recently, I finished reading The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs by Cynthia Montgomery. I’ve pulled some of the highlights from my reading to develop this list of principles to help you improve your strategic approach.

9 strategic principles:

1. A clear, compelling vision is not enough. “There’s much more to strategy and leadership than a steadfast belief that a daring vision backed by good management can overcome virtually all obstacles.” Don’t forget that you have to mind the gap by developing a strategy to determine what’s important now.

2. You have to be distinctive. “Choosing to be one thing means not being something else. Companies that don’t choose, for whatever reason, run the risk of ending up in no-man’s-land, being nothing of distinction to anyone. If your purpose does not preclude you from undertaking certain kinds of work, then it’s not a good purpose.” If people don’t leave your church because of your unique vision and strategy, you aren’t distinctive enough.

3. Determine what’s important today. “How are you going to deliver on your promise? They are the critical first steps in translating an idea into a strategy and paving the way for its realization.” Without an action plan, you will naturally drift to what’s familiar and comfortable, and you will remain stuck where you are currently.

4. Don’t forget the structure. “Many people believe a strategist’s primary job is thinking. It isn’t. The number-one job is setting an agenda and putting in place the organization to carry it out.” Many organizations including churches try to cram new strategy on an old structure. It won’t work. If you want to go to a new place, you’ll likely need to revisiting your team and leadership structure.

5. Everyone needs to watch the scoreboard. “What do your metrics tell you about your strategy? Are they consistent with your rhetoric? Do they show that you are winning with your plan?” The metrics are what keeps everyone focused and pulling in the same direction. They help fight the silos that tend to form especially in church organizations.

6. Big vision requires change. “Max De Pree, the legendary CEO of Herman Miller, said it well: ‘In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.’” If you feel like your vision doesn’t require change, you don’t have a compelling vision.

7. Big vision requires action. “Too many companies fall into a trap of ‘discussing and discussing and discussing.’ In itself that could be a virtue, but strategy is about choices. Reaching closure is important.” Planning is important, but unless it leads to action you’ve failed.

8. You can’t make everyone happy. “Relying on consensus can produce a less-than-ambitious result and a strategy that is more like a compromise than an ambitious aspiration.” At some point, leaders have to make tough decisions. If you try to make everyone happy, know that you’ve chosen a path to mediocrity.

9. Your strategy must change. “The strategy should be formally revisited on a regular basis, once a year or so.” That winning strategy you had yesterday, will fail you tomorrow. This is why churches and denominations die. They think that what worked in the past will always work in the future. You have to revisit your strategic plan on a regular basis to determine what’s important now.

By the way, all of these principles are built into the strategic planning process that we facilitate for churches and other organizations. If you feel like you could improve in one of these areas, we’d love to help. You can read more about our Strategic Operating Plans. Please contact us if you’d like to talk about options to help you take your next steps.

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Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.