Thursday, June 4, 2009

How the Mighty Fall

Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation

I don’t have a sense of crisis. I have a sense of urgency that never changes. Louis Gerstner, IBM

Stage 4 begins when an organization reacts to a downturn by lurching for a silver bullet. They go for a quick, big solution or bold stroke to jump-start a recovery, rather than embark on the more pedestrian, arduous process of rebuilding long-term momentum.

Stage 4 grasping can produce a brief improvement, but the results do not last. Dashed hope follows dashed hope follows dashed hope yet again. Organizations stuck in Stage 4 try all sorts of new programs, new fads, new strategies, new visions, new cultures, new values, new breakthroughs, new acquisitions, and new saviors. And when one silver bullet fails, they search for another.

The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change. The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.

Rebuilding greatness requires a series of intelligent, well-executed actions that add up one on top of another. Most “overnight success" stories are about twenty years in the making.

When we find ourselves in trouble, when we find ourselves on the cusp of falling, our survival instinct – and our fear – can evoke lurching, reactive behavior absolutely contrary to survival. By grasping about in fearful, frantic reaction, late Stage 4 organizations accelerate their own demise.

Markers for Stage 4
  • A series of silver bullets
  • Grasping for leader-as-savior
  • Panic and haste
  • Radical change and “revolution” with fanfare
  • Hype precedes results
  • Initial upswing followed by disappointments
  • Confusion and cynicism
  • Chronic restructuring and erosion of financial strength

The very moment when we need to take calm deliberate action, we run the risk of doing the exact opposite and bringing about the very outcomes we most fear.

Questions for ChurchWorld

  • Have you stopped momentum in your church with chronic restructuring and/or as series of inconsistent big decisions?
  • Do you sell people on the promises of a brighter future to compensate for poor results today?
  • Have you made panicky, desperate moves in reaction to threats that imperil your organization even more, further eroding your resources?
  • Have you embarked on a program of radical change, a revolution, to transform nearly every aspect of your organization, jeopardizing or abandoning core strengths?

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