Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fist Fights Over Mission Statements!

Recently a CEO asked me to resolve a verbal fist fight over the ministry’s mission statement. In their strategic planning process, some members of the management team voiced a strong difference of opinions. I assured this in-the-trenches leader that this was a good thing! 

Patrick Lencioni has noted that the reason most meetings (including board meetings, I’ll add) are so boring is because there is not enough conflict. For more on this, read his chapter, “The Centrality of Great Meetings” in The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. Lencioni calls bad meetings “the birthplace of unhealthy organizations.”

But back to the question about mission statements. I encouraged this CEO to evaluate the oomph and the caliber of the mission statement several ways:

• At least annually, when the board assesses organizational effectiveness and ministry results, does the mission statement give guidance for evaluating the organization’s trajectory? What ministry results should be measured? If the mission statement is too lofty, it serves no one. (However, vision statements—what an organization strives to be—are often lofty.) Ultimately, the board, not the management team, must land on a mission statement.

• As Tami Heim, president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance asked recently—does the mission engage you emotionally? She writes:

“In a 2013 interview I conducted with Wess Stafford, former CEO of Compassion International, we talked about Compassion’s mission. Wess explained,
‘When you share your mission and it doesn’t move you to tears in the first 90 seconds, you need to get out of the way. You need to resign. Yes resign, so the organization can find a leader who has a passion worthy of the call.’”

First, of course, you need a board-affirmed mission statement that grabs you by the throat. When sorted out through a robust spiritual discernment process, the mission statements of Christ-centered organizations often ooze with a sense of the Holy!

Bottom line: we waste a lot of staff time and board time on meaningless strategic planning busy work. But—reshaping the mission statement, if needed, is a high priority endeavor. If you don’t get it right, you’ll never have high commitment on anything else. 

QUESTION: Does your ministry’s mission statement guide the core decisions of your board? Do all board members know the mission statement by memory?

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