Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Peter Drucker on Outside vs. Inside Results

Bloggers, apparently, misappropriate almost every life event as fodder for the next blog. (Guilty!)

So when I saw an airport hotel sign last weekend, it cried out to me, "John, here's your next blog topic!" Below the hotel name, the big reader board announced:

It reminded me of an important insight from Peter Drucker (1909 - 2005), the father of modern management. Good governance mandates attention to Drucker's counsel.

In 1986, Bob Buford and Fred Smith at Leadership Network invited me to a week-long summit with Peter Drucker in Estes Park, Colo. Drucker held court all day with about 30 Christian leaders. I'll never forget his insights on outside results versus inside results. 

If a hospital, he said, focuses on keeping the nurses happy (inside results) but neglects the care of patients (outside results), the patients will all die and the hospital will go out of business. He acknowledged that it is good to keep the nurses happy. But when an organization focuses predominantly on inside results (administration, maintenance, policies and procedures) rather than on outside results (mission, customer, sales, donors, recipients), it is on the path to failure. 

Alert board members will look for signs of an inappropriate focus on inside results. So what is being touted in your newsletter—inside or outside results? When you casually ask your CEO, "How's it going?" does he or she enthuse about the new and faster computers—or changed lives? Do donor appeals raise funds for a new 12-passenger van—or the discipleship initiative?

The hotel manager, I'm guessing, is an inside results guy and there are at least two problems with his sign:
   1) When the big reader board does a shout-out to prospective employees, it misses the opportunity to highlight its unique features to prospective customers. "Free Breakfast! Free Shuttle! Third Night Free!"
   2) And worse...when you use prime promo space to announce you're short of housekeeping and laundry staff—count me out. I'll pick a cleaner hotel down the street.

Is it time for a quick “results audit” in your organization? Does your ministry tilt more towards inside results or outside results? What you talk about—and what you measure—matters.

But before you rush off to prioritize outside results without spiritually discerning which results are truly kingdom-focused, read the counter-intuitive wisdom in The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes, by Gary G. Hoag, R. Scott Rodin, and Wesley K. Willmer:

“The key to grasping eternity-oriented metrics is realizing that the quantitative is subservient to the qualitative. Could this be why the modern church has so many professing Christians
and so few disciples of Jesus Christ?”

QUESTION: Does your ministry tilt more towards inside results or outside results?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bacon, Eggs, and Board Chairs

I love this big idea from James Belasco:

“You can never do enough looking over the wall to learn how to do things. Seeing excellence in action helps individuals visual how they can do it for themselves.”

“Looking over the wall” is a lost discipline for many boards. If your organization is more than 10 years old, I’m guessing:
   • Board members sit in the same chairs at every meeting.
   • The same old/same old agenda reigns supreme.
   • The same people talk often—rarely waiting for more thoughtful voices to speak at least once.
   • You tend to ask God to bless your plans versus inviting God to give you the plan.

So how do you disrupt the status quo?

Some ideas:
   • Invite a CEO or board member from another ministry to observe your board meeting—and offer unvarnished feedback.
   • Visit another board meeting—and then debrief with the CEO and board chair on their best practices.
   • Zero-base your agenda. Is our stuck-in-the-rut routine helping us adjourn on time, or achieve our mission?
   • Practice spontaneous prayer—based on the needs of the hour, not the agenda.

Last week, a board coach/colleague mentioned he once organized a 24-hour retreat with three other board chairs. The topic: “What was your best board decision/policy action in the last 12 months—and why?”

His big take-away: “I returned to our board with a recommendation that we budget for an eight percent margin each year.” The board approved and he said that one new idea has been transformational for the ministry.

Here’s the good news: while 24 hours with three board chairs would be a remarkable experience—to be sure—you can begin with bacon and eggs. Invite three other board chairs to join you for breakfast in the next 60 days—and glean from the combined wisdom around the table, as you “look over the wall” for excellence in action.

Proverbs 15:22 (NIV) says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

QUESTION: When is the last time you’ve looked over the wall to improve your governance best practices?

Saturday, October 1, 2016

What Would Grace Enable Our Board to Be?

Oh, my.
If it’s been a while since you’ve read Max De Pree’s powerful book (excuse the pun), Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community, maybe this is the nudge you need.

De Pree was chairman and CEO of Herman Miller, Inc. (the office furniture manufacturer) and served many years as board chair of Fuller Seminary (check out the Max De Pree Center for Leadership).

In his chapter on the importance of measurements (worth the price of the book!), he seemingly exits the outcomes highway for a profound detour into grace. He writes: 

“I once posed the following question to a senior vice president of sales and marketing during a performance review:
‘What would grace enable us to be?’

A strange question in a profit-making organization, but I repeated it to the five people for whom I was accountable.  The man to whom I first put the question responded with a four-page essay on what grace could enable a corporation in the capitalist system to be.  It was an astonishing response.  I couldn’t measure it, but it gave us such a foundation for a future, such a wonderful forum in which to discuss potential.”

I hope De Pree’s insights will whet your appetite to read this masterpiece.  De Pree adds, “It’s so easy to fall into the trap of measuring only what’s easy to measure.”  Then he suggests you measure the “tone of the body” in your organization. Not easy—but he gives you clues on how to do it, like gauging a team’s sense of urgency.  Good stuff!

And speaking of grace, check out this perfect companion book with a unique look at grace. Read The Cure: What If God Isn’t Who You Think He Is and Neither Are You, by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall.

QUESTION: What would grace enable our board to be?