What to Do When Precedent and the Status Quo Stand in the Way

Pardon the interruption.  This post may not seem to about launching, building or sustaining a small group ministry, but trust me, it has everything to do with it.  Bear with me and I think you’ll come away with what you need for the day.

One of the books that has influenced me the most over the last several years is Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen.  I wasn’t alone.  When it came out in mid 2010 it was on lots of recommended lists.  If you haven’t caught on yet, it would be a great addition to your current stack.

Scott Belsky is the founder of an interesting company called Behance and blogs at 99u (one of the touchstone ideas in Belsky’s work is the Thomas Edison quote that “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”)

In a recent blog post on strategy he pointed out that most successful organizations become efficient at the business of usual and “the more efficient we are, the more difficult it is to change the steps we take every day.”  And I think for many of us, this is what is actually happening.  Our organizations have policies and budgets and a calendar and the procedures for getting new programs added to the calendar.

With me?

Belsky went on to point out that “it is hard to take new steps because each one defies some rule or precedent for how we make day-to-day decisions.”  Uh oh.  He’s been to our organizations!

What I loved in the article was his prescription for what to do when precedent and the status quo stands in the way:

  • Eliminate the bias towards “precedent” when you’re building something new. New strategy warrants unprecedented action.”  That’s a helpful line to have in mind as you’re working with your leadership team.  Don’t you think?
  • Don’t let the new steps you must take be overridden by legal, branding, impatience, or other logistics. While it may seem easy to give in on the little details, any little turn off the road points you in a new direction. Only thing that should override strategy is better strategy.”  Again…oh my.  Most of us face death by a thousand little cuts.
  • Keep reiterating “why” you’re pursuing change, and the consequences for not changing. Sometimes, especially in established businesses, the consequences of not changing are more motivating than the goals.”  This is right at the heart at where many of our ministries are right now.  Don’t stop.  Be kind and gentle and don’t stop.  Reiterate the why.

We now return you to your previously scheduled programming.

What do you think?  Have a question? Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I am the Small Group Specialist for LifeWay. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
  • joe

    Thanks Mark! Several years ago [Jan ‘10] we began to build a strategic plan based on a new vision statement our Sr. Pastor gave us [the staff] called Vision 2015. About 3 months into the plan building we [the 3 staff assigned to build the plan] were in a discussion with our Sr. Pastor specifically asking him whether he was willing to lead us through a wholesale/radical change [we were recommending] or an incremental change process [we were not campaigning for] to achieve our vision – incremental change it was. We instinctively knew that if we didn’t address some major road blocks and mindsets headon the old/established culture and norms would absorb the new strategic plan and initiatives – and it has by-in-large with some parts of the plan still in place. So what you’ve relayed in this blog is so true and must be taken seriously to accomplish the necessary adjustments and improvements needed for more and better disciples to be made for Jesus. Again, thanks and help!

  • markchowell

    Thanks for jumping in here, Joe! Sorry I missed this when you first commented. Any attempt to break free from the shackles of the status quo (love Gary Hamel’s language) really does require commitment and resolve. Anything less than all-in leads to where you’ve already been.