You Worship Your Past Success!
It’s easy to get caught in the trap when you stop seeing yourself as responsible or accountable for the ministry results you produce. I read a fascinating article from Forbes about how General Motors destroyed its Saturn division. Among other things, David Hanna, the author of the article, suggested:
Saturn, a GM company that had great promise in the early 1990s, ultimately failed because senior GM leaders couldn’t see the benefits of new ways of doing things and a new kind of organizational culture.
We’re all familiar with the demise of GM, so this is a very vivid image of what can happen when an organization becomes so stuck in its traditional approach of doing things that the world passes it by. Ultimately, when organizations stick to “the way we do it,” the safe approach of avoiding innovation and change becomes the riskiest approach.
Hanna goes on to explain:
There were just two underlying forces behind Saturn’s demise: GM’s insistence on managing all its divisions centrally with a tight fist, and the demand by leadership at both GM and the UAW that Saturn get in line with traditional ways of doing things.
That highlights one of the biggest challenges in leadership. Leaders have to choose between control and innovation. You can’t have both. You can define the desired outcomes. You can create the boundaries, but you can’t expect your team to be creative, innovative, or artistic if you try to control every element of the execution. If you must have full control, you just need to know that you are also choosing to shut down new ideas and innovations in your organization.18
Unfortunately, the church is notorious for religiously keeping things the way they’ve always been but hoping we’ll somehow achieve different results. Avoiding new approaches. Top-down, centralized leadership. Preserving the traditional ways of doing things. Sound familiar?
It’s a great reminder that our past successes can be one of the greatest contributing factors to our future demise. GM used to have a winning formula. It worked in previous generations. Recently, though, it’s not been working so well.
They may be coming out with some new, innovative automobiles now, but it wasn’t too long ago that it seemed GM still wanted to make cars as though it were 1979 while expecting to get the same results. By sticking with that approach, they dropped from 45 percent of the market share thirty years ago to hovering around 20 percent today. In fact, back in 2008, Toyota ended GM’s seventy-seven–year reign as the world’s largest automaker.
It’s easy to look at churches that might still be “driving the Chevy Impala” and easily draw conclusions for why they are in decline. Before you do that, though, I think it’s good to remember that GM was once a very successful company. When you experience success, it’s tough to let go. You want to control the formula because it works. You are reticent to try new approaches. The only problem is that eventually the world around us is going to change.
In His Grip,