Leadership Direction: Organization Assessment

As a leader, you want to harness who you are (roots) and what you have to offer (core) for the good of others (fruit).  Actions are what stretches you to produce fruit in the world. These are the activities in which you engage in order to branch out beyond yourself and into your context.

To know what actions to take, you start with an assessment of yourself (see last week’s post) and then move into an assessment of your organization.  This week, let’s take a look at how best to assess your organization so you can best answer the “What’s next and how do I get us there?” question that every leader must ask.

Whether you lead a church, a ministry, a non-profit organization, a school, a business, or a family, there are five key questions you must ask and answer in order to have an accurate assessment of the organization.  Here are five (take a stab at answering these for the organization you lead):

1.    What game are we playing?

Don’t let the word “game” fool you – most of us who lead are not “playing games.”  Instead, we are engaged in serious work, sober ministry, and/or bottom line business.  So the question is not intended to turn down the volume on how serious matters are for your organization.  Instead, the aim of the question is to see how well you can simply and summarily describe the endeavor in which you are engaged.

This is the question that drives many organizations to their mission statement or purpose statement.  It’s the question that gets at why you exist.

I have the privilege of coaching a number of church planters.  One of them answers this question by saying his church is “To urgently lead people to say YES to Christ and live passionately for Him.”  Another says his church is playing the game of “giving people the best opportunity to become a fully developing follower of Jesus.”  I coach a business leader who says his team is about “creating the most efficient process yet for engineering the parts used to build modular nuclear reactors.”

Whatever your organization is about, be it saving souls, feeding children, or selling shoes, you have to be clear what it is.  Organizations who are not clear at this most core level, find it difficult to “play the game” because they are not sure what they are really about.

2.    What does it look like for us to “win” and to “lose” at the game we are playing?

Once you know what game you are playing, you have to be clear about what it means to be winning and what it means to be losing.  After all, those are the two options for your organization: you are either fulfilling your mission or you are not.  By putting it in terms of winning and losing, it makes it crystal clear what results are acceptable and which ones are unacceptable.

A few years ago I consulted with a church that had clearly identified their mission as being centered on “improving the reputation of Christ in our community.”  When I asked the pastor and other leaders what would be the signs of winning at that game, they thought long and hard.  Finally, they began to gain consensus that neighbors visiting the church would signal a win – after all, they suspected that many of their neighbors had a low opinion of Christ and the church and would not consider visiting.  Great.  So I asked what would a loss look like.  That was easy: nobody visiting, nobody accepting an invitation to attend, the church and its members being shunned by neighbors.

You can likely guess my next question: “Are you winning or losing?”  They realized how badly they were losing.  All their attempts at gaining favor with their neighbors were falling flat.  If the game had been baseball, they would have been striking out.

Every organization needs fewer losses and more wins.  That’s called progress.  And it’s the leader’s role to help the organization make progress.  But not every organization is ready to truly start winning.  Like a sports team that is in a rebuilding phase (acquiring young talent that will help them win games in years to come), some organizations are in a season in which a win consists of learning to play together (healthy conflict), improving talent (re-education or hiring staff), or becoming a team (unifying around a common vision).  Ask yourself: What does a win need to look like right now for our organization?

3.    What’s working and what’s not?

Finally, an organizational assessment includes a sincere look at which strategies, programs, and tactics are contributing to a win and which are not.

One of the most difficult decisions for many organizations – business or non-profit – is the choice to stop doing something that is not working.  For instance, the church whose mission was to improve the reputation of Christ in their neighborhood concluded that their door-to-door outreach tactics were having an adverse effect.  People in their community did not see them as caring neighbors, but as pushy proselytizers.  This realization allowed the church to shift their efforts away from door-to-door visitation to focus on providing several community-wide picnic events each year and to serving the community by investing energy in one of the local schools.  This shift also required them to cease a few programs that were entirely inward focused.  Within a few years, the church had a reputation for caring about their neighbors and for being a welcoming (and welcomed) presence in the community.  Only by first identifying what game they were playing and what constituted a win could the church accurately determine what was working and what was not.

What about you and your organization?  What is working and what is not?  What do you need to stop doing?  What do you need to start doing? What can be shifted?

About Chad Hall

Chad Hall is the Director of Coaching for Western Seminary and also serves as a leadership coach for ministry and corporate clients through his role as Partner with Coach Approach Ministries and iNTERNAL iMPACT.