• Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    The Tension in Strategic Planning

    This month we’ve begun our annual work of updating the SpringHill strategic plan, or as we refer to it, our ministry plan. The process includes most of our staff and board at some level and culminates in our leadership team’s offsite annual planning meeting where we bring all the input and pieces together and update our plan.

    And every year, during our annual planning offsite, we find ourselves in this tension between detailed calculated planning verses faith driven, visionary planning. This tension is particularly strong in Christian organizations where we “want to leave room for God” in our plans because we know He can do more than “we could ever ask for or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

    But too often “leaving room for God” is an excuse for not doing the hard work of planning. We need to accept that planning clearly is a godly pursuit, the Scriptures are full of admonishment to “count the cost” and that “the noble man devises noble plans; and by noble deeds he stands” (Isaiah 32:8).

    On the other hand, planning can quickly replace sensitivity to God’s leading and having the faith that can “move mountains”. This most often happens when we’ve create well thought out plans because we move our faith to our plans and away from the God who makes the plans a reality.

    So how have we tried to reconcile this tension between planning and faith?

    We’ve accept that we need both – it’s not an “either/or” proposition but a “both/and” (like many things of faith). We’re committed to prayerfully creating the very best plans we can, using the very best tools, knowledge, and insight available to us. Yet, at the same time, we prayerfully set long-term goals and vision that we can’t always calculate our way too, knowing we have to move forward in faith, trusting God will provide what we need when we need it.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership,  Summer Camp

    The Lesson in Eclipsing 19,000 Summer Campers

    “By the summer of 2019, 19,000 kids will attend one of six summer camps.” It was 1997 and the SpringHill board and leadership had just updated and approved the ministry’s strategic plan using Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’ book Built to Last as a guide.

    Collins and Porras’ research revealed that enduring organizations had a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG). The “19 by 19” goal, as it was soon to be called, was SpringHill’s BHAGG (we added the first G – God – to our definition).

    Now understand, in 1997 SpringHill’s board and leaders were people of talent and faith who wanted to do something significant for kids and Christ’s Kingdom. And the “19 by 19” goal reflected both this desire and the best information available to them at the time.

    Yet today as I write, here in the summer of 2012, we just eclipsed this “19 by 19” goal. Please know I’m not sharing this with you so you can be impressed or congratulate us for handily beating our goal, but instead to demonstrate a point about goal setting that Collins and Porras doesn’t address.

    In goal setting we tend to be overly optimistic about short-term goals and overly pessimistic about long-term goals. The main reason for this phenomenon is that we tend to think of the future only in the context of what we know in the present. For example, our staff and board knew and understood overnight camping but could not possibly have foreseen the dramatic demographic changes that would lead us to begin our Day Camp ministry nearly 10 years later (this ministry has played a significant role in our beating the 19 by 19 goal seven years early).

    The lesson we learned, and then implemented in restating our BHAGG back in 2003 was that a visionary goal isn’t based on a “calculation”. It’s  bigger than that, so big that we’d have no any idea how it would be achieved. The goal needed to be big enough “to leave room for God”, as one board member put it. Today our BHAGG is that, by 2025, we’ll have 260,000 people a year experience SpringHill.

    Now, to be completely honest, only time will tell if we got this long-term goal setting thing right and whether the next generation of SpringHill leaders will judge us as fool hearted souls or Saturday morning sand baggers.


  • Organizational Leadership

    Propulsion into the Future

    With the rollout of our new vision, and with SpringHill staff and board being the people they are, I’m expecting over the next year a lot of new ideas for programs and ministries we could embark on. Thus our challenge will be in screening and prioritizing these ideas, with the goal of only doing what will propel us towards fulfilling our vision and BHAGG.

    So as I’ve thought about this opportunity it’s become apparent that there will three groups of ideas we’ll be evaluating.

    Humility Ideas:

    Humility ideas are all the possibilities that result from seeing a need or an opportunity in the world and wanting to do something about it. Most will be great ideas, ideas that can and should become reality. But they won’t align with our mission, vision, core values and philosophy of ministry, thus we shouldn’t do them. They’re humility ideas, because it’ll require us to remember – we can’t do all things and be all things to all people.

    One off Ideas:

    These are ideas that do align with who we are and direction we’re going but do not propel us forward or give energy to our envision future. Though they may align, they don’t integrate well with SpringHill and the direction it’s going, thus they provide little momentum forward, and so, as a result, they will be lower priority ideas.

    Propelling Ideas:

    Propelling ideas will be our top priority. These are ideas that are both aligned and have the potential to propel us forward in fulfilling our future goals. These ideas will give energy to SpringHill because they’ll integrate with other initiatives, with our ministry allies, with our staff, and with our supporters.

    So over this next year we’ll need wisdom and humility as we work to take on only what will lead SpringHill be all that God’s called it to be, and to do only what God’s called it to do.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    Discovering Vision

    “God’s will is more about who we are than what we do or where we go. Being always precedes doing.” Enoch Olson, SpringHill’s Founding Director

    Over the past few months I’ve been deep into the journey of discovering SpringHill’s vision for its next season of ministry. I’m on my second round of meetings with our staff, board and other involved constituents. Meeting with these committed, intelligent and insightful people is inspiring. I have no doubt God’s speaking through SpringHill’s community of people.

    But exactly what is vision? It’s a term that’s used differently by different people and organizations. So it’s important to know exactly what you’re after if you’re on the journey to discover your vision.

    At SpringHill, we use vision to answer the question “what does God want us to become, as a ministry, over the next 10 to 25 years?” We like to say vision answers the “Be” question and not the “do” questions (effective organizations need to answer both types of questions – click here to read my post on the 6 Key Questions Every Organization Needs to Answer).

    We also believe that there are certain truths about God centered visions, including:

    1. You discover visions not manufactured them.
    2. In mature organizations like SpringHill, vision does not come to just one person but is expressed through the community of constituents involved with and committed to that organization.
    3. Thus to be shared, a vision requires the input from all of an organization’s constituency groups.
    4. The leader’s job is to discover and articulate the vision of God from the voices of the community, the reality of the world, history, and an understanding of the future.

    My ultimate goal in this process is to discover God’s vision for SpringHill’s future and do so in such a way that it will be a shared vision, one that everyone committed to SpringHill will work passionately to see become a reality.

    In my next post I’ll walk through the specific steps I’m taking in this discovery process.

  • Book Reviews,  Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    “Strategic Planning is Not Strategic Thinking”

    As part of my work in re-articulating the SpringHill vision I’ve turned, once again, to one of the best books on leadership ever written The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. In the section titled Inspiring a Shared Vision Kouzes and Posner write…

    “Strategic planning often spoils strategic thinking because it causes managers to believe that the manipulation of numbers creates imaginative insight into the future and vision. This confusion lies at the heart of the issue: the most successful strategies are visions; they are not plans. McGill University professor Harry Mintzberg explains that planning represents a “calculating” style, while leaders employ a “committing” style – one that ‘engages people in a journey. They lead in such a way that everyone on the journey helps shape its course. As a result, enthusiasm inevitably builds along the way. Those with a calculating style fix on a destination and calculate what the group must do to get there, with no concern for the members preferences. But calculated strategies have no value in and of themselves…Strategies take on value only as committed people infuse them with energy.’

    Leadership that focuses on a committing style is what leadership scholars have called transformational leadership. Transformational leadership occurs when, in their interactions, people ‘raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality. Their purposes, which might have started out as separate but related, as in the case of transactional leadership, become fused…. But transforming leadership ultimately becomes moral in that it raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspiration of both the leader and the led, and thus it has a transforming effect on both.'”

    I’ve taken these words to heart and am using them as guides as I lead SpringHill in the re-articulating of its vision.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    The Architecture – The Final Two Questions Every Organization Needs to Answer, Part 5

    There are two final questions (click here for the 6 Key Questions) every organization needs to answer to assure long-term effectiveness.

    Both questions move from the current state of an organization (the focus of the first 4 questions) to the future state. Though the answers to the first four questions provide “guard rails” for the answering the final two questions, they do not specifically define the future.

    But the answers to these last two questions do define and articulate the desired future state of the organization. And because of that, the answers can and should change over time, especially as they become reality. Let’s take a look at each question and how an organization can answer them.

    What do we want to achieve in 15, 20 or 25 years? Big Hairy Audacious Goal – BHAG (or Big Hairy Audacious God Goal for faith-based organizations)

    The BHAG concept’s taken from Jim Collins and Jerry Porras book Built to Last. They state that BHAG’s are bold, challenging and daunting goals that stretch the organization. As goals, BHAG’s are definable, measurable and drive the organization to “think out of the box” while inspiring people to see the possibility of a different future.


    What do we want to become in 5, 10, 15 years? Vision

    We call this the “be” question because in articulating a desired future state – a vision, the answer is more qualitative then quantitative. It centers the organization on what it wants to become. The answer usually include words like “best”, “biggest”, “innovative”, “world-changing”, “life impacting”, etc.

    The answers to both these questions drive, inspire and help assure the organization isn’t just looking at today but is aspiring to do and be more tomorrow.

    In my next post I’ll provide some resources that can help your organization answer the 6 Key Questions.

    To see SpringHill’s answers to the 6 Key Questions click here.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    The Framework – The Next Two Questions Every Organization Needs to Answer, Part 4

    Once an organization answers the first two of the 6 Key Questions – “what do we believe to be true?” and “what’s important to us?” it then needs to answer these questions –

        Why do we exist?

        What makes us distinct?

    The answers to the first two questions, though absolutely critical, do not make an organization unique. But the answers to this second set of questions begin to highlight the essential distinctness an organization brings to the world.

    Why do we exist? Mission

    By answering this question an organization identifies its purpose for existence by focusing on the difference it’ll make in people’s lives and in the world. Mission is an action and outcome orientated statement and should be, in part, a response to the needs of the world in which the organization finds itself. For this reason, mission may change or adjust over time in response to the unique opportunities its context presents.

    What makes us distinct? Brand (or philosophy of ministry for faith-based organizations)

    Every organization has a brand (whether intentional or accidental) – it’s the attributes which make it distinct. An intentional brand requires thinking through the attributes of its products or services which are apparent to those who experience the organization, then making these attributes a reality in every part of the organization. The brand is the tangible expression of an organization’s mission, core values and statement of faith.

    Answering these two questions is necessary for an organization to identify its unique calling and its distinctiveness in living it out.

    In my next post we’ll look at the final two of the 6 Key Questions every organization needs to answer – “what do we want to achieve in the long-term?’ and “what do we want to become?”

    To see SpringHill’s answers to the 6 Key Questions click here.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    The Foundation – The First Two Questions Every Organization Needs to Answer, Part 3

    As I’ve posted twice over the last month, about the 6 key questions every organization should answer. Over the next few posts we’re going to take a closer look at each question.

    We’ll begin with the first two questions – “what do we believe to be true?” and “what’s important to us?” The answers are foundational and should never change, though they can occasionally be updated for clarity’s sake. The answers are the underpinnings for the other four questions. And like any good foundation, they need to be protected from any form of compromise.

    Question 1: What do we believe to be true?

    Typically religious organizations have a statement of faith or a confession that answers “what do we believe to be true?” drafted through blood, sweat and tears and then, unfortunately, ends up on the shelf somewhere. Yet in a world where truth seems to be like shifting sands, articulating what you believe can and should be integral to an organization’s DNA. There is not appropriate length to such a document; it depends entirely on what is held as true.

    Even for non religious organizations I’ve come to believe that answering this question can be a unifying process and help provide clarity and alignment for the entire organization.

    Question 2: What’s important to us?

    Core Values, on the other hand, should be limited to 5 to 8 succinct and memorable statements that answer the question “what’s important to us”? They define what an organization should and shouldn’t do. Jim Collin says in Built to Last – “it is absolutely essential to not confuse core ideology with culture, strategy, tactics, operations, etc.” Core values transcend all these things while guiding their appropriate implementation. Refer to Built to Last for some examples.

    With these two foundational questions answered an organization is ready to answer the next two questions – “Why do we exist?” and “What makes us distinct?” both of which we’ll look at in my next post.

    To see SpringHill’s answers to the 6 Key Questions click here.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Creating a Culture of Commitment, Part 2

    1. What do we believe to be true?
    2. What’s important to us?
    3. Why do we exist?
    4. What makes us distinct?
    5. What do we want to achieve in 15, 20 or 25 years?
    6. What do we want to become in 5, 10, 15 years?

    In a previous post I wrote that these are the 6 questions every organization needs to answer to assure long-term effectiveness. But it’s not just having answers, its making the answers a visible reality in the culture of an organization that makes a difference.

    When the answers become a “visible reality” the organization’s members, be it staff, volunteers or donors, begin to believe in and become committed to the organization’s health and success.

    Why does this happen? Linda Hill and Kent Lineback tells us in their new book Being the Boss – The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader.

    “People relate to worthwhile purposes and goals. Most of us want to feel a part of something larger and more important than ourselves. When workers were asked how important it was that their lives be meaningful, 83 percent said ‘very important’ and another 15 percent said ‘fairly important’. That’s an astounding 98 percent to whom it was at least ‘important’. Is it important to you and those who work for you? Most likely, it is.

    The same survey revealed that less than half of all employees in every industry studied felt strongly connected to their company’s purpose. Most organizations – whether a small group or a large company – are missing a great opportunity by not focusing more on why they do what they do and why they matter to the world.”

    Has your organization answered these 6 questions and made them a visible reality in your organization? Can you verify it by commitment of your staff, volunteers and donors? If you can answer yes to both questions your organization is on its way to long-term health and effectiveness.

    To see SpringHill’s answers to the 6 Key Questions click here.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    6 Questions Every Organization Needs to Answer, Part 1

    Over the last week our staff and board reviewed our answers to 6 key questions every organization should answer. They are the highest level description of the destination and the guard rails every organization needs to assure long-term effectiveness.

    Here are the 6 questions we reviewed and the place SpringHill provides the answers:

    1. What do we believe to be true? Statement of Faith.
    2. Why do we exist? Mission
    3. What’s important to us? Core Values
    4. What makes us distinct? Philosophy of Ministry
    5. What do we want to achieve in 15, 20 or 25 years? Big Hairy Audacious God Goal (BHAGG)
    6. What do we want to become in 5, 10, 15 years? Vision

    The answers to the first 4 questions focus on the “now” and need to be a present reality within the organization. Thus they are the guard rails that keep the organization from getting off track.

    The last 2 questions are future focused and provide the organization’s long-term destination. These answers need to be guided by and consistent with the answers to the first 4 questions.

    All the answers should be treated like the Constitution of the United States – slow and laborious to change. Why? Because any change needs to appropriately involve every stakeholder group of the organization, and this takes time. If the answers keep changing it’s because the questions have never been truly answered.

    Not only is it necessary to answer these 6 questions, it’s absolutely essential that the answers drive everything else in the organization. Every decision made within the organization is to be subservient to the answers to these questions. That’s why these answers are so important, and why they should rarely change.

    Finally, we believe answering these questions not to be, a an act of calculation, but an act of discovery, a discovery that will pay richly in a long future of effective ministry.

    To see SpringHill’s answers to the 6 Key Questions click here.

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