“Good is the enemy of great.” So begins Jim Collin’s 2001 bestselling business book, Good to Great; Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t. The book is accompanied by a 2005 monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sectors. Collin’s thesis is that many organizations, both for profit and non-profit, are content with mediocrity and never make the leap from being merely good to being truly great. Collins writes, “Those who turn good into great are motivated by a deep creative urge and an inner compulsion for sheer unadulterated excellence for its own sake. Those who build and perpetuate mediocrity, in contrast, are motivated more by the fear of being left behind.”
I believe that the Michigan Area of the United Methodist Church is on the verge of something great as we prepare to unite the West Michigan and Detroit Conferences into a new creation, the Great Lakes Conference. We have the opportunity to create a vision, mission, organization and connection that is excellent not according to the world’s standards but as it is shaped by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, greatness will not come unless we develop best practices and intentional strategies that demonstrate the mind of Christ as well sound business principles.
According to Collins, great organizations are characterized by the following:
- Level 5 Leadership
Leaders of great companies are not usually high profile people with huge egos. Rather, in Collins’s words, Level 5 leaders combine both personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious and single-minded not for themselves but for the mission of their organization. They deflect praise from themselves to the contributions of others. They get people to follow when they have the freedom not to.
We are followers of Jesus Christ, a Level 5 leader. We also have an outstanding leader in Bishop Jonathan Keaton. He, too, is a Level 5 leader. What kind of leader can you become as we move toward a new conference?
- First Who … Then What
Collins popularized the phrase “getting people on the bus.” Organizations that want to move from good to great must find the right people and then put them in the right seats on the bus. Without the right people in leadership, the bus will stall every time.
The MATT Listening Tours have been encouraging congregations and pastors to get on board. Securing the right people for conference leadership in the Great Lakes Conference will also play a critical role in moving us from good to great. Have you climbed on board yet?
- The Hedgehog Concept
Great companies base their strategies on three concepts which are visualized as intersecting circles:
1. They discover what they are best in the world at (and what they are not best at!)
2. They understand what drives their resource engine (volunteers, finances, emotional good will)
3. They focus on the activities (ministries) about which they are passionate
All three circles need to be fully developed in order to produce clarity about direction and move from good to great. The Hedgehog Concept always begins with passion, combined with an assessment of our best assets, and a way to tie in our resources with the other two circles.
Discovering our passions as the Great Lakes Conference and determining what we are the best at will entail much communication and intentionality. It’s all wrapped up in our mission and vision as a new conference. If we know who we intend to become, the resources will follow. Are you letting your voice be heard?
- The Fly Wheel
Imagine a heavy flywheel mounted on an axel. In order to get the flywheel rotating, you have to push with great effort. It’s so heavy that it inches forward ever so slightly. If you keep pushing and don’t give up, however, the flywheel will eventually begin to turn faster and faster until momentum takes over. No organization becomes great overnight. There are no short cuts, and there is never one defining moment or miracle. Transformation takes time, as knowledge and experience build up, and the bus fills with the right people.
I hope that you will give the Great Lakes Conference the time it needs to gain momentum. However, pushing won’t get us very far without prayer. Are you praying for MATT and for both annual conferences during this time of transition?
- A Culture of Discipline
Great organizations are filled with intense, self-disciplined people who are also given great creative freedom and responsibility. Discipline includes being honest about present reality, discerning which programs best support the Hedgehog Concept and eliminating those that don’t.
If the formation of the Great Lakes Conference is motivated by fear or finances rather than a great creative urge to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, we won’t move from good to great. In the creation of something new, we have an unprecedented opportunity to pursue excellence for the sake of faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
May these thoughts help you to prepare for the West Michigan Annual Conference this week. I also trust you will find ways to apply these principles to your local church as well.
Will your ministry be good … or great?