Thursday, February 03, 2011

Book Notes - Cracking Your Church's Culture Code

I've heard lots of great things about Dr. Samuel Chand but never read any of his stuff until now. Cracking Your Church's Culture Code is a great read and has lots of insight into the intangibles about organizational and team culture. Long time readers know that one of our mantras is "context matters." More recent readers know that I've been involved in some significant areas of organizational change in the past few months. The combination of both concepts comes together in this book.

Dr. Chand writes in chapter 1 that this book is really for top leadership teams in churches and nonprofits - people that make the decisions at the top.
The commitment to value people all along the organizational hierarchy must be implemented from the top down.
He also cautions others about being agents of change, implying that unless it comes from the top, you'll be hitting a brick wall and will eventually need to leave the organization. I'm not sure that's completely 100% true, but no doubt his book outlines some great tools and perspectives for you to either be a great agent of change or a pain in the a** to the people you work for.

Here are some great snippets:

6 keys to culture:
Culture is the most powerful factor in any organization.
Culture is usually unnoticed, unspoken and unexamined.
Culture determines how people respond to vision and leadership.
Culture most often surfaces and is addressed in negative experiences.
Culture is hard to change, but change results in multiplied benefits.

Thresholds of organizational culture - cultures that are:
inspiring <-> accepting <-> stagnant <-> discouraging <-> toxic

About change:
Changing culture always creates conflict. When we choose respect instead of manipulation, and honesty instead of avoidance of issues, most people will thrive, but a few resist even healthy changes.

On graceful exits:
The hardest conversations are often with the top volunteers, many of whom know the struggles and have great compassion for the person leaving.

On processes of change:
Involves knowledge, attitude, behavior and institutional behavior. [no one talks about the last one]

On chaos:
I've seen leaders experience chaos in countless ways, but three of those ways stand out as unique challenges: redefining failure, creating a sense of urgency to take advantage of opportunities, and managing conflict.

On innovation:
Truly innovative leaders and their teams not only encourage people to dream new ideas and find solutions but also have found a way to transform the inevitable failures into platforms for future success.

On identifying mediocre staff members:
- stubborn and resistant to change
- reactive rather than proactive
- lazy and unprepared
- makes promises but seldom delivers
- shirks responsibility and blames others
- identifies problems without offering solutions
[Paul Idzik, COO of Barclays Bank]

Four areas on hiring or promoting:
competence - can you do the job
character - can i trust you
chemistry - can you fit in our culture
capacity - can you grow with us

He writes about the diffusion of innovations model, which I'm a huge fan of:
Leaders shouldn't have anyone on a team who is slower and more resistant than a middler. [early/late majority - 68% of the population]

On goal, task and control orientation:
Olan Hendrix, author of Three Dimensions of Leadership, observed, "Generally, religious organizations start with a goal orientation... deteriorate to a task orientation... and finally degenerate to a bottom-line control organization."

On the future:
Your effectiveness will always depend on your ability to see the future. To be an effective leaders, you must understand the difference between change and transition. Change is the event and transition is the emotional, psychological, and social response to that change.

Probably my favorite paragraph:
When leaders face transitions like those described in this chapter, they often instinctively ask, "How much am I going to bleed when I go through this?" But that's the wrong question. A better question is, "I know I'm going to bleed. How can I help my team get healthy as quickly as possible?" When a surgeon has to amputate a man's leg, does the man want her to use a scalpel or a butter knife?
Great book. Pick it up, prepare yourself for some organizational pain and then ask for the scalpel.

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes.

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