10 Symptoms of an Unhealthy Organization

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I recently finished reading The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. If you ever wondered what I do to help churches with their strategy and structure, this book captures the core from a business perspective. That said, there are many truths that apply across any organization including the church.

I had well over 100 highlights by the time I finished reading, but here are the top ten that grabbed my attention…with my color commentary in brackets. In fact, you could view these as:

10 Symptoms of an Unhealthy Organization

  1. Inattention to Organizational Health — “The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.” [In churches, there is so much focus on the Sunday service experience that we neglect the health of the ministry organization where relationships and discipleship really happen.]
  2. Adrenaline Addiction — “Unfortunately, many of the leaders I’ve worked with suffer from a chronic case of adrenaline addiction, seemingly hooked on the daily rush of activity and firefighting within their organizations. It’s as though they’re afraid to slow down and deal with issues that are critical but don’t seem particularly urgent.” [This is a common trait of senior pastors as well.]
  3. Leadership Team Disunity — “If an organization is led by a team that is not behaviorally unified, there is no chance that it will become healthy.” [This is why I've focused the last several months on writing about healthy senior leadership team. See my eBook, How to Take the Lid Off Your Church.]
  4. Artificial Harmony — “Nowhere does this tendency toward artificial harmony show itself more than in mission-driven nonprofit organizations, most notably churches. People who work in those organizations tend to have a misguided idea that they cannot be frustrated or disagreeable with one another. What they’re doing is confusing being nice with being kind.” [We need more healthy conflict in churches.]
  5. Prioritizing Consensus — “When leadership teams wait for consensus before taking action, they usually end up with decisions that are made too late and are mildly disagreeable to everyone. This is a recipe for mediocrity and frustration.” [Read my post on the "5 Reasons Why Consensus Sucks."]
  6. Not Answering the Key Questions — Six critical questions: 1. Why do we exist? 2. How do we behave? 3. What do we do? 4. How will we succeed? 5. What is most important, right now? 6. Who must do what? [These are the core questions we address in the StratOp process I facilitate for organizations.]
  7. Being All Things to All People — “The mistake those leaders made was trying to be all things to all people, which led them to make their values statements as broad and inclusive as possible.” [You may have a long list of values, but are they the core values that distinguish you from other churches and non-profit organizations?]
  8. Poor Vision Casting — “Great leaders see themselves as Chief Reminding Officers as much as anything else… Many leaders fail to overcommunicate because they get bored saying the same things over and over again.” [This is related to the "adrenaline addiction" listed above.]
  9. Hiring the Wrong People — “Bringing the right people into an organization, and keeping the wrong ones out, is as important as any activity that a leadership team must oversee.” [The church can demonstrate grace and mercy to all people without hiring them and paying them money to be a poor fit on the team.]
  10. Ineffective Meetings — “If someone were to offer me one single piece of evidence to evaluate the health of an organization, I would not ask to see its financial statements, review its product line, or even talk to its employees or customers; I would want to observe the leadership team during a meeting.” [The best model for meetings is found in Patrick Lencioni's book Death by Meeting.]

Did you just complete your checkup? Are you healthy? If you identify one or more symptoms that your organization may be sick, let’s chat about how our consulting team may be able to help you get unstuck.

Do you know if your church is healthy or not?
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About Author

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.

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  1. [...] Symptom of an Unhealthy Organization Artificial Harmony — “Nowhere does this tendency toward artificial harmony show itself more than in mission-driven nonprofit organizations, most notably churches. People who work in those organizations tend to have a misguided idea that they cannot be frustrated or disagreeable with one another. What they’re doing is confusing being nice with being kind.” – Patrick Lencioni, “The Advantage” [via Tony Morgan] [...]