When things go bad, it’s seldom because of a disagreement about the destination. It’s almost always a squabble over the day-to-day itinerary, the pace, or the best route to get from here to there. [Larry Osborne, Sticky Teams]
How do you build a team culture? Culture is about how we behave, why we behave the way we do in our organization or team. It’s more complicated that posters on the wall.
Rohan Dredge, in Creating and Discovering Culture, develops some ideas on creating culture. His point: “Listen deeply to what is already in the organisation and evaluate courageously who you need to be to accomplish your mission.” He proposed good parts of the process.
I was in an organization where the director gave a talk every year on the ethos of the organization. It was the first time I had experienced that kind of talk. It was a good part of the process and one which I continued when I became an organizational director.
But I think Larry Osborne has outlined an effective culture-shaping process in his book Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page. The chapter is Staff Alignment and the topic is what Osborne calls plumb lines.
Here are some excerpts:
When things go bad, it’s seldom because of a disagreement about the destination. It’s almost always a squabble over the day-to-day itinerary, the pace, or the best route to get from here to there.
The most powerful tool I’ve found for overcoming these differences and for making sure that my staff is aligned in terms of their day-to-day values and decisions is something I call “ministry plumb lines.”
The purpose of plumb lines is to clarify how we plan to go about reaching the lost or glorifying God in this church at this time.
Effective leaders are almost always a little bit weird. They approach ministry and life a few degrees off center. That’s what sets them apart. They see and sense things that others miss. But sadly, most leaders have no tool to communicate their thought process or the unique values and perspective that drive their decisions. Again, that’s where the value of plumb lines comes in. It gives your staff and team something to gauge their own thought processes, assumptions, and decisions by. It gives them a track to run on.
If forced to choose between a great mission statement and a clear set of plumb lines, I’d choose the plumb lines every time. That’s because the devil and most disagreements are in the details. I find it relatively easy to get our entire staff headed in the same direction and aiming at the same goal. I find it much more difficult to ensure that everyone is taking the same route to get there.
I had wrongly assumed that alignment around our mission and goals automatically meant agreement about the best methods to get there.
What Osborne is talking about is creating an organizational culture that lives out the mission and values in daily decisions by every member of the organization. That’s culture.
Seeing an example of Osborne’s plumb lines in one area is very clarifying:
North Coast Church’s Plumb Lines for World Missions
- Everyone needs Jesus. Since no one comes to the Father except through Jesus, we will give top priority to ministries and missions that actually bring people to Christ rather than those that focus solely on meeting physical needs.
- All people are of equal value in the sight of God. Therefore, we will give top priority to ministries and missions where the harvest and return on investment is greatest.
- The local church is God’s plan A. There is no plan B. Therefore, we will give top priority to ministries and missions that either plant churches or build up existing local churches.
- Middlemen just get in the way. Therefore, we will not function as a middleman filtering communication or doling out financial support. Instead, we will encourage direct contact between our people and the missionaries and organizations they support. This will result in a less impressive missions’ budget, but it will produce far greater hands-on kingdom involvement.
Each begins with a cultural value statement then embeds that value of the church into a practical action. Osborne says this is how the church extends it’s values throughout the organization with consistency.
Who does your team need to be to accomplish your mission and how are you developing those values?