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Great organizations don’t just appear. There is usually some methodical approach, which takes time to achieve. Nothing worth doing well is ever easy. Thankfully, in my experience, there are certain benchmarks we can aim for, which seem to exist in successful organizations I’ve observed. When we strive for these benchmarks, we at least have a path to guide us.

In the church where I recently was pastor, I would say we have experienced some “success” relative to our mission in the six years I was there. Of course, there is always room for continual improvement, but we’ve made tremendous progress. Reflecting back, I could see some of our benchmarks. There were things I knew in the beginning we needed to achieve for us to gain traction, grow and improve in accomplishing what God had called us to do.

And, having led in business, government, and now ministry worlds – these appear to be shared attributes of achieving any level of success.

In my new role, many of these are in place at Leadership Network. Most simply need to be refined, but the benchmarks are much the same.

Here are 7 benchmarks towards success in an organization:

There is a clear vision.

Everyone knows the objective we want to achieve in the end. Why are we here? What’s our purpose? Someone recently, borrowed from a book on strategy, said we needed a “winning aspiration”. Whatever the vision is it needs to be clearly and succinctly communicated in a memorable, easy to embrace way. Obviously, in the ministry, this vision comes from God’s leading, not man’s invention, but “without a vision the people perish”. Good organizations (and churches) do also.

There is a clear strategy; with distinct goals in place.

There is a plan to achieve the vision. People are operating with reasonable, attainable, measurable and worthy goals. They have the resources in place to complete them. These are update regularly to meet the demands at the time and to encourage continual improvement. Personally, I like to operate on a few simple broad goals each year, but then have more specific goals updated every 90 days.

A great team has been recruited.

This is critical. You’ll spin your wheels and never have good traction otherwise. And, because someone was a good fit yesterday doesn’t mean they always will be. As organizations (and churches) change, so do the needs of people who sit on the team. People are always the greatest asset – and frankly – can be the greatest hindrance to achieving success if they are the wrong people. Continually asking who are the right players is critical to progress. Being willing to make the hard decisions in this area is mission critical.

Tasks are divided equitably

I’ve learned this one the hard way. I’ve been working since I was 12 years old. Work is what I know to do when I get up in the morning. I was naive early in my leadership to believe everyone shared my work ethic. They don’t. (For those wondering – I believe in working hard and playing hard. I strive to honor the Sabbath. Rest is important too.)

But, if an organization is to succeed everyone must pull their weight. There can be no stragglers. There is much hard work to be done. Everyone goes through seasons where they aren’t as productive, but if someone lingers there for a career they injure everyone else – and the vision. (I’ve learned churches can be slow in making people changes everyone know needs to be made – and they do in the names of love and grace, but sometimes it’s called poor stewardship.)

Communication is fluent and frequent

This is a tough one, because as the organization grows people will naturally know less and less about everything. That’s got to be true for the senior leader also. Over time, people become specialists rather than generalists. But, people only know what they know, therefore communication becomes more critical. And, it never seems to be enough. There’s a danger of silos developing if people aren’t continually engaged as a team. A huge challenge for any successful organization is effectively communicating throughout the entire organization.

There’s a resolve to persevere and endure.

I never knew how big this one was until I was in a struggling company and discovered – the hard way – some of the people I thought were most dedicated weren’t. And, it hurt everyone. If an organization (or church) wants to be successful there must be a strong, committed core of people who are in it for the long-haul – regardless of the setbacks and disappointments, which will naturally come. I would say to my church revitalization pastor friends that if you don’t have some of these people, it will be very difficult to turn around the church.

The same is true in an organization like Leadership Network. A constant tension is helping our board, who is rightfully looking for some answers, understand the time it will take to successfully position us for the future.

There’s a communal, celebratory, and fun atmosphere.

People need to have fun! There should be a joy in the journey. Team members need to know they are valued, a part of something bigger than today, and they can laugh, cry, and do life together as a family would. If people think it’s only about the money – or the numbers – or the progress – they will bore quickly and never really own or try to accomplish the vision. It will be a job – not a calling or a passion.

I’m not trying to be overly simplistic if your organization is struggling right now. That wouldn’t be fair to you or to me where I am as I attempt to lead a new (to me) organization. It’s much more complicated than a seven point blog post in practice, but look over the list again. Ask yourself upon which of these attributes does your organization most need to improve?

Perhaps spending time on this area will bring you some progress.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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