When the new Director of Operations of a global missions organization decided to yield strategic goal setting to the six overseas area directors, he almost made a grown man cry—for good reason.
With “fresh eyes” for the strategic planning process, World Harvest Mission’s new Director of Operations, Marc Kyle, had a revelation: “After years without a systematic strategic planning process, our quickly growing team of overseas area directors had minimal influence over setting the annual strategies they were responsible to carry out. Shouldn’t the leaders in the field, closest to the action, be the ones leading the strategic planning? Then, our operations team in the U.S. can come alongside and help advance the strategies.”
Kyle’s executive counterparts replied, “Do you realize what you just said? If you do this, you’ll be a hero out in the field.” When the area directors were informed of the new direction one of them said, “Hallelujah!” Another one said, ‘I think I’m going to cry.’ While he spoke somewhat in jest, it was clear that they needed to reorganize the strategic process.
Kyle accurately observed a second reality: “In actuality, our U.S. office staff was already in place and committed to implementing the field staff decisions.”
1. Kyle shared with his U.S. team his plan to transfer responsibility for developing the annual strategies to the area directors. “I walked them through a journey of our new strategic thinking. While I affirmed the fact that ‘You are all team leaders,’ I was honest and up front with them that this effectively moved them down the organizational chart. They were honest, in return; it hurt a little to no longer be on a ‘’director’ level. Yet, there was a clear upside:
2. Kyle met face-to-face, individually with each of his U.S. leaders. One leader told him, “My gifts are not in the upper planning level. I find great joy in implementing in the area of my expertise.” Kyle utilized a long-time partner to provide upper level expertise that freed the staffer to keep leveraging his skills, albeit with a new job title.
3. Though the team was inappropriately titled, it was still appropriately structured so no one lost his or her job.
1. Workplace engagement increased significantly as measured by the BCWI engagement survey.
2. By optimizing regular team meetings as the place to address operational challenges, U.S. team leaders felt empowered to take on and solve issues. “Instead of constantly coming to me for ‘answers,’ or merely reporting on their siloed areas of responsibility, they now work together to solve problems,” says Kyle. “Ownership nurtures collaboration, unity and workplace effectiveness.”
3. Best of all, WHM area directors are now bringing together their various experiences of grace and aggregated wisdom in ministry to lead WHM in this current chapter of growth. Adds Kyle, “We believe that the same gospel that redeems the individual is the same power that enables us to collaborate with others and then propel us into a world that yearns for redemption and transformation.”
P.S. After 30 years, WHM still believes grace, at work in the heart of the believer, is the driving force for mission. The organization has launched eight new missions teams in the last three years and all indicators point toward significant expansion of their global impact in the next five years.