This is an overview of a chapter in Dr. Samuel Chand’s Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration. The book takes on the nebulous topic of culture and step by step addresses how to make real changes. This chapter on chaos in particular stood out to me, perhaps because I’m uncomfortable without order, yet I found Dr. Chand’s argument a persuasive one.
“To create a new culture, you have to destroy the old one.” If you try to ease your way into a new culture you probably won’t make the changes necessary for real change. In order to accomplish change this radical, leaders need to embrace chaos, or “negative experiences that look like chaos but are actually open doors to a new world of creativity and growth.”
Everyone responds to change differently – some embrace its novelty, while others are scared of the unknown. Everyone, when confronted with change, will ask, “How does this affect me?” This is where true leadership takes place, as you guide your staff through the upheaval, you set the tone for the organization as a whole – you determine the culture.
This crucial role of leadership is accomplished via three unique challenges presented by chaos:
1) Redefining Failure
2) Creating a Sense of Urgency to Take Advantage of Opportunities
3) Managing Conflict
Redefining failure is the only way to create a safe environment for your staff to be innovative. With creativity comes greater risk, but you can’t afford to stay safe when your vision is to move forward. We need to ask ourselves:
- What are we willing to risk for God’s kingdom?
- What is the point when we give up hope and quit trying to implement change?
- How do we treat others when they fail?
Dr. Chand “encourages pastors to create a culture of experimentation in which creativity is celebrated and failure isn’t a tragedy.” They should applaud success and respond graciously to ideas that flop. Moreover, leaders need to be aware that “by its nature, innovation breeds a form of chaos” because people are always uncertain as to whether a new plan will work.
In order to anticipate opportunities, the second challenge of chaos, it is helpful to understand the natural cycle of growth. The Sigmoid Growth Curve represents the various stages of the growth cycle. Something acts as an initial trigger, such as an energizing vision and as that vision takes hold, real growth takes place. But over time regimentation replaces passion, causing growth to slow, stall and finally even decline. Point A on the graph represents where the vision begins to fade although actual decline in growth doesn’t occur until point B.
The key, then, is to take action at point A, rather than waiting until point B. Dr. Chand admits that communicating this perspective is difficult because the “problem” is not yet apparent to most. This is where chaos comes into play as “the time between the envisioning of the new wave at point A and the upward movement after a period of preparation (often two or three years) is full of doubt, fear, and questions.” However, if you are able to instill a new vision at point A, you change the shape of the curve into a continual upward slope.
Dr. Chand explains that from his experience “perhaps nothing has robbed [leaders] of joy, urgency, and vision as much or as often as enduring conflicts on their staff teams.” Thus, managing conflict, the third challenge of chaos, is so important. His first point of action is to be brave enough to fire anyone who needs to be fired. Here are some questions to help you identify staff who need correction and possibly dismissal:
- Is stubborn and resistant to change
- Is reactive rather than proactive
- Is lazy and unprepared
- Makes promises but seldom delivers
- Shirks responsibility and blames others
- Identifies problems without offering solutions
Then, as you fill open positions, “look for more than positive references and experience in certain skills. Dig deeper to uncover the person’s passions and commitments.”
Also, it is helpful for leaders to identify their staff’s probable reaction to a proposed change. Each member will be an excited embracer, early embracer, middler, late embracer, or never embracer. Then realize that “in most cases, the battle is to won with the middlers.” This is because it won’t take much to convince the excited and early embracers, late embracers won’t be won over until they see the plan in action and never embracers are a lost cause. Keeping this in mind frees you to focus your energy where it will be most beneficial.
Finally, “chaos – no matter what the cause might be – is a test that shows what people and organizations are really made of.” And thus if you “respond with insight, courage, and hope, [these times of chaos] become a catalyst for incredible growth – for [your]church and for each person on [your] team.”