Andy Stanley – Creating a Healthy Organizational Culture – Catalyst One Day

Churches don't divide because of theology. They divide because systems get out of whack.

Every organization has a culture. A culture is a set of unwritten rules that determine how an organization runs, the values, practices, etc.

The longer you are there, the less aware you are of your organization's culture.  If you work with a healthy, clearly defined culture, then you know how energizing it can be.

If you've ever worked for an unhealthy culture, you know how draining it is.

These 5 statements are the framework for everything we're going to talk about today. 5 indisputable truths about organizational culture.

  1. Leaders shape organizational culture whether they intend to or not.
    1. If you have have been at your current church for two years or less, you can still remember when you came to that church, and you walked in and you began to pick up on the personality of that church, and there were things you liked or didn't like.  You were aware of how your predecessor shaped the organizational culture.
    2. But if you've been there 5 years or more, those are your problems.
    3. Every leader is doing something intentionally or unintentionally to shape the organizational culture.
    4. If you love the organizational culture of your church, then your number 1 goal is to figure out why it has become what it has become, because if you don't know why it's working when it's working, you won't know what's not working when it breaks.
    5. If you hate your organizational culture, then you need to go home and look in the mirror, because you create your culture.
  2. Time in erodes awareness of.
    1. There are things in your house that don't look good, but you don't see them.  If I came to your house I could point them out.
    2. The longer you are anywhere, the less aware of it you are.
    3. You need to build into your structure the information that comes with fresh eyes and fresh ears.
    4. I tell our new staff, "In three months, you're going to get an email from my office with a set of questions.  We're not evaluating you.  You're evaluating us.  In a year, you're going to get another email.  Because you see the problems."  We ask these questions trying to see the insight that comes with fresh eyes.
    5. When there's a problem in the organization, there are three levels of blame:
      1. Someone
      2. Human nature
      3. Systems - This is often the problem.  If you are not aware of the culture you are shaping, you will try to make personnel changes that aren't needed.
  3. Healthy cultures attract and keep healthy people.
    Don't you love healthy people?  They're secure.  They have ideas but can hear no.  They're not always looking for more vacation time.  Unhealthy people are a drain on your staff.  I'm not saying they're not going to Heaven, you just don't want them on your staff.  Have a ministry, don't hire a ministry.  Unhealthy people wither and die in a healthy organization.  People won't gossip with them.  When they're critical, people will ask what's wrong with them.
  4. The culture of an organization impacts the long term productivity of an organization.
    1. This hasn't really been studied, but recently people have tried to take the squishy things and begun to measure them.  Because business people, pastors, want things they can measure.  So is it really worth it to create a productive culture?
    2. Yes.  Healthy people love to lean into the future instead of dwelling on the past.  Healthy people are problem solvers not problem creators.  You'll do more with less resources.
    3. We're going to talk about goals.  We're going to have push back.  You are a corporation.  You are an organization, so you should be organized.
    4. When your systems begin to break down, you're less healthy.
  5. Unhealthy cultures are slow to adapt to change.
    1. Unealthy cultures turn their back to the community and face each other... to gripe, moan, and infight.
    2. Healthy cultures turn their back to each other and face the community to be on mission, and they'll do anything they need to do to accomplish the mission.
    3. We need to have nimble organizations committed to the vision and mission, rather than doing things the way we've always done.


Creating and re-creating corporate culture rarely feels urgent.  Besides, you can't fix it with a meeting, a memo, or a mandate.  It's a bit like trying to pick up Jell-O or win an argument with your teenage daughter.  One keeps slipping away.  The other keeps changing the subject. For leaders, working on culture feels like going backwards.  Why can't people just do their jobs and get along?  The truth is, the good people in your organization want to do exactly that.  They want to do their jobs and get along with the people they work with. While tinkering with your organization's culture is not glamorous, it is mission-critical.

Posted at 9:24 AM on November 15th, 2012
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