Leading a Culture Shift in Your Organization

Part 2: Define Your New Culture

Leading Culture Change

In the first article in this series, I stated that the culture of your organization is either propelling you forward or holding you back.  As we explore and evaluate the culture of your organization, you will begin to see a pattern emerge which leads to one of those destinations – forward toward your vision, mission, and goals; or, the inability to accomplish those goals no matter how great the vision and mission.  Your organizational culture is what makes the difference in which direction you are heading!

(If you haven’t read my first article, click here.  Then, complete the Culture Exercise listed in the action point section of the article.)

After you have evaluated your current culture, you will need to ask Am I getting the results that I need to get in order to fulfill the vision, mission, and goals of my organization?  As you look at the list that you created in the Culture Exercise, you need to ask that question first.  If the answer to that question is a resounding “yes,” then your focus needs to be on strengthening the culture that currently exists.  If your answer is “no,” then you need to define the new culture that will help your organization reach those results.

Take a moment to right down your thoughts as you answer these questions.  What does that new culture look like?  How do I get from here to there?  Then, begin by working through the following steps:

  • First, define what “there” looks like.  What results does your organization need to accomplish in order to fulfill the vision and mission, and to meet the organization’s goals?  This is where you need to define what a “win” looks like.  Clearly define what results your organization needs to achieve.  If it is a certain number of parts produced on a production line each hour, then define exactly what that number is for your team.  If it is increased customer service, then clearly define what that means for your team (i.e. every customer receives a greeting with a smile).  Whatever your “win” is for your organization, it needs to be clearly defined in this step.
  • Next, what actions do the members of your organization need to take in order to achieve those results?  What actions will each person need to do on a daily basis that will produce the results that your organization needs?  In the case of the customer service example above, you may expect every employee to smile every time they greet a new customer – both in person and on the phone.  You may teach them a certain phrase that you want them to say as they greet the customer.  Whatever the result is that you are looking to achieve in your organization, define the actions that will get you those results.
  • Third, what new beliefs do they need to embrace that will help them act in such a way as to achieve the expected results?  In order to influence the actions that your team needs to do, define what beliefs they would need to hold in order to achieve those actions.  In many ways, this is a difficult part of the culture change process.  Here, you need to define a list of beliefs that will influence the actions that will drive the results.  What beliefs do the members of your organization need to adhere to that will influence them to act in the way that produces the results your organization is looking to accomplish?

Keep in mind that you ALWAYS act out your belief system.  Beliefs always follow actions, but not always words.  You can say that you believe a certain way, but your true beliefs will be shown by what you do.  Many times they are aligned perfectly.  Many times they are not.  In order to understand what a person believes, look at their actions.

  • Finally, what new experiences do you need to bring to your organization that will help define this new belief system?  One of the best ways to develop a new belief system is to take the members of your organization to visit a company that is doing what you want them to do.  Another way is to bring in a coach to train them and expose them to other ways of thinking and doing.  (Check out My Services page to see if I can help you in this area.)  Try to make a list of 3-5 experiences that point them toward what you are attempting to accomplish with your organization.

Culture change is a difficult task.  It takes great thought, preparation, and planning.  Most organizations can benefit from an outside coach, trainer, or speaker to assist in the culture change process.  As a member of the John Maxwell Team, I specialize in leadership development and culture change.  If I can help you in any way, please contact me.


Take the list that you created from the Culture Exercise in my last article.  Lay out a new sheet of paper with the same four headings:  Results, Actions, Beliefs, and Experiences.  Now, underneath each heading fill in your responses for this NEW CULTURE that you want to create.  Take the information in the article above and answer those questions for this new culture.

Next week, we will compare the two lists and begin to learn how to Lead a Culture Shift.

Leading a Culture Shift in Your Organization

Part 1

Leading Culture Change

The CULTURE of your organization is either propelling you forward or holding you back.  A healthy organizational culture will give your organization the momentum and foundation for achieving the vision, mission, and goals of your organization.  However, a toxic organizational culture is like a cancer that destroys you from within, no matter how great your vision, mission, and goals are and no matter how well you communicate them within your organization.

So, how do you determine whether your organization is healthy or toxic?  And, once you’ve answered that question, how do you create a culture shift in your organization so that your vision, mission, and goals drive your organization to success?  In this series of blog posts, we will address some of the various issues of culture change and give practical advice on how to create a culture shift in your organization.

The concept or idea of making a “shift” involves changing from one idea or concept to another.  In this case, a “shift” takes place as you change from your existing, possibly toxic, culture to a more healthy culture.

So, how do you make this shift in your organizational culture so that you can accomplish the vision, mission, and goals of your organization?

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Why New Ideas Fail

It's not what you think!

New Idea image

Consider this. A pastor goes to a conference to learn about the new ministry that launched a church forward in growth. He immediately implements that new ministry in his church, only to discover that it does nothing to spur on the growth of his church. The pastor is discouraged and the people become less willing to accept a new idea in the future.

Or, a manager learns of a new strategy for his organization. He roles out the new strategy in his department and it meets with so much opposition that he eventually moves things back to the way things were before.  The manager wonders why it didn’t work and the employees see yet another failed attempt to change the organization.

Both of these scenarios play out every day in our churches and businesses.

In both cases, they have learned the one reason many new ideas fail:  we fail to take into account the culture within which we are attempting that change effort.  In his book Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration, Dr. Samuel R. Chand identifies 5 types of cultures that can be found in your church, or your organization.  They are (the titles are Dr. Chand’s and the descriptions are mine):

  • Inspiring – a culture in which new ideas and ministries are enabled to flourish
  • Accepting – a culture in which new ideas and ministries are easily accepted and have opportunity for success
  • Stagnant – a culture in which new ideas and ministries are not easily accepted and have little chance for success
  • Discouraging – a culture in which new ideas are resisted and attempting new ministries is discouraged
  • Toxic – a culture in which new ideas have no chance of success due to the dysfunction in the organization

When attempting new ideas in your church or organization, you must take into account the culture of the organization.  Asking the following questions will help you determine the potential success or failure of your new idea.

  • Is the culture of my church/organization ready to accept this new change initiative?
  • How can I best implement the new idea within the current culture? 
  • Is there a better change initiative that I can implement within my current culture?
  • Do I need to change my current culture before implement my new idea?

When looking at your current culture and your new change initiative or idea, take the time necessary to investigate the potential success of that idea within your current culture.  Not sure how to do that?  Then, I want to encourage you to participate in my new FREE Webinar on culture change.  I want to share with you some of the things that I’ve been learning about changing the culture within our churches.  I’ll be announcing the details in a few weeks.  For now, be certain that you have subscribed to my website by filling out the form at the top right of this page.  You will be notified as soon as registration opens for this FREE Webinar.  You’ll also receive a free e-book as my way of saying thanks.

Change or Die

Why most churches choose the latter!

dying church

Change is happening at an ever increasing rate in America.  On June 26, 2015, a Bloomberg Business Report issued an article entitled “This is How Fast America Changes It’s Mind.”  The report shows many facts and charts regarding the speed of social change in America.  One chart, in particular, shows the number of years from an issue’s trigger point until federal action is taken on the issue.  The chart reveals that while the issue of interracial marriage spanned 180 years (1787-1967) , it took only 19 years from its trigger point until federal action was taken in the courts.  In contrast, the issue of same-sex marriage spanned less than 15 years and took only just over 2 years from its trigger point until federal action was taken in the courts.  (For more information on this topic see the article here.)

My point is simply this:  America is changing at an ever-increasing pace, and the church in America is stagnant.  The speed of change in those churches that actually do attempt to connect with their communities is, many times, much slower than the speed of change in our culture.  The result is that the church is losing ground and becoming more and more irrelevant to those we are trying to reach.  Because of this, while many in America are still seeking God, they have given up on the church as the means to discover a relationship with God.

While “Change or Die” may seem like an overreaction to the problem with most churches in America today, it is fast becoming the harsh reality that many churches are facing.  The judicatory leadership of my previous church location has been closing churches at an alarming rate.  In the 11 years I was the pastor of that church, our district judicatory closed over 13 churches.  This is a story that repeats itself over and over every day.  Approximately 3,500 churches close there doors every year in America.  According to a recent article in the Christian Post, there are approximately 4,000 new churches starting every year in America (click here for that article).  While that may look encouraging on the surface, we are, at best, just replacing recently deceased churches with new churches.  The result is that we are not keeping up with the growing changes in America, we are having less and less influence for God in our communities, and, in the case where a church “dies” and closes its doors forever, we have no presence in the community any longer.

Why, then, would churches choose to die rather than change?  In reality, very few churches actually “choose” to die rather than change.  Their death is simply a byproduct of not taking action to bring about change.  While the reasons for the failure of churches to bring about effective change are numerous, here are three basic reasons:

  • They don’t see the need for change.  The reason that people attend their church is because they like it the way that it is now.  If it is good enough for them, then the people in the community should like it, too.  If they don’t, then they just aren’t that interested in a relationship with Jesus.  Therefore, “change” is not the churches problem.  Rather, the problem is the spiritual condition of the people in the community.  Unfortunately, people don’t see that the culture of their church is keeping people from finding a relationship with Christ.
  • The church, as it is now, is the one constant in life.  In a world that is constantly changing, it is nice to have one area in our lives that doesn’t change.  Unfortunately, the desire to keep the church as the “anchor” of life also keeps new people from coming into the church.  After all, an old “anchor” in a changing culture is really nothing more than antiquated piece of metal collecting rust.  It’s intriguing to look at, but you wouldn’t consider actually using it.  Perhaps, the solution is that we need to begin to see Jesus as the anchor for our lives instead of expecting the church to fill that role.
  • The current culture of the church doesn’t allow for change.  Change does not happen by accident.  It takes intentional, consistent effort to bring about change in any organization.  Effective, long-term change doesn’t occur by adding a new program or ministry.  It occurs by strategically changing the culture of the church.

Most pastors and church leaders are not equipped to lead the change process in the local church.  It requires changing the very culture of the church at the level of its experiences, beliefs, and actions.  Very soon, I will be announcing a FREE Culture Change Webinar focused on giving you a basic understanding of what is involved in changing the culture of your church.  It is a first step for pastors and church leaders to take in learning how to change the culture of their churches.

Make sure you’ve signed up for my free e-book at the top right of this page.  Once you’ve done that, you will be on the email list for my blog.  I will be announcing how to register for my new webinar by contacting those on my email list first.  So, before you leave my site, make sure to sign up for your free e-book.  I look forward to sharing with you what I’ve learned about culture change in the church.

Until then, ask yourself this question:  What is it about my church that needs to change if we are going to fulfill the vision that God has given us?


The Day I Changed the Way I Looked at the Church

The One Thing More Powerful Than Vision

Some time ago, I heard about an author Samuel R. Chand, and his book Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration.  In his book, he discusses the concept that CULTURE is more powerful than VISION in leading a church.  He writes that a toxic culture in a church can keep it from fulfilling the vision that God has given to the church.  If that is true, and I believe that it is, then we, as church leaders, must deal with the problematic cultures in our churches BEFORE we can lead them forward in fulfilling the vision that God has given us for our churches.

While reading Dr. Chand’s book, I began looking at the church where I was currently the pastor.  We had been given a great vision for the church.  As we began pursuing that vision, we began to see the toxic culture of the church make itself evident.  What had been lurking just below the surface largely unnoticed, now was a full on attack against the vision that God had given to us.

Over time we navigated the change to the culture of our church.  People began to immediately notice the change.  Within 3 months our church had grown by 25% – during the summer months when church grow experts tell us that we cannot grow.

The bottom line – I was convinced that CULTURE really does trump VISION!  

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