Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ridin' the bus. . .

Friday I spent most of the day in a work session with all of our program/department directors here at Central Dallas Ministries.

Our objective?

To leave our meeting with clear, measurable, understandable outcomes measures for the work we attempt to accomplish every day in the city.

Not as easy as it may sound.

But, we made great progress because of the quality of our team.

Jim Collins makes the point in his book, Good to Great, that one of the top five essentials for organizational greatness is to make sure you have “the right people on the bus.”

Collins’ experience teaches him that where the bus is headed is not the first question to answer. The more important concern is to make sure you have the right people involved. If you have assembled the right group of riders, they will figure out where to drive the bus.

This sounds a lot like the philosophy of legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry. Landry always drafted the “best player available” regardless of what position the athlete played or what positions the team needed to fill. Landry knew that finding a quality person was more important that drafting only to fill positions.

If that sounds backwards, it is because most organizations start with an objective and then hire people in an attempt to achieve what has already been planned.

Collins’ study of truly great organizations reveals that a better approach, inside broadly defined areas of concern or mission, is to recruit quality “riders” who will then continue the work of mission-shaping and execution, or driving the bus where they determine it needs to go.

Collins’ wisdom assumes that great organizations are open to lots of input, criticism and “on the move” evaluation. Such organizations often seem chaotic and they depend on teamwork to be successful.

As I looked around the room Friday, I realized again just what a high quality team we have assembled. The energy in the room throughout the day and in the various exercises we engaged was palpable. We have dedicated, hard-working, focused leaders here.

Pretty cool.

I’m really grateful to be on the bus with this crew!


Brice said...

Thanks for this post. It was exactly what I needed. I'm looking at the 2007 budget and what we tried to do in 2006, all the plans and programs I had on the agenda, and guess what? Most of them didn't happen. We're so often program-focused instead of people-focused.

Larry James said...

Brice, if you haven't read Jim Collins' book, I think you would find it most helpful in many ways. Thanks for your post!