"Culture - not vision and strategy - is the most powerful factor in any organization." Samuel Chand brings a much needed perspective to the hype over mission statements and strategy with the book Cracking Your Church's Culture Code. Why do great strategies not produce results? "culture eats strategy for lunch. You can have a good strategy in place, but if you don't have the culture and enabling systems, the negative culture of the organization will defeat the strategy." As a leader who is tasked with helping churches strategize and revitalize for effective ministry this book has been very helpful to me and will be for anyone in church or secular leadership. Dr. Chand defines culture as "the personality of the church or nonprofit" and in the book he gives you insight on how to identify problem cultures, how to influence culture positively and negatively, and how to change a negative/defective culture. The author uses many personal stories and real life examples from his work as a leadership consultant, making the book easy to read. Well worth reading for any leader interested in organizational effectiveness.
Some books get a quick thumb through and are never picked up again. Others get a thorough reading but end up only being the source of a quote or an illustration. And a few books join the elite ranks of regular reference and recommendation. Cracking Your Church's Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration, the latest from Dr. Samuel R. Chand, is that last variety! There's no doubt I'll be pulling it off the shelf again and again. In fact, it may not even get shelved!
I had the opportunity to read chapter one a few months back and for some unknown reason it didn't grab me at that point. I don't know if it was my mood or the fact that it was a pdf, but honestly, I was a little disappointed. I'd heard so much about Sam Chand from so many of my friends, but on looking over the sample, I wondered what they saw. Can I tell you something? I am so glad I kept reading! Turning to chapter two I discovered a fantastic resource that I'll come back to on a regular basis!
In Cracking Your Church's Culture Code, Chand makes the case that "culture--not vision or strategy--is the most powerful factor in any organization." Further, he explains that:
*It determines the receptivity of the staff and volunteers to new ideas,
* Unleashes or dampens creativity,
* Builds or erodes enthusiasm, and
* Creates a sense of pride or deep discouragement about working or being involved in the organization.
There are a number of elements that I found immediately helpful. First, every chapter concludes with a set of diagnostic questions, making it immediately useful for the pastor or leader evaluating their own organization. You don't have to be in a toxic culture for these questions to be applicable, either. And, you can see right away that since departments have their own culture, these questions will have application there as well.
Second, the chapters dealing with 9 Culture Killers and 7 Keys to Culture both come with built-in diagnostic tools. I know I'll be frequently referring to the lists here as I talk with consulting clients.
Third, Cracking Your Church's Culture Code provides the overview you need to take advantage of the free online survey, leveraging the findings in your quest to build a healthy culture.
Cracking Your Church's Culture Code is one of those books that you'll use over and over again. Much like Church Unique (Will Mancini), Good to Great (Jim Collins), The Future of Management (Gary Hamel), or the Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive (Patrick Lencioni), this one is packed with great diagnostic questions and tools that will inspire many conversations and staff meetings.
With pastors' shelves full of books on ministry vision and strategies, Dr. Samuel Chand gets to the heart of church leadership: culture. While vision and strategy are necessary components to any organization, culture provides the foundation on which everything else is built. The quality of culture greatly determines an organization's receptivity to new ideas and opportunity for growth.
Through Cracking Your Church's Culture Code, Dr. Samuel Chand assists pastors in assessing the cultural state of their organizations. Given a great explanation of the five culture types and nine potential "potholes", the reader is able to quickly identify his current situation from which a plan for cultural change can be developed. Topics such as developing buy-in, defining vocabulary, and utilizing one's sphere of influence to begin organizational change all provide the reader with next steps as he begins to move his organization from that identified situation into a desirable future. Learning to embrace the chaos and uncertainty that come with that move is also discussed.
Cracking Your Church's Culture Code is the kind of book worth studying with your church's executive leadership team. Questions woven within the reading and at the end of every chapter provide a catalyst for some of the most honest and productive discussions your team may ever have regarding the current state of your organization. For any ministry leader desiring a solid cultural foundation on which to establish new vision and strategy, this book is a great tool.
Note: I received a copy of this book from Leadership Network for the purposes of review. This review is an honest representation of my opinions regarding it.
The driving point of the book is that culture is the most important factor in your organization. Culture is more important than your vision or your strategy, primarily because culture is focused on and determined by people, not ideas. While a strategy or vision can look great on paper, culture holds the key to change, growth, and success. Chand lays out a continuum of five types of cultures: Inspiring, Accepting, Stagnant, Discouraging, and Toxic alongside of the seven acronymical keys to culture: Control, Understanding, Leadership, Trust, Unafraid, Responsive, Execution. Following these five types and seven keys, Chand offers examples from his own life, the business world, and ministry organizations to forward the centrality of developing a healthy culture in your organization.
While Chand mentions several time that the book is intended primarily for churches and non-profits of any size, the book felt designed for large organizations functioning with a traditional strong CEO/executive type leader (whether carrying the title of pastor or otherwise). The book blends together, perhaps too uncritically, the business world and the ministry world, which left me desiring greater distinction between corporate strategies and the church's call to be a contrast community. While I appreciated some of the more general principles in the book (a great reminder that culture = people = important), as (a) a pastor (b) in a small (c) missional church (d) experimenting with non-traditional leadership structures, much of the book felt foreign to my current experience in organizational leadership. Leaders in more traditional settings may have a greater appreciation for this book, but I found it missing the target for me, both in the intended audience and the standard and unnuanced presentation of leadership driving the book.
Sam Chand's Cracking Your Church's Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration (Leadership Network/Jossey-Bass, 2011) is different than every other church leadership book I've read. Granted, it's the first one I've read by him. In the past, the best organizational advice I've read comes from "secular" sources: The Wisdom of Teams, Good to Great, or a Patrick Lencioni book. But Chand manages to keep the organizational advice flowing while also reminding the reader why he or she is in church leadership to begin with: to glorify God.
Chand's premise is this: change a church's culture - its vocabulary, team dynamics, transparency, etc. - and you will change a church's direction and effectiveness. From chapter one forward, Chand emphatically states, "Culture trumps vision." Change the culture and the vision will follow. Chand then systematically walks the reader through the seven keys to culture: 1) control, 2) understanding, 3) leadership, 4) trust, 5) unafraid, 6) response, and 7) execution. Throughout the book he covers all manner of organizational life - team dynamics, the process of change, the importance of capitalizing on momentum, dealing with mediocre staff members, and how to select volunteers from within the congregation. In other words, he basically covers everything.
Peppered within all this good "business" advice, Chand speaks from a pastoral heart as well. He interjects comments like, "We need to treat staff like volunteers, always appealing to their hearts and their desire for God to use them to change lives" (p. 66). Or "The number of 'shoulds' in a person's mind and mouth is inversely proportional to his sense of peace, joy, and fulfillment" (p. 90). Then, Chand turns around and offers some of the most common-sense leadership advice you'll read anywhere: "Trust grows in an environment that is HOT: honest, open, and transparent" (p. 52). Concerning strategic planning, a good framework is found in the acronym SMART: "specific, measurable, accountable, reasonable, and timely" (p. 150). And don't miss the great illustration about the church as a restaurant.
Occasionally a book will come along that embodies all the research and data in a particular field. This book does that in the areas of church leadership. You can read Diffusions of Innovations and be better for it. But Chand takes those findings and many others, places them within the context of church life, and summarizes it in a page and a half. Every triumph and failure I have seen among church staff is addressed in this book. If any church leader reads this book and commits to using it as a guide for organizational life, I don't see how they can go wrong. It's a gold mine for church leaders.