Playbook Notes – The 5 Failures We Commit During Expansion:

We ALL want our organizations to grow. Yet, 99% of the time, we fail to achieve our leadership goals because our organizations aren’t “Growable.” I.e., Growth comes from Grow-ability. It’s much like trying to score a touchdown as a football team yet not designing a playbook. Success will always be elusive until we design and create an organizational playbook. But the good news is this: There’s a predictable pattern to “playbook failure.” And it’s usually one of five things:

(1). A Lack of a Full and Functional Playbook:

(2). A failure of Quarterbacking more than Coaching:  Working IN the ministry instead of ON the ministry.

(3). A failure of training a single quarterback who may get injured or leave.

(4). A failure to discipline or debrief the team when they botch a play.

(5). The failure of Playbook Enforcement done Well (& players quit).

So allow me to unpack these:

(1). The Lack of a Full and Functional Playbook: My church had amazing worship… until I started adding services! Expansion always reveals the non-scalable aspects of the organization. The key concept is this: As your church gets bigger, you begin playing against different adversaries. You can’t “wing it” or draw up plays in the dirt anymore. And if you don’t make a clear plan, your volunteers will improvise. And improvisation won’t take you to the Super Bowl.

SOLUTION:  Expand your playbook. Create standard operating procedures for everything. Don’t allow the playbook to stay in your head. Create teachings on the values of ministry in your church alongside your leaders. Identify I.P.O.D.S. – “Imperatives, Preferences, Optionals, & Don’ts” for each and every ministry. Is this tedious? Yes. But it’s more tedious to clean up after a disastrous ministry.

(2). A failure of Quarterbacking more than Coaching:  Working IN the ministry instead of ON the ministry. Many lead pastors spend all of their time writing sermons or prepping for services. As a result, they’re always “doing ministry” rather than thinking about scaling their ministry. As a result of this constant busyness, there’s always a chaos that looms over the whole church. No one wants to outlead their pastor. And those who attempt to solve the chaos on their own usually do it in a way that’s outside of our values. Thus, we end up demoralizing them by having to tear down their solution with one that actually syncs with our values. So, at the end of the day: If you don’t solve the chaos, then, you’re creating the chaos.

SOLUTION: Prune your schedule and your Time parasites (see my Blog on how I do this here).

(3). A failure of training a single quarterback who may get injured or leave.  At some point, ALL of us will have a key leader (Quarterback) who gets injured, fouls out due to sin, or who switches teams. Thus, I never allow a ministry to have a single rock-star leader. Always have a 2nd and 3rd string leader who understands a significant amount of the playbook.

SOLUTION:  Create growth tracks for every ministry… Processes and Leadership Pipelines to create leaders. Stop wasting time looking for People or Filling Positions. Create Pipelines! And if this is overwhelming to you, at the very least, do planning retreats with individual ministries in which you teach the IPODS of that ministry. Spread the knowledge of the playbook around to multiple leaders. Allow them to hear your values. And never allow anyone to be a lone-ranger-leader – the single genius with a dozen helpers. It’s o.k. to have “linchpin” leaders; however, “if your solution has a single name, it will fail.” Always have a system that utilizes multiple quarterbacks.

(4). A failure to discipline or debrief the team when they botch a play. What good is a playbook if half of the staff think “running the play is optional”? Whatever you EXPECT you must also INSPECT. It’s irritating to have follow-up meetings. But someone needs to do it! Most ministries are “one tough conversation away from a breakthrough.” Quite often, many teams have a player who is regularly transgressing an organizational value. We often overlook it (&/or compensate for this person) to be graceful. Yet, over time, it leads to a complete breakdown in organizational discipline.

SOLUTION: (A).Force staff to have Tough Conversations (not leave them to you). (B). Force staff to have regular “debriefing meetings” (Monday Morn Game Film) where they can receive feedback on the following four areas: (1).What is working; (2). What is NOT working; (3). What is Missing; (4). What is confusing.

(5).The Failure of Playbook Enforcement done Well:

Over the years, I’ve sent many staff on missions to have a tough conversation with someone. And instead of owning it, they’d say: “My pastor wants me to tell you that you aren’t running the play…but, I’m cool with the fact that you always freestyle;” I.e., they made me, the senior leader / play caller, into the bad guy rather than “playing the bad-guy for me” – even though it was their lack of discipline that created the situation.

Or, I had another leader who was happily willing to confront people (disarming bombs); but, they did it so poorly that, I was always cleaning up their messes – which always took more time.

SOLUTION: Micromanage their confrontations until they prove competent. Don’t allow your “bomb squad” to learn on the job. And never assume that the “talent level” of your staff is equal to their emotional intelligence. Your greatest quarterbacks are often the worst confronters or coaches. In fact, here are some of our confrontation IPODS on our Advanced Confrontation Skills page. Or see our extended list on what to do before, during and after a tough conversation.

There is a chaos that only you can solve. Don’t expect other people to know what you know until you’ve spent a significant amount of time with them.