Sticky Leaders

Sticky Leaders is about how to change an existing organization. Most attempts to make changes fail (18). But many books don’t talk about failure because it doesn’t sell well. Plus, as Nassim Taleb has pointed out, we’re all prone to the “survivor bias.” We see those who’ve been successful and try to emulate them, not taking into account those who did the very same things as the successful and yet still failed.

I didn’t fully agree with his assertion that a  “serial innovator” (someone who constantly brings successful changes) has a “special kind of insight” due to their natural abilities(31). At one time, Osborne believed that serial innovators were made. But then he changed his mind and believes they are born that way (33). Such “either/or” thinking does take into account the complexity of human life and the “ceiling” that many people have. Many people can become extremely good at what they do due to “deliberate practice” as Cal Newport describes in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

What was extremely helpful, however, was Osborne’s emphasis on exist strategies, a graceful way out (35). Osborne counsels that organizations to “never make a change when you can conduct an experiment” (37). In other words, don’t pitch something as permanent. Instead, pitch it as a temporary program or initiative or a “beta test.”

Osborne cautions against mistaking innovators or wild-eyed dreamers, chasing after any and every crazy idea. In fact, innovators have priorities. They focus on the right ideas (45). Furthermore, good leaders solve problems (46). Moreover, leaders to have a “bias for action”–just try stuff and see what happens (68). This means that leaders need to constantly be collecting feedback and data to whether they need to proceed with an idea.

But when leaders are pitching ideas, they need to constantly be “underpromising and overdelivering” (95). We will lose credibility with people if we’re constantly pitching something as “the next big thing,” but in reality, it’s not that great. So we need to be careful at LBC not oversell the changes that we’re making. At LBC, we also have at various times “hit the wall,” we’ve stopped growing and seeing good things happen. Why is that? Osborne would say that one of three things happened: our leadership skills got maxed out, our structures restricted us, or a we couldn’t cope with a culture change (122).

So what do we do? First, we need to grow our leadership skills. This is where my learning with Church Fuel comes in. Second, we need to change structures at the church. This is a much longer prospect. Osborne says, “Organizations always settle in at a size that perfectly matches their policies, procedures, and structures” (126).  In other words, if we don’t make certain changes in our organizational structure, we won’t be able to grow past a certain size. Will this affect church planting? I would say that it probably will. Because we need to be reaching new people with the gospel and creating “good churn”–bringing people in and sending people out.



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