In today’s evolving faith community, many cutting-edge innovative organizations, focused on providing services to churches around leadership development and innovative methodologies, have surfaced over the past few years. As a result, denominational organizations, used to being almost sole-source providers to member churches, have been thrust into a new competitive marketplace. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC), which provides a variety of services for over 4,400 churches in the state of North Carolina, is no exception to this trend. To compound their situation, BSCNC has historically tended to hire “experts” that were given great latitude to function almost exclusively in the ministry specialty, creating ‘silo’ed’ thinking, as an accidental value, within the organization.
Recognizing the challenges his organization was facing, Lynn Sasser, Executive Leader of the Congregational Services division in BSCNC, saw the need to change the way his organization operated. Sasser sums up the organization’s struggle by saying, “Business as usual was no longer enough. We faced an eroding client base and eroding resources and needed to mobilize in a new way in order to move forward.” So – Congregational Services turned to the Table Group, engaging Bud Wrenn, a Consulting Partner, to help facilitate the necessary changes in the organization’s culture.
Approach: Consulting and Products
In 2009, the consultant took the CS Lead Team offsite and spent considerable time on trust building exercises, using, among other things, the Table Group online team health assessment and the Myers-Briggs personality instrument. Helping the Lead Team define the aspects of organizational clarity was a hinge pin for Congregational Services. After defining their core purpose and core values, and aided by a very effective rollout campaign, employees became very clear about the behavioral expectations within CS.
Another breakthrough for the team was the establishment of a unifying Thematic Goal, to “Blast past business as usual.” To make that goal actionable and tangible the CS Lead Team determined five Defining Objectives in support of the Thematic Goal – initiatives designed to catalyze the shifting of the organization’s culture. Over the next year plus, the consultant conducted a series of follow-up off-sites with the leadership team, and quarterly offsites with each of the CS functional teams. With ever-increasing clarity around the organization’s direction, employee satisfaction and productivity rose to high levels.
During this process of ‘organizational culture shift’, CS addressed its meeting structure, and made significant changes. This turned out to be a key component in the organization’s transformation. Executive Leader Sasser stated, “I am 58 years old and I would have never thought that having more meetings would help productivity, but it actually did. The meetings made converts out of us all.” The CS Lead Team now holds a tactical meeting each week to address their goals and operating issues and schedules, and a four hour strategic meeting once a month to handle issues that relate to the organization’s direction.
Outcome: Productivity soared even with a reduced headcount and morale was greatly improved.
With a focus on sustainability, CS is using to its advantage many of the tools the Table Group toolbox has to offer. Silos have disappeared and strong cross-functional capabilities have emerged within CS. For the first time, the yearly business organizational goals are staffed across teams, capitalizing on the collective and individual strengths and interests of team members. As a result, these trends have been clearly seen throughout the larger BSCNC organization. Lynn Sasser states, “The group is enjoying high levels of productivity, synergy and excitement. We have moved forward more in the last eighteen months than we had the previous four years. Many of the employees had legacy issues and didn’t think we could actually change. We have proved that we can and the group is enjoying the benefits of being part of a high performing team.”