Sep 20

What makes or breaks organizations

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Taken by Martin Moucha

Some of the most passionate discussions I have been involved in have occurred during board and organizational meetings for the non-profits I have volunteered with.

In some ways, this is to be expected. The volunteers and board members of most small to medium sized non-profits are there because they believe in the cause the organization represents.

What has never made sense to me is the passion and volume levels of the discussions about the small issues. I know the big issues are easy to agree on, but the details are always the sticking point.

Think about this

Long ago, a pastor friend of mine explained to me why he preferred a mission church to an older established church. Mission churches have been around less time. They are focused on growth and funding the efforts they feel the community needs. The older churches had time and bandwidth to talk about things that are more mundane.

He told me that he had been assigned as a co-pastor at a large established church that needed to do a major remodel. The council had agreed on almost all the details of the remodel. The remaining decision was the flooring.

Believe it or not, that decision almost tore the church apart. The council (and the congregation) split into groups over what to cover the floor with. The color of the carpeting, the style of the carpeting, the padding to use, where to pad… Those details almost tore that church apart. Members left to join other churches. Friends split up.

For real? Carpeting?

I can hear you asking: Over carpeting? Really? That’s what did so much damage? I am here to tell you, yes, really. The decision about the carpeting did that much damage.

At that time, I didn’t really believe him. I knew details could split an organization, but I didn’t believe they could do that much damage.

I now know better. I have watched it happen in many different organizations. The big decisions are easier. People think about them. People work together to get them implemented. People know that a big decision is important. Too bad they don’t know how important the smaller decisions are.

Smaller decisions make people passionate because they are what shows. They are how the organization is known. A non-profit will argue for hours about a $100 expenditure, and then approve a 5K expenditure on one vote.

What do you think?


What little issues are keeping your team from coming together? What issues could become your organization’s carpeting argument? Are those issues worth it in the long run? Is getting your way that important?
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