Culture Trumps Vision

In 2008 I wrote a book on Vision. I defined vision to be a clear and compelling God-given picture of the future. The book had minor success and from all reports, readers found it very helpful for their own lives and ministries. I have a vision and I have casted vision to people around me. I believe vision is critical to the success of any venture…

HOWEVER… Since I wrote the first edition of ‘Vision’, I’ve come to discover that it doesn’t matter how clear or compelling your vision is, if your culture is unhealthy (or shall we say stuffed), then nothing is moving anywhere.

Culture is the air a church breathes. The X Factor that brings definition to a group of people and distinguishes it from other groups of people. Culture is the social fabric that binds a group together and defines what’s most important in that group. Culture can attract or repel. Culture is the lens through which we look at the world around us. Culture hinges upon the dynamic intersection of core values outworked in the relationships we have with people in our particular group. Culture cannot always be easily defined but is smelt, felt and caught by osmosis.

The most influential people at the top of the tree define culture more than anyone else. Just as the inner workings of a city influences the culture of the suburbs and surrounding regions, so too does the inner workings of a core leadership team impact everyone else around them. That’s why Jim Collins research principle ‘First who, then what’ is so profound. It’s who you have around you that often determines the quality of the culture you are attempting to build. Before you work out what you want to do, get the who right. The right people in the right seats on the right bus will have the biggest impact on your culture than your vision will.

The sort of people you are looking for are self-motivated and self-disciplined mixed with a paradoxical blend of humility and ferocious resolve to obtain the desired outcome. These people bring music to the ears of the leader and can help build the sort of culture that is not only sustainable but free of micro-management. Constantly attending to motivating people is one of the leading causes of burnout of leaders in every field. I’ve given it up and chose rather to just recruit gun people to play key roles. Can you nurture these qualities in people? To a point but I’ve observed people either have the basic wiring for it or they don’t. I know this is challenging for those of you who believe you can disciple people to life change. I believe and practice discipleship and mentoring but the whole process is predicated on the willingness and positioning of the individual themselves. I can’t change people, but God can and sometimes does.

If your culture has the necessary ingredients, vision momentum will accumulate to the point of breakthrough. If the culture is unhealthy, you will feel like you are in a dense fog and you are groping around for answers that aren’t forthcoming. I know what’s it like to be apart of an unhealthy culture and thankfully the opposite as well.

Leader, get your vision from God. Clarify it, process it with the key people on your team and cast it in as many creative ways as possible but for goodness sake, pay attention to the culture because if the horse is stuffed the cart isn’t going anywhere. I’ve come to learn that culture pulls the vision, not the other way around.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s