What’s happening with strategic priorities?
BY CAROL SEILER, MAJOR –
There is an exciting feeling–and some accompanying risk–when we put “feet” to mission and vision. Obviously, this means not just dreaming, but taking steps (hence, “feet to mission”) to synergize the vitality of this great territory. As we take stock of the assets that we bring together, we should be encouraged. Instead of seeking equilibrium or safety in the familiar, we are finding that there are many people eager to seek growth, both in themselves, the structures and their ministries. This includes officers, soldiers and employees, and we must celebrate the efforts done on the local level where the ability to mobilize is much easier than through the more formal administrative levels.
One of the interesting dynamics is the tension involved in a process that should move the future away from a parallel track with the past and therefore the present. In this evolving, some feel that moving away from the comfort of structures that have served for over 50 years means that those structures are being devalued. That brings the temptation to move to “quick wins,” “cosmetic changes” rather than fundamental refining of the ability of this territory to do key ministries and community responses in a vital manner.
GROWTH REQUIRES PRUNING
Growth requires some pruning. Be careful not to read that as just closing corps or program services. That has the awkward effect of eliminating the very reasons people contribute to the Army while holding on to the other structures. A quick look at the rose bushes in the winter help to remind us that good and careful pruning results in better outcomes for roses. Unrestricted, the stems get spindly and the flowers are sporadic. They may be tall, but fewer blooms are seen and the leaves are too sparse to sustain the plant (structure without substance). Pruned at the right angle, the bushes grow with more abundant leaves and roses. The stems are solid and thick, and sustain the rose bush even in the thunderstorms and winds of summer.
IDENTIFYING KEY STRATEGIES
The recent New Frontier articles have attempted to show how the six strategic priorities are part of the very fabric of the Army. In the Strategy Map with the four perspectives of Learning and Growth, Process, Resources and Mission, we have identified key strategies that apply to each area. You have seen the recommendations and objectives that have come from the TALC groups and discussions. These are now part of task force group agendas. They will identify how the objectives will be implemented and what the indicators will be.
There are action verbs throughout the strategy map. They include “implement,” “increase,” “engage,” “streamline,” “strengthen,” “allocate,” “realign,” “pursue,” “reward,” “reflect,” and “impact.” Picture these action verbs as engines pulling a train up a hill. The hill represents some external and internal challenges, which always exist, but the train will make it up the hill.
THE WORK OF MOVING FORWARD
This strategy map reminds us to overcome the temptation to stay in our departments, our divisions, our individual frame of reference where we may miss seeing positive change in The Salvation Army as a holistic process. We cannot think only of mission without working through the elements of internal process and resources. We cannot look at allocating material resources without working through the elements of mission and human resources. We cannot look at strengthening and increasing leaders and our workforce without the elements of what this means to mission and resources.
There are process objectives and outcomes objectives in this work of moving forward. Staying with either one will be incomplete, and eliminating either one will leave us in the same place regardless of the hours of work. These need to be developed from the work of the various groups and brought into some clarity. Then, we need to implement and measure, refine and challenge, evaluate and re-direct. Too often, once we’ve embarked on a direction we feel it’s been accomplished, or we feel that we can never evaluate and re-direct. A process of visioning and strategic planning should never end with a binder. It’s a work in progress. (Thank the Lord he understands that about me as well…)
OBJECTIVES AND INDICATORS
We’re trying to increase the work with objectives and indicators. Process objectives describe specific activities that are performed, by whom and within what time period. Outcome objectives describe what is anticipated to change with respect to these activities. In the simplest version, process describes the means and outcome describes the end result. It will be vital that the groups working on these are able to identify process objectives that will make the difference, and appropriate indicators so the difference can be measured. The indicators need to answer the question, “What will be the evidence, how will it look, when the objective is achieved?”
DETERMINING MEASUREMENTS OF CHANGE
For some of those measurements we will need to use existing tools such as the statistics which record basic outputs. These statistics give a perspective and identify some basics. Obviously, if people are attending regularly and returning to a corps for worship programs, something is bringing them back. It may be lunch rather than vibrant worship, spiritual conviction and discipleship growth, but it is an indicator of meeting some need of the people who attend. To determine other measurements of change we will need to observe, use survey tools or interviews. We need to hear stories from people about how they were before they met the Lord through the Army, and what has changed for their lives. This is where the old catch-em question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” is relevant!
IMPLEMENTING BEST PRACTICES
The learning and growth perspective of the strategy map is intended to bring in the best of what the Army (and others) already knows and does. This is not to just identify the best practices but to implement them to put into practice the standards and knowledge that are available to us. To use an example because of previous work the Army has done with developmental assets, “making ministry to youth a priority” will rely on implementing the best of what connects with young people. Strengthening relational skills and the ability of leaders to plan to build resilience in youth will be an important strategy. The indicator will not just be that more youth come to the Army, it will be that more youth who come to the Army are choosing to move toward positive choices in their lives. In focusing on youth, we want to be able to see the Christian values, kingdom values, demonstrated by young people because of their contact with The Salvation Army. We want to see lives changed and commitments made for Christ. We would hope that many of these young people will want to develop in leadership roles and even officership. “Making youth ministry a priority” will have implications that challenge decision-making through many areas of the strategy map.
A WORK IN PROGRESS…
It is premature to outline all the steps and results. This is a work in progress. It cannot happen in isolation from the reality of the work the Army is doing throughout the territory. It is not a neat package in a binder on a shelf, although that would be easier sometimes. This is intended to ask people to grapple with the hard work of pruning the roses as best as possible. There is not an intention to throw aside the methodical steps that make the Army a trusted organization. We do not want to careless about the resources that are given to us, and it is not to throw aside key Christian principles. It’s to take a deep breath and move forward… a work in progress.