“Why do we have some files on the shared drive and others stored on the desktop?” “Why do we use an Excel spreadsheet to separate the online categories when it is already in the system?” “Why do we call the name of the process we are doing by the name of the software we are using?”
As the Executive Pastor of Operations of a church in Temecula, California, I recently found myself on the receiving end of many excellent questions like these and honestly, and I never saw them coming.
I am fortunate to be able say that, for the most part, our church does not have a lot of staff turnover. In fact, our last bookkeeper and operations coordinator remained on staff for 8 and 11 years respectively. These faithful stalwarts of our church were instrumental in helping create and execute of many of our policies and procedures. Our operations coordinator and bookkeeper witnessed the hard times and unprecedented growth in our church, and adjusted workflows accordingly. They did not just know the history of our church; they were an integral part of it.
When they departed within a year of each other, we were diligent to put a long transition plan in place with their replacements. If this sounds like a dream scenario, let me tell you, it was. To have almost seven weeks to use the “I do and you watch, you do and I watch, and finally you do” method of training was invaluable. The nuts and bolts on every “how-to” were accomplished. However, shortly after the official transition of our operations coordinator happened, a myriad of questions began to arise. The nuts and bolts, while crucial to training, were not sufficient in providing the big picture, the end state, the “why”.
Time for a gut check. As a leader, you need to take the time to ask yourself, do all of the “why” questions annoy you, challenge your authority, or are they a welcome opportunity to explain the bigger picture? Are you more concerned with surrounding yourself with people who do the tasks without question, or do you want a team that desires to make a positive impact on the organization?
Here is the truth, you need to embrace the value of why! Why tells the whole story. Why gives clarity. Why makes everyone better and more efficient. If you cannot answer why your employee, team, or organization does the things they do, it is time to figure that out because it is highly likely that what started out as a solid process morphed into something that no longer serves a real purpose.
I am so grateful for the staff members that so faithfully served for so long at our church. Their contributions in setting up solid processes and policies allowed Sunridge Church to function at a high level for many years. I am equally excited to see the new team members, who are not as familiar with the tribal knowledge of the past, asking why. It serves as an opportunity to reinforce our vision and ensure that we remain on mission. It also allows us to make a way to collaboratively end, improve, or start processes. It’s the value of why.