It won’t come as a shock to many of you that I am a big sports fan. Always have been, always will be. For the record, I pull for any team with “Chicago” on its jersey–even soccer-tho I have no idea why people like that sport. And yet, while I follow each team, I especially follow the Chicago Cubs– which many of you will find curious and perhaps weird. I can’t explain it, but I am pretty sure it is in my DNA.

Anyway, my Cubs seem to finally have figured out how to run a baseball organization, though it took 100+ years and a 180 degree turn to MAYBE  get it right. The jury is still out but here is what I see in my Cubs and the parallels to running an effective ministry or nonprofit:

  • The Cubs finally have one way to do things and that consistency is taught and embedded at all levels of the farm system and throughout the organization. Hitting, base running, defense at each position, pitching. The Cubs used to have (1960’s) a college of coaches who each had their own way of teaching fundamentals…no more.
  • The Cubs coaches and scouts now have developed prototypes of the kind of athletes they are to evaluate, monitor and recruit. They actually say “no” to some if candidates do not fit the template.
  • The Cubs use the same training lingo at each farm system level of play when they are teaching fundamentals to rookies.
  • The Cubs have a plan to restock the system with high quality prospects with talent, whereas the old system was to overpay for former stars at, or past, their prime. (We all know how that worked out!)
  • The Cubs use a fixed, sophisticated metrics system to measure and evaluate each more flying by the seat of their pants, or  living and dying (mostly) due to  “gut” decisions made by those who have been around and supposedly know better.
  • I could go on, but you get my point.

A fresh concept the Cubs have finally installed is “Strategic Alignment” and it means the entire organization has one playbook, one clear strategy, one plan to execute the strategy, one goal. And everyone is accountable to execute it. Absolutely everything is built, every decision is made, to support that alignment.

Ministries and nonprofit agencies could benefit greatly from having this same discipline around supporting one single strategic direction and alignment.  Unfortunately, mission creep, personal preferences of major donors or the ED, or lack of leadership and management discipline often results in misalignment or resources and efforts. Eventually, the agency is no longer stewarding its resources responsibly and then…it become a 501(c)(3) version of the Chicago Cubs…not a good thing.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve faced misalignment problems to hear how you put your agency back on track. What worked, what did not? What surprised you the most about the process? What would you do differently if you were advising a friend along these lines?