3 Reasons that Progress Depends on Process

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A leadership lesson I learned almost 20 years ago has not only stayed with me for two decades, it has become embedded in my leadership.

In leadership you can’t have progress without process.

As a much younger and inexperienced leader I found myself serving on the board of our church, and along with other board members I was growing increasingly concerned as to the space pressures caused by rapid growth.

Our church was, at that time, sitting in an auditorium which sat about 1200 people and we were fast approaching 1000 each week in our single Sunday service.

To us the solution seemed obvious; we needed to add a second weekend service.

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The rest of the board quickly came on board and with the support of the senior pastor we notified the congregation at a hastily-called members meeting.

The new service motion was voted down.

I was stunned.

But a well-spoken, reasonable member of the congregation articulated the concern. “This is a major decision for this church, and you’ve really surprised us with this. There are some considerations we need to understand. What will happen with Sunday School? What will happen if there isn’t even distribution at the 2 services? What is being planned to ensure we don’t devolve into two separate congregations?”

They sent us away to do more homework. We called another meeting several weeks later, answered their questions, and received almost unanimous support.

What did I learn?

1.   Great ideas are important; they’re just not enough
Simply knowing what needs to be done isn’t in and of itself effective leadership.

2.   People might reject a good idea if process has been violated
The resounding “no vote” was a loud message that we hadn’t brought the people along on the journey.

3.   The best route between two points is not a straight line
Our pastor Tim Schroeder taught me this gem. Effective leadership isn’t measured by the speed or simplicity of the journey. It’s about bringing everyone safely to the destination. Even if that means things move a bit more slowly.

You might have the solution to your organization’s problem clearly figured out. But coming up with that brilliant plan is just the start.

If you want to see the plan successfully implemented, the hard work of leadership is just beginning.

Because without process, there’s no progress.

What other processes are necessary to consider?

the author

Scott Cochrane


  1. Thanks for the post, Scott! I learned years ago that a good decision most often comes from good process, a bad decision often comes from bad process. Many times, process is the journey that God takes us on to discover more about who we are, what our organization is truly about and where God wants us to go. We get caught up in the hype and excitement that we can easily subvert the process and miss the result we were truly looking for. Just my thoughts anyway!

  2. Thanks for weighing in Rod.

    I love your connection between good decisions & good process. I can easily get caught up in the “hype” you describe and will be tempted to sacrifice good process.

    This is where the discipline of a leader needs to kick in, recognizing the importance of what you describe as “the journey that God takes us on…”

  3. I mentioned “good process” because many of our organizations have bad processes. Either dependent on one person, mired in red tape, to autocratic, no one willing to make move the process on, too long or too short, etc. Churches have been, for the most part. havens of bad process decision making, hence why committees too often get bad reputations. Committees and the leaders that guide them must keep the goals, purpose and values of the organization in focus, remembering that the committee is bigger than individuals, so it doesn’t become the leader’s little kingdom. Just few more thoughts.

  4. Great insights Rod. You’re right, there’s nothing inherently wrong with committees, so why do they have such a bad reputation? I think you’re on to something when you say it has to do with poor processes.

    Very helpful and clarifying conversation Rod.

  5. Scott, we experienced a similar surprise when we (I am a member of our local church board) and the staff brought a motion to the church members who voted it down and asked for more due diligence. It was an amazing learning experience for us all.

    Thanks for the keen insights you brought out from that experience. It’s a great way to look at it.

  6. Scott- thanks for sharing your experiences. It sounds like this type of painful growth is a necessary part of church leadership.

    One of my take-aways from the experience was that, although I disagreed with the membership’s vote, they were not “wrong”. They simply hadn’t been honored in the process.

    Thanks again for your take on this!

  7. Love the statement that “the best route between two points isn’t a straight line”. It might work in Maths but not with human beings. Human beings are not rigid and ideas ought to be imparted gradually especially when dealing with a group of people. Great post!

  8. Thanks for weighing in Joe.

    I’ve learned that effective leaders are always keeping a finger on the pulse of the group they are leading, checking to see how fast (or how slowly) they should proceed.

    It’s more an art than a science, but you’re right “ideas ought to be imparted gradually”.

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