3 Simple Questions To Help Address Complex Issues

A co-worker once told me that very complex issues are best addressed by asking and answering very basic questions. There’s a lot of truth and wisdom in his statement. In fact, you might say the more complex the issue, the simpler the question needs to be. Simple questions get to the root of the issue, and I’ve learned to ask 3 simple questions when addressing complex issues that I’d like to share with you.

What business are we in?

The story is often told of an early 20th century drill bit company that was struggling to keep up with the changing drill bit industry, competition, and new technology. One day, the CEO asked employees, “What business are we in?” They all replied they were in the business of making drill bits. All but one. One young employee stood up and said, “No, we’re actually in the business of making holes.” This breakthrough thinking eventually led to the development of laser technology.

When addressing organizational health, the first question upper management needs to ask is, “What business are we in?”

What business am I in JPEGDomino’s Pizza had to ask, “Are we in the pizza business, or the delivery business?” Xerox Corporation had to ask, “Do we sell copies, machines or business solutions?” Network marketers should ask, “Do I sell products, or ideas?”

Likewise, church leaders should ask, “What business are we in?” Is it generating income? Building buildings? Opening new campuses? Saving souls? Making disciples? Advancing God’s kingdom? Fighting injustice? Or some other noble cause?

Knowing precisely what business you are in will help determine strategies to actually accomplish the mission of your organization. Church leaders need to ask themselves, “What are we really trying to accomplish?” Knowing the answer to this foundational question focuses organizational energy, reduces non-essential projects, and diminishes sideways momentum. Clearly knowing what business you’re in is essential to success.

How’s business?

Once you’ve determined what business you’re in, the next logical question is, “How’s business?” Author and clinical psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud says “facts are your friends.” So it’s critical for upper management and key leaders to not only have a keen awareness as to the productivity of their organization, but also to know the market, anticipate trends, and be aware of the competition.

This can be done through performing a S.W.O.T. analysis. S.W.O.T. stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths are known organizational positives. Weaknesses are known negatives. Opportunities are unknown or unrealized positives. And threats are unknown negatives. A careful S.W.O.T. analysis will help answer the question, “How’s business?”

Simply put, if business is good, keep doing what you’re doing. If business is bad, acknowledge it, find out why, and make the necessary changes.

How do we know?

The next question after “How’s business?”, should be “How do we know?” Too many pastors assume that since their staff is busy and their people seem happy, they are achieving their stated goals and accomplishing organizational mission. In reality, busy-ness and happiness don’t measure organizational success at all. This is where church metrics come in. Metrics simply measure the “success” rate of a ministry against its stated purpose.

If your goal is to save souls, you need to track how many people came to a saving faith in Christ this past year. If your goal is to build relationships, you need to not only track how many people are in small groups, but also track the depth and quality of those relationships. Simply being in a small group does not automatically lead to relational growth, in the same way attending a class does not necessarily mean you learned anything. (Think back to your freshman year in college, Philosophy 101.)

So, asking simple questions like, “What business are we in?”, “How’s business?”, and “How do we know?”, will help your church deal with root causes of organizational problems. Yes, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in your discernment process, but also have a spreadsheet of information to help determine wise next steps. Using these three questions will help gather the facts you need to ensure you accomplish your church’s God-given mission.