121 – Research Findings on Program Failure and Success
One of the top problems in men’s discipleship ministry is the leader quit rate. A staggering number of well-intentioned, capable leaders have started men’s ministries, but been unable to sustain them. Why is that, and what can we do about it?
To address this problem, I’ve been studying scholarly literature on how to implement and sustain effective programs. Many of the leaders we work with say they have wasted 5, 10, or more years on programs that didn’t produce the fruit they expected. Unless we take a research-based approach to men’s discipleship, we may bet the next 5 or 10 years of our ministry on a hunch. That doesn’t sound very smart.
THE BIG IDEA: Only about one-third of organizational change initiatives survive beyond the initial implementation. Two-thirds of change initiatives fail.
Here is some of the research I’ve found so far on organizational change failure rates (reference list at end) …
- Two-thirds of Total Quality Management (TQM) programs fail, and reengineering initiatives fail 70% of the time (Senge, 1999, pp. 5-6).
- A seminal study found a 64% failure rate among new technological innovations introduced into municipal public service programs (Yin, 1978, p. vi).
- Change initiatives crucial to organizational success fail 70% of the time (Miller, 2002, p. 360).
- Major corporate investments in technology are not used as intended or abandoned within six months 80% of the time (Gartner Group in Miller, 2002, p. 360).
- Of 100 companies that attempted to make fundamental changes in the way they did business, only a few were very successful (Kotter, 1995, p. 59).
- Leaders of the corporate reengineering movement report that the success rate for Fortune 1000 companies is below 50%, possibly only 20% (Strebel, 2000, p. 86).
- Companies that successfully implement a strategic plan are a minority, with estimates ranging from 10% to 30% (Raps, 2004, p. 49).
- Virtually all new federally-funded educational programs failed to reach sustainability (Berman & McLaughlin in Yin, 1978, p. 44).
Why Programs Fail or Succeed
Here are reasons for failure and success synthesized from the literature on organizational change.
Why Programs Fail…
- PERCEPTION: If the problem addressed or the solution offered doesn’t resonate, then the program will not work. [non-dissonance—the problem doesn’t create a tension to resolve; non-resonance—the solution doesn’t resonate] (Rogers, 1995, p. 181). This can happen because of strong beliefs that can’t be overcome, public reactions, or unintended consequences (Rogers, pp. 400, 405, Senge, 1999).
- TOP MANAGEMENT: The program doesn’t have the support of top management. Research has shown that a transformational leader who gains the support of the senior management team is a crucial factor to successfully implement and sustain a change program and, when absent, spells doom for the program (LeBrasseur et al., 2002).
- TOP MANAGEMENT: Conversely, if the program is merely a top-down, packaged program that doesn’t adequately engage people throughout the organization it will also fail.
- REALITY: The program doesn’t address “real” problems facing the organization.
- FEAR: A culture of trust is not fostered so fear persists (Senge).
- RESOURCES: They are not properly resourced with time, money, and/or people
- TRAINING: Training is not provided
- RESISTANCE: For the above reasons, the change initiative is resisted by managers, supervisors, adversary groups (Yin, 1978, p. 55), and others. Also, if several previous programs have failed, this tends to inoculate employees against change initiatives (Beer, Eisenstat, & Spector, 1990a, p. 41).
- EFFICACY: The program doesn’t work (Pluye et al., 2004).
- SUSTAINABILITY: The problem for many innovations is not that they don’t work, but that the organization cannot figure out how to implement and sustain the innovations as an organizational change (Repenning, 2002, p. 109). What is sustainability? Sustainability is the process by which a new idea or innovation becomes adopted, implemented, adapted, and normalized in an organization.
So What It Will Take For a Men’s
Discipleship Program To Succeed
Finally, what factors must be addressed to implement and sustain a men’s discipleship ministry program? Okumus said,
One key reason why implementation fails is that practicing executives, managers and supervisors do not have practical, yet theoretically sound, models to guide their actions during implementation. Without adequate models, they try to implement strategies without a good understanding of the multiple factors that must be addressed, often simultaneously, to make implementation work. (Okumus, F. (2003).
So, here are the “multiple factors” that need to be included in your men’s ministry “model”…
- A CHAMPION who builds support and assembles the necessary people, skills, training, and resources.
- A PLANNING PROCESS that involves the right people.
- CONTINUOUS PASTORAL SUPPORT which creates an adequate foundation of support and power to implement and sustain the proposed change.
- KEY SUPPORT. The champion gains the support of opinion leaders, top officials, groups likely to adopt. Innovators and early adopters support the program. This results in enough power to effect change.
- ORGANIZATIONAL CAPABILITIES. People, budget, time, and training are assembled to match the proposed change.
- RESISTANCE. Behavioral and systemic resistance is managed. Create a climate and culture that overcomes organizational defense mechanisms. Leadership creates a psychologically safe environment for people to explore and learn.
- ADAPTATION. Early shortcomings are addressed and adjustments are made.
- EFFICACY. The program works over time.
- SUSTAINABILITY. Program becomes self-sustaining, reaching critical mass by creating, capturing, and sustaining momentum. The program becomes part of the organization’s routines.
It’s unlikely any program model will be adequate to implement and sustain a successful men’s ministry unless each of these factors are addressed. For that reason, choose or construct your model carefully. Otherwise, you could waste a lot of years on a program that was never going to work in the first place.
Why not pray through the list above and check those areas that need special attention in your church? Perhaps you could get together with a pastor or member’s of your leadership team to talk about how you are doing and your next steps.
Beer, M., Eisenstat, R. A., & Spector, B. (1990a). Why change programs don’t produce change. Harvard Business Review, 68(6), 158-166.
Kotter, J. P. (1995). Leading change: why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 73(2), 59-67.
LeBrasseur, R., Whissell, R., & Ojha, A. (2002). Organisational Learning, Transformational Leadership and Implementation of Continuous Quality Improvement in Canadian Hospitals. Australian Journal of Management, 27(2), 141.
Miller, D. (2002). Successful change leaders: what makes them? what do they do that is different?, Journal of Change Management, 2(4), 359-368.
Pluye, P., Potvin, L., & Denis, J.-L. (2004). Making public health programs last: conceptualizing sustainability. Evaluation & Program Planning, 27(2), 121-133.
Raps, A. (2004). implementing strategy. Strategic Finance, 85(12), 49-53.
Repenning, N. P. (2002). A simulation-based approach to understanding the dynamics of innovation implementation. Organization Science: A Journal of the Institute of Management Sciences, 13(2), 109-127.
Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations (4th ed.). New York: The Free Press.
Senge, P. (1999). The dance of change. New York: Currency Doubleday.
Strebel, P. (1996). Why Do Employees Resist Change? Harvard Business Review, 74(3), 86-92.
Yin, R. K. (1978). Changing urban bureaucracies: how new practices become routinized. Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation.
(Okumus, F. (2003). A framework to implement strategies in organizations. Management Decision, 41(9), 871-882. p. 871)