Andy Stanley on Problems, Tension, and Progress

Every organization has problems that should not be solved and tensions that should not be resolved.  For example, the tension created by the pull of family and work – you learn to manage the tension, not solve it.  Marketing and Sales; Systems and Flexibility, Chastity and Sexuality, Maturity Building and Seeker Sensitive, Tasks and People – all are tensions to manage.  If you try to solve the problem once and for all, you create a new problem.  Progress comes from managing the tension properly.

Progress is managing problems instead of solving them.  “Solving” declares you are done addressing the issue.  Managing declares that this is a conversation that will always be revisited.  If there is no third category (a “tension” to be managed), every issues becomes a win-lose battle.

The role of leadership is to leverage the tension between two sides to the benefit of the organization.

  1. Identify the tensions to be managed in your organization.
  2. Create terminology.  For example, start labeling things “a tension to be managed.” 
  3. Inform the core.  Make sure your key players understand this principle.
  4. Continually give value to both sides.
  5. Don’t weigh in too heavily based on your personal biases.
  6. Understand the upside of the opposite side and the downside of your side.  Learn to appreciate things you are not good at.  Let some things become characteristic of your church that has nothing to do with your preference.  Learn to advocate for other things outside your preference.
  7. Don’t allow strong personalities to win.  You need passionate people who will champion their side, but mature enough people to live with the tension.
  8. Don’t think in terms of balance, think in terms of rhythm.  There are seasons when one is favored over the other.  You don’t have to maintain both sides equally at all times.  You don’t have to be “fair” by compensating the other side down the road.  Listen to God on what you need based on where the organization is.
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