A NEW APPROACH
Finding the best strategy can be challenging. In order to improve things, we must weigh the risks and rewards and experiment with alternative solutions to achieve the desired results. My co-author and father, Dan, shares the following story about Volvo’s change in their production strategy:
While working at the University of Göteburg in Sweden for a year, I had the opportunity to be involved in discussions with the head of my department on ways to improve morale and productivity at Volvo automobile factories in the area. In the 1980’s, one of the problems that Volvo was addressing was the monotony of assembly line work and a loss of worker identity and enthusiasm.
Many strategies were discussed, and one idea that was tried was to form small units of about eight workers and have weekly meetings to get feedback on how to make the company better and increase worker morale. The result of many of these meetings was to allow the workers to have input that would help morale like music in the workplace, refreshments, and a stake in the value of the company. Later with improved motivation, the assembly line was replaced with small groups of workers assembling the car in one area, which improved worker motivation and productivity.[i]
Every good leader needs a plan. It is hard to be successful without one. When Nehemiah heard that the holy city of his ancestors lay in ruins, he felt led by God to go rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore the city. For Nehemiah, having a well-conceived plan was a big part of what made his strategy so effective. He started with prayer, then secured favor from the king which granted him access to the king’s forest to get lumber, supplies, and an armed escort. In addition, Nehemiah requested traveling papers in order to pass peacefully through several territories and began his journey to Jerusalem.
Upon his arrival in the city, he conducted a stealthy night recon mission and assessed the extent of the damage to the walls. He knew he was going to need help, but before he began his recruitment efforts, he wanted to quietly get a lay of the land (Nehemiah 2:11-15). With the supplies secured and recon complete, he then cast the vision to the Jewish leaders.
The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders— the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” (Neh. 2:16-17, NLT)
A leader’s strategy to accomplish goals and execute tasks must fit with the values and purposes of the Bible. Whatever plan a leader comes up with must ultimately be accomplished in a way that does not violate Scripture. We cannot use dishonorable methods, step on people to get ahead, manipulate the truth, and bend the rules for our own advantage. Faith-based leaders are called to a higher standard of leadership. So, whether your strategy is about making money, winning the game, passing the test, raising a family, or building cars, it must be done in such a way that God is honored, people are valued, and morals are upheld because how we get there matters.
As we lead others, why does HOW we get there matter so much?
Posted: June 2023 • Authors: Daniel Ely & Larry Ely
Excerpt: “Chapter 5- Change in Strategy: What’s the Plan?” from Leadership and Faith: The Art of Leading Well.
© Larry Ely & Daniel Ely. All rights reserved.
Note: [i] Åke Sandberg, “Enriching Production: Perspectives on Volvo’s Uddevalla Plant as an Alternative to Lean Production,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 50, February, 1995, downloaded December 2, 2022.