Chapter 3 of GTG presents a key finding of Collins’ study of companies that leapt from good to great. They subscribed to a “First Who…Then What” approach to their business. Their first order of business was to get “the right people on the bus (and teh wrong people off the bus)” and then figure out “where to drive it.” This is contrary to his expected finding (and probably ours as well) that the turn toward greatness began with “a new direction, a new vision and strategy for the company, and then to get people committed and aligned behind that new direction.”
There was a rigorous discipline with this in hiring and evaluation processes. The “3 simple truths” behind this philosophy were:
1. “If you begin with ‘who,’ rather than ‘what,’ you can more easily adapt to a changing world.”
2. “If you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away.”
3. “If you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”
When we consider the relevance or not of this for the Church and for Kingdom ministry, the following comes to mind:
1. We might question if it is even relevant to use the category of right and wrong people for ministry/the Kingdom. Isn’t the message of the gospel that there’s not “right” people and “wrong” people b/c it’s about what God’s doing, and not us anyway?
2. On the other hand, we might suggest that the category of “right/wrong people” does still apply, but in an upside down kind of reordering. After all, Paul said that God was using the foolish of this world to shame the wise. And Jesus seemed to indicate that “right” and “wrong” person still applied, but held out that these designations were fluid, not static. Transformation is the name of the people game for Jesus. The “right” people are the ones who respond to the gospel with repentance and who seek to live a new life with God’s help. The “wrong” ones are those who are puffed up and proud with no need for the gospel (note the prayers of the Pharisee vs. the sinner to get the difference here!)
It seems to me that a faithful reading of the NT and really the bible as a whole points to the second point above. God often seeks out certain persons, implying that there were others that would not have suited his purposes quite as well. But persons are not pursued because who they are at present is particularly impressive. However, that unimpressiveness or ordinariness is precisely what God is looking for to be glorified.
At the same time as all of this theologizing, 2 more thoughts:
1. The language of right and wrong persons here seems tricky, no matter which way you go with it.
2. This does seem to apply to organizational work. Who has never looked at a situation and thought something along the lines of, “the right person would make all the difference.” If we nullify thinking that some people are right for a job or team and others are wrong for it, we invite the question of what that perspective says about the uniqueness of our gifts and graces. Are there not some places and positions that work better than others for us?