Scott Hodge



Mar 27, 2012

I’m not a big “model” guy when it comes to organizational strategy.  While I definitely recognize and admire fresh, innovative ideas that other people are accomplishing, it’s very seldom that I find myself jumping to adapt someone else’s idea or approach in the contexts where I’m leading or creating.  Don’t get me wrong, models certainly can be helpful, but if we’re not careful, they can also paralyze us.

Case in point…  A couple years ago I learned of a particular structure/model that was working very effectively for another organization that I really admire.  And it just so happened that it was proving very successful in an area that we were really struggling to make progress in.  So, I decided that we were going to adapt that approach and make it work for us.  The only problem was that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get it to work in our context.  In fact,  the more I tried to make it work, the more frustrated and stuck we became!

Eventually, what I realized was that I was trying to force ourselves into a model that was birthed out of an entirely different story, culture, and DNA than ours.  Their approach was grown organically out of who they were, what they valued, and where they came from.  The most freeing moment came for me when I gave myself permission to walk away from the model and instead shifted my focus on our own context – who we have and where we’re realistically and currently at organizationally. 

And guess what?  We saw almost instant progress!

I think often times, models carry an assumption with them that says: “You have what it takes to make it work!”  But the fact is, you may not.  And that’s ok!  Chances are, it took some time for the other guys to evolve, morph, and grow into whatever “model” is currently effective for them.

Bottom line?

Allow successful models to inspire, provoke, and start conversations.  But don’t allow them to dictate or lock you in to a certain strategy or plan that you may not be ready for….or that may not even be right for you at all!

And if you are going to use someone else’s model….. ADAPT, ADAPT, ADAPT to your own unique context and DNA.

What would you add to this conversation?

Tags: , , , ,


  1. Jason Vana says:

    I think this is something every leader, whether he/she is a church or business leader, needs to read. Just because a structure or idea or plan worked for someone else, does not guarantee it will work for you. A good leader will recognize where their organization is at and make changes/structures/plans that fit them, not that fit someone else.

    Great post, Scott!

  2. Anna Hammond says:

    Good thoughts! I’ve been learning this on the business side – sexy new models aren’t a replacement for getting elbow-deep in what makes the culture of an organization tick. I’m in the process of re-vamping our studio internship program, and while there are models galore, none of them are “us.”

    Funny part is that sometimes I want to rely on models because I DON’T think that I have what it takes to make it work myself. But if I stop to think, I realize that I know my vision, my goals, and my work way better than someone else’s model does. I still try to get good advice and do my research, but sometimes I just need the guts to strike out and the patience to learn from my mistakes. Building things takes time.

    So glad that you’re modeling this at The Orchard. ;)

  3. Larry Snowberger says:

    Very intriguing thoughts. This is a great lesson in the business world, as well as in the context as you wrote. As you know, my career of late is in the retail and consumer products world. And, if I had a dollar for every time I heard “what WalMart does,”… well I would be rich. The bottom line is, we’re not WalMart. We don’t have the scale that WalMart has, so to try and fit the mold of WalMart just seems ridiculous. As you point out, that same lesson applies to other models too. Our success lies in finding our own niche, not necessarily the sexy theme of what we think success looks like at the moment.

  4. Randall Coy says:

    Love this, Scott. For the past several years, I’ve stated to many folks that the most important business lessons, and design lessons for that matter, that I’ve learned did NOT come from a book. I think the true measuring stick of leadership is being able to think on one’s feet and make independent decisions. This is only possible once one knows him or herself and the organization they’re a part of. It’s easy to be a copy cat leader, but isn’t that really following? It’s important to know the history of what works to inform decisions, but they’re references at that point and not roadmaps.

Leave a Reply

  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Vimeo
  • Flickr



Top Posts