Planned abandonment

Currently I’m reading Hesselbein on Leadership – a valuable set of insights on leadership for any leader!

I am really intrigued and impressed with a concept that Hesselbein keeps referencing, “Planned Abandonment.” This is a Peter Drucker concept but one that Hesselbein has introduced me too.

Some quotes about this concept…

  • “We must practice ‘planned abandonment’ and give up programs that may work today but will have little relevance in the future.”
  • “To be effective, leaders in every sector of the economy must concentrate on their niche – what they do uncommonly well – constantly reasses their performance, and, most difficult of all, be prepared to abandon what doesn’t work and retain only those policies, programs, and practices that further the mission. Planned abandonment is the ultimate management discipline.”
  • “There should be no sacred cows as we challenge every policy, practice, procedure, and assumption. In transforming themselves, organizations must practice ‘planned abandonment’ – discarding programs, policies, and practices that work today but have little relevance for the future and the organizations we are building to meet that future.”
  • “Today more than ever, we need to put our house in order. In fact, some people believe the house is on fire. Over many years all organizations, especially long established ones, accumulate outmoded practices, policies, and procedures; the leader’s job is to take stock, assess our organizational estate, and discard what no longer works. Clearing the cobwebs from this old house is an adventure in ‘planned abandonment.'”

I believe in this concept… and the church does too! Think about all of the things that we used to do that we don’t any longer… because they quit working (make your own list)!

I wonder what things we are doing right now that five years from now we are going to look at and say, “It’s not working anymore.” I pray that I will be a strong enough leader to look at things that I have initiated and say, “We have to abandon it, because it’s not bringing people to Jesus or building them up in their relationship anymore.”

I think that if we started every program, policy, etc. with the idea that “Someday we won’t do it like this anymore” we would save ourselves a HECK of a lot of headaches!

Having said all of that let me say, some things will never change, and those things are our mission and our core values.

The critical “thing” to realize is that it is not programs or methods that are sacred… it is the mission and the values that are sacred! All things are subject to change… except the mission and the values – in our case – we exist to “Bring people to Jesus and to build them up in that relationship” and that will never change!

Once we have established the “Unchangeables” we must assume “Planned abandonment” for everything else!

In his introduction to this book, Jim Collins writes,

The organizations that best adapt to a changing world first and foremost know what should not change. They have a fixed anchor of guiding principle around which they can more easily change everything else. They know the difference between what is truly sacred and what is not, between what should never change and what should always be open for change, between ‘what we stand for’ and ‘how we do things.’ […] Yes, there [should] be change, but it [should] all be done in the spirit of reinvigorating the soul of the institution, not destroying it.”

We must identify what will never change (i.e. our mission and our core values) and then plan to abandon every method, policy, or strategy once it has accomplished its purpose.

4 thoughts on “Planned abandonment

  1. Thought provoking quotes. I’d read about planned abandonment in Laurie Beth Jones book. It would be great to have some biblical examples, I am sure there are some. It seems a power principle, for churches, businesses and people.

  2. Interesting commentary on leadership. I just did a lenght study om leadership and you hit the nail on the head…Always be prepared to grade yourself and make change happen!

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