Wednesday, June 30, 2010

PCA Strategic Plan, III (48% is better than 44.5% but...)

A few days ago I published a post on the PCA and its statistics, available here.  Since that time others have created their own posts and the best one is here.  I'd like to expand on both of those for a moment. 

In the realm of business and commerce one is confronted by a myriad of problems that affect the bottom line but also customer service (not to mention morale of one's own employees).  Years ago a methodology was created at General Electric to identify and eliminate defects leading to long-term improvement and performance.  The methodology is called Six Sigma (here for more information) and it is in use in Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies as well as multitudes of other corporations and organizations. 

There are five steps in this methodology that can be remembered by this term: DMAIC.

Define - Define your customer's needs, the process that needs to be improved, the desired outcome, beginning and ending of implementation.

Measure - Data is collected.  Defects are identified.  Key metrics are established.

Analyze - The data is analyzed to determine root causes of defects and opportunities for improvement.

Improve - An implementation plan is developed and deployed to eliminate defects and fulfill desired metrics.

Control - A control plan must be established to prevent reverting back to 'old way' of doing doing things.  This is also known as institutional improvement. 

Having been trained in Six Sigma and involved in a number of projects during my time in a Fortune 50 corporation I can assert that the easiest mistake in this process is go light on the data collection and analysis so that one can immediately take action in the Improvement phase.  Yet, if one hasn't collected the right data or if one doesn't adequately analyze that data, their efforts will not achieve the desired outcome. 

I bring all this up to assert that as I read the PCA Strategic Plan, I think that our Cooperative Ministry Committee has jumped ahead in the process from accurately diagnosing what is needed in our denomination to prescribing a solution that might not fix anything and even make things worse. 

Below is a chart that I created based on the most recent data available from the PCA headquarters.  It is a simple chart showing that for the year ending 2009 only 48% (834 out of 1738) of our churches and mission churches submitted statistical data.  Worse, 30% of our churches (526 out of 1738) have not submitted any data in the last five years.  Double-click on the chart to see a bigger version.
In my original post I noted that about 44.5% of our churches submitted statistical data in 2008.  This year we are up 3.5% which is good news.  Our stated clerk, in his annual report noted that we 'gained' 5,556 members last year (2009).  I wonder how many we would 'gain' if 100% of our churches would submit current statistics? 

All of this leads me to be more than a tad skeptical about a strategic plan that is predicated on an S curve showing that the PCA has plateaued.  Our best data is only reflective of 48% of our churches.  All the talk about 'new seats at the table', 'safe places', and 'gospel ecosystems' falls into the error noted above when leaders jump from Measure and Analyze to Improve.

I am of the opinion that proponents of the Strategic Plan will try to dismiss my analysis and the analysis noted above. They will assert that the trends facing the PCA and the white, western, Anglo church are irrefutable.  However, if they take that approach they run the risk of appearing like Archie Bunker: "Don't confuse me with the facts."  Tomorrow promises to be an interesting day.

No comments: