A friend of mine went to a management conference last week and he shared with me a little of what he learned. One thing which piqued my interest was something called ‘lagging indicators’ and ‘leading indicators’. Now, you management types probably know all about this and are rolling your eyes whilst sighing heavily. But bare with. I think there might be something useful here.
Lagging indicators are easy to measure but hard to influence – they’re the end result of a process – the hard facts. Leading indicators are hard to measure but easy to influence – they are what leads to the final result.
So, the example my friend gave was losing weight. The lagging indicator is what the scales say – they don’t lie. Easy to measure, hard to change (unless you rig the scales, but we all know what the Bible says about unjust scales right!?). The leading indicators might be things like amount of exercise taken, calorific intake etc. Perhaps harder to measure (how many calories exactly are in the pastry you’re eating right now) but much easier to change and influence.
The eureka moment for my friend was when the presenter explained the way most of us measure things. We look at lagging indicators, scratch our heads, loosen the tie, then fire someone (at least that’s how I imagine it goes). But do we pay sufficient attention to the leading indicators. Someone says ‘Oh, I didn’t get time to look into that thing – I was too busy.’ Normally we let it go – it’s no big deal. But failure to get tough on leading indicators (things you can change) will mean you won’t significantly effect what comes out the other end – the lagging indicator (the thing you can’t change).
Now what does all this mean for church leaders. It means we probably need to identify what we’d like our lagging indicators to be (e.g. number of 1-2-1’s happening, %small group attendance, number we’d like to see do Explore etc) and start doing some reverse engineering. What are the leading indicators that can help influence the lagging indicator? Of course lots of this is providentially ordered, but let’s not forget God delights to use ordinary means and ordinary people. So why don’t you sit down with those pet lagging indicators you love to scrutinize and start to think about the leading indicators which influence them.