By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

Here is this month’s piece from Brand Velocity, an Atlanta-based consulting firm that is putting Peter Drucker’s ideas into practice at major corporations.


Over the past decade, our company has focused exclusively on reinvention initiatives at for-profit companies. But recently, I was asked to lead a workshop on knowledge-worker productivity for a group of “church planters.”

When the invitation came from Bob Buford, chairman emeritus of the Drucker Institute and author of the best-selling book Halftime, a couple of competing thoughts came to mind. First, I was concerned that I didn’t know very much about churches. But at the same time, I had an intuitive feeling that businesses might be able to learn from the “mega-church” movement in general—and church planters in particular.

Peter Drucker advised Bob because both men believed that successfully managing large churches, with their outreach to the poor and their ministering to so many others in need, had the potential to have a significant social impact.

When Bob first got interested in this area in the mid-1980s, there were about 600 churches in the United States that served more than 1,000 parishioners. Now, thanks in large part to Bob’s organization, Leadership Network, there are more than 6,000. No wonder that Drucker, in his 1999 book Management Challenges for the 21st Century, called pastoral mega-churches “surely the most important social phenomenon in American society in the last 30 years.”

Indeed, this kind of expansion—one that reflects an upsurge not just in quantity, but also in quality, as Drucker’s remark makes clear—should not only be inspiring for church people. It’s also instructive for businesspeople.

When I met with a group of church planters in Dallas, I saw firsthand the passion of leaders involved in this movement. I was also able to see how useful it is for those in their line of work to better understand their strengths, as each participant used my firm’s Strategic Profiling assessment tool to determine what they’re best suited to do in an organizational context: envision, design, build or operate.

But I didn’t just teach these church leaders. I also learned from them. The most powerful takeaway: how incredibly market-focused they are.

As Drucker told Bob: “The day a company begins to be run for the benefit of the insiders, and not the benefit of the customers, is the day that the institution begins to die.” Drucker then linked this insight to three questions that every organization—religious or secular—must constantly ask itself:

What business are we in?

Who is the customer?

What does the customer consider value?

It is only by answering these successfully that an organization can achieve performance and live up to one of Drucker’s favorite biblical passages: “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

— Jack Bergstrand