Whack-a-Mole Strategy


whack a mole

Remember Whack-a-Mole? It’s an amusement park or pinball arcade game that features seven “moles” that pop up through holes in a game board directly in front of the player. Each player is given a club- “a mole whacker.” As the game starts, moles pop up through the holes at random.  The object of the game is to whack the mole on the head before it drops back into its hole, and to make contact with as many moles as possible in a two minute playing period. The players who are best are the ones who can hover ever so lightly over the playing board, moving with remarkable precision to focus on whatever mole happens to emerge next. I love playing whack-a-mole, but I have never been any good at it, mostly because I lose my focus, laughing at the hilarity of the mad moles long before my two minute turn is over.

I’ve just finished reading “Executing Your Strategy” by Mark Morgan, Raymond Levitt and William Malek (Harvard Business School Press).   The authors use whack-a-mole as a metaphor to characterize the ‘flavor of the month’ organization that moves quickly from one strategic initiative to another.  Without a systematic framework, strategic execution ends up degenerating into a “whack-a-mole” experience that exhausts the overall organization.

I love the analogy and I am struck by how well it describes many large congregations. In a congregation without strategic clarity the latest and greatest idea always captures the energy of leadership, and the focus of leadership shifts rapidly from one emerging mole to the next, until all congregational leaders are quite exhausted.  There has to be an alternative to whack-a-mole execution so that our staff teams are not so exhausted!

Is it possible to create a congregational culture that is permission giving and creative, and still able to maintain strategic clarity?

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