The Use of Teams in Strategic Plannning


In Sulam, we talk a lot about teams – the leadership team, the planning team, our transformation team, etc – as they are critical to the work that we do.

A team is more than a group of people tasked with a certain job. In other words, it is more than a different word for a committee. An effective team is diverse – not just in terms of age, stage of life, or level of observance, though those are not entirely irrelevant; but more importantly, an effective team is made up of individuals who have different ways of thinking, of absorbing and analyzing information, and of solving problems.

The team approach becomes even more critical when we recognize that the generation of Jewish leaders coming up now has little interest in, or patience for, traditional committee work. They are used to operating in teams in their professional lives, and expect nothing different in their volunteer lives.

In a congregation that operates with a traditional committee structure, the board appoints a committee, often made up of representatives of different constituencies. Those representatives usually feel the need to prioritize their own group (e.g. preschool families, seniors, empty nesters, singles, teens, etc.) over the needs of the community at large. The focus is on meeting the needs of each constituency, and making compromises when necessary due to limited resources.

A team approach works differently. Rather than selecting team members based on the demographic group they represent, they are selected based on their people skills, their ability to work through conflict, and their capacity to solve problems effectively and efficiently. The old joke that a camel is a horse built by committee is much less relevant to this kind of team, which is built much more intentionally and with an eye toward addressing a particular issue. Teams also work more autonomously. Its members are empowered to complete their task using methods they decide on. They are held accountable for work product, not process.

Let’s look at the differences:

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