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Complexity Creep

John over at Brand Autopsy has a great post about Starbucks growth challenges.  As I was reading his thoughts on Complexity Creep I realized that this is not just an issue for growing businesses, but that this is a major issue for growing churches as well.

Complexity Creep is when a growing organization continues to be innovative and creative – adding new products to existing lines as well as brand new product lines without dropping old products.  The effect is a ill-communicated brand focus (even in the simple presentation of the menu board) and a ill-equipped staff (i.e. at starbucks – they can train Baristas on 10-15 drinks for excellence…30 drinks for good enough or keep adding and go for 50 drinks resulting in customer dissatisfaction)

To keep from doing this, existing (maybe even popular and previously innovative) products must be done away with in order to make room for new innovation and possibly more popular products. 

I resonate with this.  I love the pumpkin Spice Latte (pretty darn innovative too) – its my favorite drink…every year it goes away and I get really disappointed.  But what I would like even less is a poorly made pumpkin spice latte. 

So what Starbucks has chosen is to drop the pumpkin spice latte in lei of new drinks a couple of times a year so that they have margin to innovate and come up with things like the egg nog latte.

I am afraid of complexity creep in growing churches like Seacoast.  We are innovative apparently. As we innovate there is a tendency to not make margin in our work flow for the new stuff.  So the new stuff is just piled onto the old stuff and it could all become bad stuff.

I don’t have an easy answer because every existing program is someones pumpkin spice latte, but I do know that we have to be careful because the end result of complexity creep is poor customer care.  Our mission to to help people become fully-devoted to Christ, not keep my pumkin spice latte on the menu board…

This will probably be something that I am thinking a lot about in 2007 so you may hear more…

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Filed under: Church Experience, Leadership Principles, Seacoast Church/Multi-site