Tony Greer is the Plant Manager for Bigelow Tea’s Boise facility. Prior to moving to Boise in 2006, he enjoyed a 15-year stint with Sonoco Products, serving as Plant Manager in three locations before becoming the Regional Manager for 11 plants in the Western US and Canada. Tony has also co-owned and operated a major construction company, annually framing over 1 million square feet of housing in private and government contracts. He has expertise in all aspects of Operations Management, with extensive experience in “turnarounds,” Lean manufacturing, change initiatives, and productivity improvement.
Amy stared at the concrete wall. All jails look the same from the inside, she thought, and this one was no different. But this time she was different, for Amy had lost hope. Her past was littered with drug abuse, failed relationships, and a broken family. She didn’t even know where her three children were. But she did know that she was facing many years in a cell just like this one.
And then there was a sliver of hope. While awaiting her court date, Amy’s family scraped together bail money, and somehow Amy ended up at the City Light Home for Women and Children, a ministry of the Boise Rescue Mission. There, Amy was reunited with her baby, but not her two older children. She tolerated the recovery program and all of the “house rules,” but somehow felt at home for the first time in a long time.
When the court date arrived, it was quickly apparent that the prosecutor would aggressively pursue a lengthy prison sentence for Amy. “After all, your honor, this woman has shown no remorse, and I see no reason to believe she will change.” When it was Amy’s turn to testify, she stood and said, “Your honor, everything they said about me is true. I’m messed up. I’ve been in eight or nine recovery programs. But this time is different. I don’t know why these people at City Light are doing this for me, but I think they really care. I’m going to try my best.”
The prosecuting attorney was flabbergasted by the Judge’s decision: Amy would return to City Light and report back at three-month intervals. The three-month review was again antagonistic, with the prosecuting attorney nearly demanding jail time. The judge refused and returned Amy to the program. After six months, the prosecuting attorney’s posture had changed. “Your honor,” he said, “the change in this woman is dramatic. It is easy to see that this program is working.” He recommended Amy continue with City Light.
A few months later, the director of City Light answered a phone call from Amy’s prosecuting attorney. The PA said he had been out Christmas shopping and thought of Amy and her baby. Then he asked, “Could you tell me what they need for Christmas?” He knew a life was being changed.
Four years later, Amy lives independently with her three children and enjoys a full time position in social work. If you were to meet her, she would tell you that God changed her life through the people and the ministry of City Light.
This is a true story that could be used to illustrate many principles. It could speak to the power of faith to heal broken lives, or the value of second chances, or the fulfillment that comes from helping someone in need. But this is a story about strategy … successful strategy. For Amy’s recovery, like hundreds of others at City Light and the Boise Rescue Mission, is a result of clear mission and effective strategy.
Stories like Amy’s don’t happen by accident. Behind the success is a dizzying assortment of strategic initiatives designed to move people like Amy from hopelessness to independence. There is help for the homeless, food for the hungry, counseling for the hurting, education for the dropout, childcare for the single mom, recovery for the addict, skills training for the veteran, and much more.
These strategies (programs) are not unique, but the results are. For example, last year, 405 people escaped homelessness with the help of the Boise Rescue Mission. An amazing 85% continue to live independently one year later. Amply funded programs across the country only dream of such results. Given similar circumstances and strategies but fewer resources, the Boise Rescue Mission achieves extraordinary results because of extraordinary leadership.
Reverend Bill Roscoe is the director of the Boise Rescue Mission. If you’ve spent much time in leadership circles around Boise, Idaho, you’ve heard about Bill. He is well known for his commitment to the cause of the homeless and helpless. He is also universally respected as a leader, so it was my pleasure to spend a few hours discussing strategy with him.
I’ve read dozens of books about crafting and implementing strategy. Bill has read them, too, and he easily discusses standard strategy formulation principles. We talked about trends, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, objectives, and constraints. Bill is clearly skilled with the tools of strategy, but more importantly he is a master of the heart of strategy – engaging people in a meaningful pursuit.
This engagement is the lynchpin of successful strategy, and it flows from excellent leadership in three areas: clear mission, common commitment, and uncommon wisdom.
“That business mission is so rarely given adequate thought is perhaps the most important single cause of business frustration.” – Peter Ducker
Asking Bill Roscoe what the Boise Rescue Mission does is like opening a box bulging with passion. “We serve people in the name of Christ. We give them hope and an opportunity by meeting their basic needs for food, shelter, health care, and life skills.” He could spend hours – make that days – talking about the ways this mission is manifested and all of the strategies that have grown out of the commitment.
The importance of a clear mission is nothing new to strategists. Every organization has one, and almost all of them are well-conceived, well-meaning, and well-written. But, truthfully, most of them lack passion. Hearing an enthusiastic explanation of the Boise Rescue Mission’s mission makes you want to join the cause. That’s clear, compelling mission.
My conversation with Bill lasted over two hours. If there were a transcript, I’m certain that a word count would reveal that “we” was used most frequently. When speaking of his team, there is a terrific sense of pride. Stories of extraordinary commitment were easy to come by, such as the team leader who takes custody of minor children when mom is in jail, or the person who accepted a dramatic pay cut to join the Rescue Mission team.
What causes such a level of commitment in the team? Bill says, “They all believe in the mission.” Some of them are graduates of the programs, thankful evangelists for the cause. Others simply have a heart that beats in sync with the mission. At the Boise Rescue Mission, a person’s commitment to the cause is as important as their competence.
“Wisdom is applying my accumulated knowledge and experience effectively to situations.”
People follow leaders they believe in. After a few minutes with Bill Roscoe, you know why the team follows him. He is a leader of character and especially wisdom. Bill has been in rescue mission work for over twenty years and has gained vast knowledge and experience in dealing with homelessness, addiction, family dynamics, mental illness, and an incredible array of issues that come with the mission territory.
He has invested the time, energy, and emotion necessary to gain a deep understanding of his field. But more than just possessing the tools of the trade, he regularly converts his experience into action. The action may be as simple as meeting with a team member to talk about a recovery program or as complex as starting a new ministry to provide housing and healing to veterans. Bill knows his business and he takes action, sometimes risky action, on behalf of the cause. People follow that kind of leadership, and they commit to that kind of cause.
Learning directly from great leaders is inspiring. Bill Roscoe is a great leader who can teach us much about strategy, mission, commitment, and wisdom. But for Bill, it’s not about his leadership or even the strategy that he’s crafted, it’s about the hope that it brings to real people … people like Amy.