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Being the Best is Hyundai’s Greatest Ministry Weakness


“South Korea’s chaebol have been complacent,” said Lee Dong-gull, the chairman of state-run Korea Development Bank.  Because of their near monopolistic market positions at home, conglomerates have been reluctant to take risks and slower to innovate, Lee said.

Hyunjoo Jin, Heekyong Yang, Empty shipyard and suicides as ‘Hyundai Town’ grapples with grim future (Reuters)

It seems that the city of Ulsan, South Korea has been experiencing one of the worst economic downturns in recent history.  As this powerful Reuters piece points out, some 27,000 persons have recently been laid off and the city now has one of the fastest aging populations because young people are looking elsewhere for jobs.

There are many reasons for this, of course, as any globalized economy is a machine of many interconnected parts.  But, particular to Ulsan is quite simply the dominance of, and therefore reliance on, one corporation.  When that one corporation faces difficulty, everyone and everything else that is connected is affected as well.

Even still, it must be questioned how a global powerhouse such as Hyundai is experiencing decline.  They are one of the best, if not the best, in the industries in which they operate.  How can an organization be the best, yet decline?  Is not “the” best supposed to keep winning – keep growing?

The Insight

History has often shown that, in any industry, the up and coming competitor rises to the top by having an effective offense.  But, once it gets to the top, it begins to see itself as holding a position that it must now keep with a strong defense.  All of the innovation that comes with an offense is neglected – the focus becomes cutting costs (efficiency).

The Application

Ministry behavior often mirrors that of Hyundai and other conglomerates who reach the top: once a ministry achieves some success in getting new people (through offense), they mistakenly switch their focus to keeping people (defense).

They work on the building so it keeps people longer inside.  They run leadership development to train people in how to keep people.  They start small groups to keep people connected.  They set up committees so that people who stay can “have voice” and this often, ironically, allows for a few vocal people to take away the voice of the original ministry vision.

Do not let this happen – this is the beginning of the end.

The Alternative

Remember how it all began – it is so simple: God put magic inside one, two, or more people who decided to bring it outside of them and share it with others.

In growing a church that has achieved some success, do the same thing:

  1. Provide experiences in which God can put magic in people
  2. Show them how to identify that magic within them
  3. Lead them into sharing it with others