When programs have run their course or become ineffective, they need to be eliminated in favor of an alternative. When money is tight, unnecessary expenses have to be cut and the budget slashed. This is called planned abandonment.
Cutting costs and eliminating ineffective programs has the same positive effect on our future as tilling the soil has for next years crop. It makes the future possible. It sets the stage for new seeds to grow without the old roots choking them out. Without this commitment we will never have enough money and energy to create the future.
The difficulty with cutting costs and scaling back, however, is that every program has its champions. Even after rigor mortis has set in, someone will champion the cause. Usually these champions are the people who invested time and energy into making the program successful in the first place, or a tiny remnant who believe that if it “helps just one person” it’s worth it whatever it costs.
But we do not have that luxury. Resources are not inexhaustible, they run out. Therefore, we have to give top priority to the ministries or methods where the harvest and return on investment is the greatest. We want more cluck for our buck. That means we have to make tough decisions about what stays and what goes. We have to stay on budget and live within our means. And we cannot allow emotional pleas to sway us otherwise.
If we give-in to everyone who pleads for heroic measures to save their favorite area, it won’t be long until we end up in a death spiral, so top-heavy in busyness and operational expenses that we don’t have enough money or energy for ‘tomorrow.’ It reminds me of the band continuing to play music on the deck of the Titanic even as the ship was sinking.
That’s why I will ask, “Why are we doing this?” If there is no good reason, we will abandon it. Or, “Show me the results.” If there is not enough measurable data to demonstrate its effectiveness, we will discontinue the activity in favor of something else. When a boat is riding too low in the water, you have to lighten the load by throwing some of the cargo overboard. Only then does the threat of going under lessen.
We need to understand the importance of planned abandonment. Most people see it as heartless, but it’s not. It’s about good stewardship and making room for the future.