Get The Right People On The Bus

I’ve heard this principle of organizational development for years …

Get the right people on the bus.

It’s a key principle of leadership for success in business and church growth. Basically, we should get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus. 

John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard church movement, said, “Paint the bus so that people know what they are getting on.” This related to churches having clear vision and mission statements so that individuals visiting would know whether they wanted to join the church.

Or perhaps they would go to another church while considering how this new bus was painted. And even another church and another church until finding, if ever, a church painted with their favorite colors.

As to business, Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, adds another slant to the bus imagery. Printed in 2001, this book is still read by almost every businessperson who dreams of success.

One of my favorite bus quotes from the Collins book is …

The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.

From my leadership in a church for 49 years, I understand the reasonableness of having a clear mission to focus unity. I also know that the mission adjusts according to the talented people on the bus. 

But what I recently learned is that this bus imagery possibly originated in a book entitled The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The book, written by Tom Wolfe, quotes Ken Keasey, who was one of the original hippies … 

There are going to be times when we can’t wait for somebody. Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus.

In 1964, Keasey and a group called the Merry Pranksters drove a psychedelically painted bus across the country. One of the original Pranksters later explained that Keasey felt that the purpose of the bus trip was to spread the gospel of freedom found in taking LSD.

Those literarily inclined will note that Ken Keasey is the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Keasey’s trip in the painted bus was one of the events that ignited the hippie movement in America during the ’60s.

Interesting that this image of getting people on and off the right bus comes directly from getting high on LSD then to a guiding principle for both business and church growth today.

Since I was once a hippie, I’m not sure whether to say “far out” (in hippie language, that would be translated today as “awesome.”) But maybe I should say, “Bummer,” which is hippie-ease for “Uh, oh” in the current vernacular.

I’ve always felt that any good business or organizational principle is already found in the Bible, even if today’s slogan originated from a psychedelically painted bus.  

This verse of Scripture summarizes the “awesome” of the painted bus imagery while eliminating the “Uh, oh.”

Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future (Ephesians 4:3-4, NLT).

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