Stephen Covey spoke of ‘First things First’, important things first. He borrowed Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Matrix Michael Heppell and others speak of allocating time to the categories: ‘Me’, ‘Key’, ‘stuff’ – where ‘Key’ projects are the mission critical important ones… yet how often all the urgent stuff pushes out the important. ‘Me’ times – are, well it says it on the tin doesn’t it – times for YOU – and that’s important too.
Respond don’t React
In our fast paced world when communication can be instant there can be the temptation to react swiftly with an email reply. Remember though the slightly older technology that facilitates full duplex synchronistic conversation – the telephone – and its modern counterparts the Voice call or video call. You can engage much better, reach a full solution rather than just the next step… and there’s less opportunity for misunderstanding.
See also: Before you click SEND, think TRACKS
The late Eli Goldratt (1947-2011) was a scientist who building on models and ideas from the natural world and turned the focus of his work to the leadership of change. He coined the phrase ‘Theory of Constraints’ – which at its simplest says ‘No system is operating at maximum potential, if it were there would be infinite and perfect output, there will always be at least one limiting factor, or constraint, be it machinery, a person, policy, belief, behaviour or whatever. Any system is only as strong as its weakest link. To improve efficiency focus on overcoming the most significant constraint, work on that until it’s no longer the biggest bottleneck. Identify new biggest constraint, and repeat.’
If you are making widgets – in theory you can create an infinite number of widgets – but there are constraints: the size of the factory, the availability of raw materials, the number of workers, their competence…. And you can improve efficiency by reducing the constraints – building a larger factory, training staff, researching other sources of raw materials and so on…
In the Church context in theory our ministry and mission could impact every soul in the world. But there are constraints: number of leaders, ministers, teachers to motivate and inspire, availability of human, financial and material resources, competence of human resource, and external constraints in the willingness to engage, competing pressures on time and so on…
Goldratt also said that many constraints are unwittingly set up when we change a part of the system but omit to undo the rules required to uphold the old process! Have you ever seen that around the Church..? But we have always done it that way! The XYZ committee has to approve that because 30 tum years ago it was remitted to them…. We created the rules, laws, acts – and we can change them…
Wikipedia has a good overview of TOC
Goldratt also taught the importance of exploring the benefits and challenges not only of taking a particular action to reduce the constraints – but of exploring the benefits and challenges of NOT TAKING a particular action. This is helpfully – and amusingly illustrated in the video below.
In the context of your Church experience what are the big bottlenecks? Can you think of times when old rules are carried into new processes?
What will you start today..? Something you’ve been putting off… something you think you won’t do well..? Something you’ve been worrying about doing..? Whatever it is – just start it?
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it
Mmm… I’m not so sure about that one… you see some things are are working just perfectly as they did fifty years ago… but are they fit for purpose now?
You’ll have heard the one that asks, “How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb?”
“Change! Change! Really, is there something wrong with the old one!”
What if we flip it and ask, “How many light bulbs does it take to change the church?” Light bulbs are a metaphor for ideas… and I’ve heard countless ideas over the years, I’ve had countless ideas, and shared them… only for them all to be kicked into the long grass (I rather like metaphors!)
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a ‘forcing function’1 – an unexpected event that accelerated change in expected ways. It has been a catalyst to some of the change that we knew was needed, but resistance to change has maintained the status quo..
Why change? Does the church need to change? Yes, not because eternal truths change, but because the context and culture around changes. We must change to keep up with and remain relevant in changing times…
Some may say, “If it ain’t broke, dont fix it”, but what if it’s working perfectly as it did a generation ago, but fails to interact with current context and practice.
How many light bulbs does it take to change the church..?
You can only change 3 things: structures, policies and mindsets… but you have to change them all… and mindset will always be the hardest!
To effect those changes, you need to do three things… I call them steps 4, 5, 6 in honour and recognition of the change that has already happened! Change is all around and change is hard… particularly within the Church context, where despite a core belief that our God is a god of transformation, who journeys with us into unknown places, and who makes all things new, we have huge investment in tradition, heritage and ‘the way it’s aye been.’
Steps 1,2 and 3 – they’ve happened already – think of the changes that you have seen already in your experience of Church – its structures, practices and attitudes…
4: Create shared Vision, ideas purpose, image of the future, aim…
5: Engagement with People and non-human resources (funding, materials)
6: Do It! Action, Delivery…
Steve Radcliffe’s book Future Engage Deliver is an excellent and very readable book on the leadership of change based on the 3 phases he calls Future, Engage and Deliver. John Kotter’s classic change process has eight steps, variations on the theme all boil down to three areas with different levels of detail within. Every change model I have encountered is about envisioning a better future, collaborating with people to develop, understand, share the vision, and acting towards implementing it and embedding it into a new culture – a new ‘that’s how we do it here’. Kotter’s book ‘That’s not how we do it here’ in story form about how a family of meerkats adapt, is a good read!
The triangle diagram diagram above I put together early 2000s, while engaged in the Church of Scotland’s Area Team Ministry project – one of many pilots to promote collaborative ministry. The Church Without Walls report of 2001 had spoken of building the Church around the gifts of the people – and I remember thinking – but what if there is a mismatch between the gifts of the people and the envisioned future?
Which comes first the Vision, or the Gifts of the people, or the Actions? And the more I pondered… I realised that we need all three to work together and to be informed and supported by each other…
If we start with VISION we need to have the PEOPLE to bring it to life, and we need to know that ACTION is achievable. (See also SMARTER goals)
If we start with PEOPLE (gifts, talents and resources) then we must ensure that the people are on board with the shared VISION, and that the people are trained, motivated and supported towards ACTION.
If we start with ACTION then it has to be clear that it’s the right action, in line with agreed and shared VISION, and that the most suitable PEOPLE are taking forward the Action. I’m not a big fan of ‘Just Do It’ – it maybe works for Nike… but Action without Vision can be a fruitless expenditure of energy.
We need VISION, PEOPLE and ACTION – we need them all and we need to keep asking the questions, reviewing and reflecting as we journey into an even better future.
2021 Church Trends
8 Church trends for 2021 with Carey Nieuwhof
‘Why don’t you pause and sharpen the saw?’
‘Can’t you see I’m too busy cutting these logs’
Take time to sharpen the saw! If you are not familiar with Dr Steven Covey’s phrase – google it – or check out the info and video at the link below … Covey talks about taking time for Body, Mind, Heart and Spirit – and sometimes it’s as simple as taking time to learn a new skill – how to get the most from an app on your pc or tablet, get the most from the tools of your trade.
What do you need to take time with to help you be a better version of you?
And a video with an overview of Covey’s 7 habits of effective people.
Advent 2021 – update
Why not take time to sharpen the saw – and get to grips with scheduling social media posts. The new Creator Studio in FaceBook will help you set up posts to be released at a particular date and time.
CANVA.com is simply brilliant – and free for non-profits and charities. Among its many features you can set up scheduled posts. Take some time at the beginning of Advent to hone these skills…
OnLine Reports & Papers
A wee video from a few years ago with Bryan Kerr and Donald McCorkindale in the context of the Church of Scotland General Assembly – about going paperless and making the most of electronic versions rather than printing off oddles of paper!
Yes you can scribble notes in the margins, stick in a post-it note! Yes, you can flick between several documents. Take time to become familiar with reading and using digital documents.