I was looking for the George MacLeod quote ‘Take us outside holiness’ – from the prayer prayed during the rebuilding of Iona Abbey in the 1930’s.
Before finding it, I came across another George Macleod quote
Words which the church might ponder again as we seek to discern where God is leading in the post-pandemic world, as we rationalise the building stock, looking to ‘well equip spaces in the right spaces’, and seeking to bring meaningful relevant faith in Christ to the folk who don’t ‘come to church’.
…And then I found the quote I was looking for…. Worthy too of renewed contemplation…
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…
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?
I have just spent ages trying various solutions, restarts, button pressing, and thinking my iPad had died. Then tried charging with the original Apple Charger and cable. All sorted! Other cables and chargers may work well most of the time but just don’t have the oomph to start up from a completely drained battery. Sometimes the simplest solutions are worth trying first!
Earlier today I sent an email to over 30 colleagues and had omitted to attach the attachments! Then came the flurry of phone calls and emails… “I think you forgot the attachments!” Some email apps do clever things and remind you if you have used the word “attached” but not attached any files. I’m usually quite careful and take a moment to check emails, posts, messages and tweets before zapping them out to others… Thinking about how to be more thorough – I came up with the mnemonic TRACKS to remind me to check:
Always check emails for typos. Autocorrect is very clever but sometimes gets it embarrasingly wrong – and it’s you that will be embarrassed. Take a moment to read over the email, post, tweet before you send it into the ether.
Think about who will read your post. If it’s an email use the To, CC and BCC carefully. If your email is to more than one person a good style is to use ‘To’ for the people from whom you expect action, CC is for information. BCC use carefully! Remember GDPR and dont share email addresses without permission.
Have you included all attachments referred to?Is there a better way to share the info – perhaps a link, or sharing to DROPBOX, TEAMS, SLACK or another collaboration tool?
If you refer to a meeting on Wednesday, have you also mentioned the time and venue… think ‘complete information’ – even if it’s repeated and was in an earlier communication?
Kind of Conversation
Emails should be kind! Also think of the kind of conversation. A letter, phone call or face to face talk might be a better approach for that difficult conversation.
The subject line is so important. How many emails do you delete on the basis of the subject line? Simply being there is a good start as many spam filters will make assumptions about emails without a subject. It should be clear and concise and relate to the actual subject matter rather than an earlier thread! It’s okay to change the Subject line when replying to an email if the subject has changed!
Before sending an email, post, message or tweet, think TRACKS – Typos, Recipients, Attachments, Complete, Kind, Subject – and then click SEND.
I write this on Doomsday! The 6th day of the 6th month! Sounds ominous! Actually quite fun! Did you know that the 4th day of the 4th month, the 6th day of the 6th month, the 8th day of the 8th month, the 10th day of the 10th month, and the 12th day of the 12th month always fall on the same day of the week?
In 2020 these dates are all Saturdays.
In 2019 they were Thursdays (we leaped over Friday)
In 2021 they are all Sundays
In 2022 they are Mondays
get the idea… move forward a day each year – skip a day going into a leap year!
But what of February and all the odd numbered months?
In January, doomsday is the 3rd, or 4th in a leap year
In February – the last day of the month 28th/29th is always doomsday!
In March – following from Feb’s rule we can say that the 0th day is doomsday (or remember that 7,14,21,28 are always March’s doomsdays)
May & September are easily remembered together – the 9th of the 5th month, and 5th of the 9th always fall on Doomdsay!
July & November are remembered together as the 11th day of the 7th month and the 7th day of 11th month are always doomsday
Armed with this information it makes it easy to work out what day of the week any date falls on.
If you know which day of the week is doomsday for the current year and the next two years, and perhaps the previous year you will be well on your way to impressing others, and simplifying some routine tasks. If you are forward planning Sunday Services – you will know the dates without having to keep referring to the calendar!
You may notice some key dates are always doomsday! American Independence Day 4th July, Halloween 31st October. Perhaps a birthday or anniversary falls on doomsday! Any date not on a doomsday must be with 3 days of one. Christmas Day is always D-1, St Andrew’s Day is D+2.
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.
“We need a sense of ownership.” How often do we hear that – or say that.
BUT, We tend to own things that other people create!
Authorship is better – get everyone involved – all the stakeholders in from the beginning – have everyone involved in co-creating the project, plan whatever.
And when we set up an event, have it all planned and then invite neighbouring congregations and denominations don’t give yourself an ecumenical clap on the back – it’s maybe welcoming and friendly… but true ecumenical working gets together from the start!