It’s hard to juggle planning against the pressures of unplanned work due to change. As a full-time communicator, I’ve found myself trying to balance the organizational needs of planning against the realities of responding to change in a timely fashion, only to realize that I seemingly could not find a way to do both well. Until now.
Over the years, I’ve worked with and around software developers and have come to first appreciate and then come to study and use their secret to delivering code quickly and adapting just as fast to new features and bug fixes.
A very brief recap of they way things used to be versus how they are now in project planning:
- Software used to be fully considered, mapped out, documented and planned for a final finished release. This method, called Waterfall, was to do all of the pre-planning and documentation for everything the software would need to do in one, very large and complex project plan, complete with Gantt charts to estimate work over months and even years.
- Software-as-a-Service (software you use online, in an app, or in a browser, most frequently) changed the need for more iterative software changes that responded to demands and needs of users as quickly as possible – sometimes days or weeks.
- Agile is a belief that a collaborate team working in short durations together can deliver more often and change more rapidly.
- Scrum is a methodology for applying Agile that plans all work in chunks (2 to 4 weeks is common) and follows ‘ceremonies’ that organize the work during.
- Kanban is an Agile method that visualizes work (a board with notes or cards), limits the work in progress (no multitasking allowed!), focuses on workflow, and continuous improvement through measurement, discussion, and learning.
So do I use Scrum or Kanban? Actually, both. I use Scrumban, which is a hybrid model that, in my opinion, takes the best Agile practices of Scrum and the visualization and flow of Kanban. I think it’s ideal for marketing and communication teams that must plan some level of their work (Editorial Calendars) but be able to pivot as new, urgent unplanned work or changes due to external pressures (Social Media timeliness, change in publication dates, a shift in deliverables, etc.).
Marketing is always in a responsive mode given the nature of the work, so planning every detail out with rigid inflexibility for two weeks at a time is lunacy.
Allow me to illustrate how I lead our team in using Scrumban.
We plan our work into two-week Sprints (a term that describes a focused team effort for a limited duration) and spend several hours on the first Monday of a Sprint in a Sprint Planning session. To organize and prioritize our potential work for these two weeks, we first look at our Editorial Calendar to see what’s due next, and when we have to be ready to publish. Once all due dates and work related to these timelines is organized into Epics (over-arching projects) and Stories (tasks and dependencies) with fully detailed User Stories (a short Scope of Work), we then look at what else needs to be done that doesn’t necessarily have a hard deadline. To rank these, we discuss which of the Epics will realize the most value for the company. Finally, if there’s a dead tie between due dates and value, the tie-breaker is WSJF (Weighted Shortest Job First). This simply means that if all other things are equal, do the one that can be done fastest, first.
During a Sprint, we have opted for twice daily stand-ups, as we have European office that’s 7 hours ahead of us that also has a marketing team. By meeting in our morning (their afternoon), we minimize the time lost when they leave for the day and must wait to hear back from them until the next day for shared project work. The daily stand up identifies what we’ve done, what we’re working on and what’s in our way or waiting on approval. Our second stand up is near the end of our day and only includes our U.S. team.
Perhaps the biggest reason we use Scrumban instead of Scrum is because of the nature of change associated with content marketing automation and iterative content development. This is most evident when we have unplanned work (which we call Spikes) that MUST be done. We capture this work as uniquely colored/marked cards to visually represent the unplanned vs. planned work. At the end of a Sprint, we calculate the estimated time vs. actual time spent on planned work and calculate the Delta. We then add the Spike hours (time associated with unplanned work) and subtract those from the Delta, which both more accurately explains why we didn’t hit our 100% planned work completion but still leaves room to show the difference between missed estimates and the not completed unplanned work.
So, to summarize: Scrumban leverages the ceremonies of Scrum and the flexibility of pull-based Kanban, allowing structure and organization to keep the framework in place as well as the accountability and transparency high while also adapting to the realities of change during a Sprint for marketing. I highly recommend following Andrea Fryrear from Marketer Gizmo, who has written a plethora of great content on Agile Marketing.
We have more data than we could realistically organize, tag, filter, or view. The shift from the Information Age to the Connection Age is at hand, where our networks have proliferated to the point where we suffer from a glut of input delivered at an ever-increasing pace.
We are now forced to choose which pieces of the data we want to view. From financial giving data to weekend attendance reporting to small group and volunteer involvement data, and on through the endless emails on our mobile devices about our kid’s recitals, PTA meetings, Amazon specials, and the obscene amount of pure email spam, each of us must choose how much input we are willing to actually use.
So, how do you choose? And how are you communicating those choices?
We’ve likely all been taught the Eisenhower Matrix (a.k.a. the Priority Matrix) below. We know that things which are truly urgent are few, but things that are important are in volume, but we often still act like others need to respond to our stuff as urgent. This kind of e-bullying eschews our real priorities and makes our priorities someone else’s emergencies.
As a guy who deals with communications as a large part of my job, I see more than a few “urgent” emails subject lines. Sometimes, others use the more subtle approach of urgent synonyms within their emails (“I have a pressing need” or “this is a high-priority project” or “we need to get to this ASAP”).
When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
To quote Bob Newhart: “Stop it!”
We’re all busy…and that’s part of the problem. Are you using a prioritization tool to organize your projects and your time? It’s a constant tension, but a battle that must be waged if we’re all going to achieve our objectives – together.
In the local church, we often forget that the very people we’re trying to engage are already being engaged and assaulted with information and data from their work, their kids’ schools, their sports programs, and even friends and family. When communications go out from the church, they must leave with the mantra “just enough, just in time.”
- Have we shared just enough information using the Inverted Pyramid method to ensure our targeted audience can quickly determine the relevance and importance of our communication?
- Have we shared just enough of the value (what’s in it for them, not about us) to pique their interest?
- Have we sent it early enough – just in time – so that they can add it to their calendar?
- Have we sent it just in time to hyper-targeted Personas (specific groupings to ensure laser-focus)?
Or – are we sending more, unfiltered, noisy stuff that is quickly associated with the lowly rung of unsolicited flyers and spam email?
People will not have fewer inputs or less information, no matter how diligently one unsubscribes from mailing, email, and phone lists; so how do we manage the influx so that we can look at just enough, just in time?
Are you part of the problem of making too many things urgent? How are you managing how you – and your church – communicate?
Mentoring is not a special program for special people, but a business focused value for valuing employees focused on the business. A great piece was written over at Fast Company about Intel’s new mentoring movement, and it informed some of my thinking for this blog post.
A mentor/mentee relationship is more than merely providing advice; it’s a two-way relationship where the mentor and the mentee both work with – and benefit from – the other. Anyone can mentor, regardless of position. What matters is the experience and wisdom of the mentor, not the job title or organizational hierarchy. Intel does a great job of demonstrating that, so be sure to read that article.
“The currency of a successful mentor/mentee relationship is personal satisfaction.” – from FounderCorps
As with much of what I write about, I orient mentorship programs around clearly defined Objectives, supported by Goals, articulated through Strategies, and tracked through Actions.
GOALS (What by When)
Good Structure/Principles for Mentoring
Set a Start and Stop Date
That’s not to say a person cannot, or should not, be a life-long mentor, but by defining a start/stop date, the expectations for specific training or availability are clearly understood within a defined timeline.
Document Progress & Feedback
Though relational connection is key and should trump a checklists of task lists (that’s coaching, not mentoring), it is helpful to document the objective and goals for both parties. Tracking milestones along the way both ensures the focus is maintained and that expectations are being met.
To be clear: Coaching is task oriented, mentoring is relationship oriented. Coaching is performance driven, mentoring is development driven.
Learn When to Delegate Real-world Work
The delegation of actual job tasks can be a helpful, and guided, way to provide mentees with real-world scenarios. However, inappropriate delegation can happen when a mentor gives the mentee work to do that the mentor should be doing. Helping a mentee on a project means both are working together to see it through to completion.
Mentoring Happens Best When:
- an organization is seeking to develop its leaders or talent pool as part of succession planning
- an organization actively engages to remove barriers that hinder the success of new hires
- an organization seeks to develop its employees in ways that are not directly related to job specific skills/competencies
- an organization wants to create a culture that honors the professional and the personal development of employees
Mentor Beyond the Job Descriptions
Finally, mentors should actively develop the skills and knowledge that go beyond the mentee’s specific role. Skills such as business acumen, conflict management, effective communication, flexibility to adapt to the environment (and people), as well as developing innovative thinking habits.
Relationship vs. Compliance
The best mentor/mentee relationship is based upon advice and support freely given and freely ignored, largely eliminating conflict. Since conflict is merely a lack of congruence between the best interests of the person giving advice and the person getting the advice, when both give and take freely, the success of the mentor/mentee relationship isn’t based upon compliance.
Even without a formal mentoring structure, mentoring should be (and is) happening anyway. Encourage this amongst your team and help them reach out to others who can help them in both their job and career.
What have your mentoring experiences taught you? Comment below.
When you hear from high-caliber, top-quality people who were let go from a job, they’ll often tell you they heard the phrase “you just weren’t a good fit”. That can be another way of saying “we didn’t know how to manage you.” In my experience, the key to managing highly artistic or technical staff requires a different managerial approach that helps bridge the gap between their tremendous skills/abilities and the culture of the organization.
What I’ve learned about leading talented, creative team members goes past the Human Resources checklists with a deeper dive to discover the root of the problems. As author Bob Hamp talks about in his books, the issue is almost never the issue; it’s symptomatic of the real problem. Sometimes, the soft skills of communication and inter-staff roles is creates a disconnect between these artists and techs and the rest of the staff. In my coaching and consulting, I often end up helping these creatives to identify blind spots and areas where growth is necessary in the context of a church staff.
For a number of reasons that have everything to do with a lack of humility, broken places in my heart, and poor examples from my childhood and early jobs, I found myself as the ‘black sheep’ of a large, fast-growing church staff. At the too-young age of 23, I was leading a team of volunteers, running a brand new television and tech arts ministry, and in way over my head. I was talented and ambitious but lacked the emotional intelligence or leadership experience to understand that I was running over staff and volunteers under the guise of innovating and blazing a trail.
Oh, I was blazing alright – and a fiery wake of relational wreckage was the smoldering evidence.
Fortunately, I met and befriended older mentors who helped me learn, seek forgiveness, and temper my passion and enthusiasm with grace and patience. It was years later that I found myself leading teams when I recognized the same impetuous characteristics in a wildly talented individual who was quickly earning himself a fast exit from a good job. He was plenty talented and did very good work, but was quickly losing the respect of other staff and leaders. Helpful suggestions and constructive conversations had not proven to get his attention, so I had to talk with him about a 60-day Personal Improvement Plan (PIP).
In the HR world, I’ve found that a PIP is often a cloak for getting rid of, instead of trying to keep, a valuable employee. When I use the term Personal Improvement Plan, the heart is to restore relationships, set milestones, and define expectations to understand and evaluate progress.
Restore Relationships First
The employee needs to know that he/she is first and foremost a team member, not a solo player, and that they are valued – and most valuable – as a part of a team. The fruits of the Spirit–in particular self-control and patience–are a part of the maturity of a believer that have plenty of opportunity for exercise during a PIP. It’s important to remember that all change is hard in the short-term, but the pain of staying the same is worse, especially when job termination is on the line.
Start by reinforcing what you see in the employee. They’ll need for you to tell them that while you see the obvious talent and potential there are some bad habits that are career-limiting – and not just at your organization, but in any job. The purpose of the PIP is to clearly define what actions and attitudes need to be evidenced (and how) and what kind of steps and milestones (this-by-then; then-that-by-this-time) they will need to be aware of as part of the evaluation process.
Set Milestones & Define Expectations
Speaking specifically to followers of Jesus, as believers leading other believers, we’re not looking to modify behavior; we’re looking for heart change (measuring spiritual fruit). In most situations with talented employees, this has almost nothing to do with their skills and abilities but about their interpersonal relationship issues or time/project management soft skills. PIP’s must not be ambiguous or subjective but instead an honest attempt at helping restore an employee to use their gifts, talents, and abilities in practical and realistic ways.
In my experience (having both being the recipient of a PIP and leading others through one, too) a PIP should be given a hard deadline of 60 days with weekly milestones. A full 60 days signals the intent of the organization to try to keep a person they want to see on the team. It also provides the employee to understand the kind of shifts and adjustments necessary to work well within the culture of the organization.
Measurable milestones might include:
- Daily check-ups with you (that you document in some way) that focus on how they’re doing and what you see and what they are feeling/experiencing during this season of change.
- Weekly review meetings with your leaders about their experiences with the employee during the past week, especially as it pertains to the PIP.
- For the employee – a smile and a positive response to requests. I’m not saying to be sappy and gushy, but to earnestly train themselves to look at each person as someone to serve. Talk about how often you notice or hear about positive changes daily and/or weekly. Encouragement matters.
- Ensure projects are early or on time. Meeting deadlines and commitments are important to re-building relational equity. This should be happening even without the PIP.
- CC’ing you on all their email communications in response to requests or proactively seeking information about an upcoming project – and reviewing issues/growth weekly.
- Review their e-mail/project management communications and help the employee learn how their word choice informs the reader of the tone of the email. Review good and bad examples weekly.
If there is little to no discernible and measurable (even anecdotally) change within the first 30 days, an interim meeting should be scheduled with the employee. Since a PIP is generally the last-ditch effort to keep an employee from being terminated, it is important that they fully understand their progress and not be surprised by any decision come day 60. Using a healthy and clearly defined PIP, the employee’s success is truly their choice. That means the employee’s change, or lack there of, may very well force the organization’s hand to terminate the employment of the employee.
Finally, a PIP should never be punishment. It’s important to reinforce this to the employee, who often simply feels misunderstood and isn’t aware of how they are interacting (poorly) with other staff. And while it’s not about punishment, it is about career and interpersonal development, and helping restore the employee to full trust and relational equity.
Have you used (or had placed upon you) a Personal Improvement Plan? What was your experience? Comment below.
I suppose it’s from my many years in the Technical Arts, but I am still frequently asked about how to determine the correct screen size and brightness for video projection. I’ve taken some of my writing on the subject and created a ‘cheat sheet’ of sorts that provides some of the basic formulas and examples of how it all works in the real world. This post will be where I henceforth send anyone asking for these kinds of questions, as the few simple formulas are eye-opening and require only simple math.
– Anthony Coppedge
While we live in world with finite budgets, we also live in a world with finite physics; our budgets cannot wish physics away, so we must either determine to adjust light levels (if and when possible) or spend more to overcome the physics of light. It’s math, not finances, that determine your needs. Adjust accordingly.
The basic math formulas for calculating projection needs:
Determine screen placement
Sight lines are paramount in determining screen location. Make sure everyone (especially those far away) have a clear, unobstructed view of the screen. In many situation, more than one screen is required.
I won’t go into screen viewing angles, but keep in mind that anything beyond 45 degrees (horizontal or vertical) will fatigue the eye. In many venues, the angle of the side walls is insufficient to simply mount the screens flush. It is advisable to mount the screens (assuming front projection) at a greater angle to face across the room the the far side from the screen. Otherwise, if the screens are facing the side of the audience they are closest to, the presenter will often observe people watching the side screens facing away from the stage center – a disconcerting scenario for anyone speaking on stage.
Determine screen size
Measure the distance from the screen to the furthest seat in line-of-sight. If the majority of the content is video (SD or HD), divide that number (the distance) by 8. This will yield the screen height.
Next, measure the distance from the screen to the closest audience seat that is in line-of-sight to that screen. The screen should be no taller than twice that distance. Example – 9’ tall = 18’ away for closest viewer. Remember, the furthest viewers take priority, as it is better for the screen to be “too big” for those close than “too small” for those in the back.
Determine square footage of the screen surface
Take the screen height (in feet) and multiply it by the screen width (in feet). Ex. 9′ × 16′ = 144 sq. ft. Multiply the square footage of the screen by 20 (ANSI says 18 + or – 2, so we use 20). Example: 20 (ANSI lumens per sq. ft. minimum) multiplied by 144 (sq. ft.) = 2,880 projected lumens. 2,880 lumens isn’t hard to find in a projector by today’s standards. But before you get too excited, remember that this is assuming NO light is hitting the screen. Pitch black area. Dark. No light. Nada.
Unless you have a black-box environment with no stage light bouncing on the screens (99.999% unlikely), you’re going to need far more than a luminance value of 20; we’ll explore that example below.
Determine ambient light on the screen surface
Our next measurement is at the screen area itself – the amount of foot-candles of light striking the screen surface from lights, windows, etc. We measure this using a light meter.
Let’s assume we measure a tiny amount of 8 foot-candles striking the screen surface (a very low amount of ambient light). We now take our number (8) and multiply it by 5 (our next formula). The answer? 40, of course. THAT (40) is the number we must now reach to have adequate lumens being projected onto the screen surface. In other words, we must project at least 40 lumens per square foot onto the screen to overcome a mere 8 foot candles of light on a small 9’ x 16’ screen. (Incidentally, this size screen would only be seen up to about 70-ish feet way.)
So, going back to our first example, we have 144 sq. ft. of screen area. We multiply 144 by the new 40 lumens per sq. ft. number to get 5,760 lumens. Therefore, we will need nearly 6,000 lumens projected onto the screen surface from the projector in order to overcome ambient light of only 8 foot candles. That’s a lot more than the original 2,880 from our example. And that’s only 8 foot candles of ambient light!
A more realistic value may be nearer to 30 foot candles of ambient light. In this case, if we still use our example of a 144 sq. ft. of screen area, then we’ll multiply 144 by the new 150 (30 foot candles times our factor of 5) lumens per sq. ft. number to get 21,600 lumens.
2,880 lumens in a pitch dark room compared to 21,600 lumens on the same screen in the same room with some lights on or windows shining light. A pretty stark difference, right?
NOTE: This is not all of the math…contrast ratio, screen surface types, lensing…it all has math, too…but this is a helpful way to demonstrate the truth that when you use math to solve your real-world challenges, you’ll be better stewards of money than by merely arbitrarily assigning money out of context to an issue. You can download this article/cheat sheet here.
If you have any additional questions and wish to contract me for hourly consulting, please fill out the form below.
In addition to business consulting, I’ve spent a great deal of time in the non-profit organization and local church space. I recently found that the team at Monk Development created a well-documented white paper on “Content Strategy and The Church” that I have deconstructed for the purpose of considering their research and findings. This is a business-savvy, researched white paper that at a mere 15 pages is a worthy read. Here are my observations based on their work.
Churches, almost regardless of size, act a lot like small ‘mom-and-pop’ businesses; they go with the flow, opportunistically taking advantage of their audience through minimally prepared communications aimed at the most urgent needs. Even a small modicum of strategic planning would aid considerably in aligning the mission of the church with the opportunities in their communities.
In the online marketing world, the emphasis has shifted from promoting constantly to mapping out a content strategy to specific, targeted people-segments. You’ve no doubt experienced this when you’ve searched for a product only to realize advertisements for that product are suddenly showing up frequently – and seemingly everywhere you go online. That’s not a coincidence; that’s a targeted marketing strategy. In a potentially less creepy fashion, churches (or non-profits or businesses) can create content that connects with certain demographics and brings them back for more helpful content and connections. When organizations utilize a content strategy to not only create an interest in/attendance of/participation in activities, the measurable results provide new growth opportunities. Stated simply:
A content strategy allows leaders to consistently connect people with the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
Of the surveyed churches in the white paper, Monk Development found that 80% of churches did not have a content strategy and an editorial calendar. No plan? No insight. No systems in place? No consistent way to understand effectiveness. When a leader has good feedback and helpful trend analysis, they’re better positioned to help lead people to the right areas of meaningful involvement.
“In a world that is increasingly noisy, there is not much room for an uncoordinated message; unless you’re not looking to make a significant impact.” —Dave Shrein, Host, Church Marketing Sucks podcast. I love this quote! While I don’t think many pastors would determine not to make a significant impact, the lack of a content strategy has a direct correlation to not aligning the mission, vision, and values of their church to meeting the opportunities in their local predicament.
I’ve heard a lot of reasons why certain leaders don’t plan too far ahead. In the church world, there tends to be a lot of emphasis placed on pastors hearing God best ‘at the last minute.’ While I haven’t found God to be a chatter-box talking our ears off all the time, the fact that He took six full days to build – well, everything – show that he had a plan and a progressive purpose. God is the god of order, not chaos. It would stand to reason, therefore, that hearing from God shouldn’t be confined to ‘last minute’. YMMV.
“Seven years back we, too, were planning our content and even our services one to two weeks in advance. This led to a frantic pace where nearly everything felt rushed. We made decisions hurriedly. We used to think we couldn’t plan ahead because we wanted to be ‘Spirit led’ in all we do…There is a lot more time for the Spirit to lead and it also allows decisions to be made without feeling frantic or stressed.” —Gerry True, Minister of Communication Arts, Oak Hills Church
With greater planning and, here’s the key – listening – the opportunity for creating content that connects is not only greater, but the impact of the results should be, too.
A fully implemented content strategy is a planned series of touch points designed to foster involvement and community.
HOW TO START A CONTENT STRATEGY
The framework for a content strategy includes:
- Establishing & managing an ‘Editorial Calendar’ for planning & content prioritization.
- Ensuring all content is aligned with the defined mission, vision, and values of the organization.
- Eschewing information volume for valuable content shared with intentionality and consistency.
- Efficiently measuring the effectiveness of awareness and call-to-action campaigns.
What any organization’s leaders need is not more information, but useful insights for making informed decisions. This is as true for businesses as it is for churches, though the ‘bottom line’ is substantially different. However, it’s difficult to make informed decisions when leaders lack objective and accurate insights.
To download the free white paper, click here: “Content Strategy and the Church”
Have you taken the first steps to build out an editorial calendar and content strategy? Yes or no, tell us why and what would help you further in the comments below or email Anthony Coppedge for direct help.