Agile Marketing & Communications

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...

Just Enough, Just in Time

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...

Delegating Responsibility with Delegated Authority

The difference between delegating responsibility and giving away delegated authority is like eggs and ham; the chicken is involved; the pig is committed. It’s safe to say most of us have worked for a manager that used delegation as a means to a task-based end. They wanted things done, so they delegated responsibility down the ranks to employees who were told to get tasks done – or else. This kind of delegation is more accurately labeled abdication; a failure to fulfill a responsibility or duty. When a poor manager delegates all responsibility, they are setting the employee up to take the blame if the project or task doesn’t meet expectations set at least two levels above their role. A good manager will not delegate responsibility without also providing delegated authority to ensure the employee has the ability to give direction to others in the organization, regardless of hierarchy or rank. Former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, summed this up nicely: Don’t be a bottleneck. If a matter is not a decision for the President or you, delegate it. Force responsibility down and out. Find problem areas, add structure and delegate. The pressure is to do the reverse. Resist it. – Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S. Secretary of Defense There are several sequential keys Mr. Rumsfeld prescribes in this short and powerful quote, and they provide us with a roadmap on how to delegate authority. Force Responsibility Down and Out Simply delegating tasks misses the opportunity to shift your staff from an employee mentality to an ownership mentality. I have a friend that works for a large defense contractor. His stories about how he’s told “slow...

Church(ology) – Celebrating Growth, But Respecting Health

If I were to sum up the most used hashtag at every church conference over the last several years, it’s going to include “growth”. Maybe it’s #churchgrowth or #smallgroupgrowth or, simply, #growth, but there is a huge amount of attention and effort aimed at growing churches. I celebrate growth, but I respect health. I’ve been watching The Nines online conference for the past two days and have taken away a lot of What’s Working stories and, at least for me, the best stories have been about What’s Not Working. I love that Leadership Network has created this brilliant concept, but I also have a caution in my heart when so much of the content talks about or at least mentions church growth. It reminds me of hearing a pastor I love and respect say this truthful statement to a packed out room of thousands of pastors: “Healthy things grow.” That’s true, but what I saw blow up on the conference Twitter stream and in conversations after the talk was the emphasis on “growth”. Yes, healthy things do grow. But what God spoke to me immediately was “Cancer grows, too.” The focus on growth is emphasizing the wrong end of the sentence. “HEALTHY things (grow).” Growth is the by-product, not the point. Do I not want or endorse growth? Not at all. Healthy things DO grow and there SHOULD be a numerical increase that follows spiritual formation. Evangelism will yield more believers. Discipleship will produce more leaders. But measuring numbers before measuring spiritual fruit is always problematic, because it places the emphasis on quantitative measurement instead of first measuring qualitative growth....

The 3 Most Important Church Systems

There are many systems in place at churches of every size, location & style; most are borne out of necessity, but some are adopted because they’ve been seen at work in other churches. While the list of church systems could be exhaustive, I’ve come to define them into three distinct but important categories. There are, of course, many, many sub-systems within these broad categories, but I believe each of the three to be vitally important to creating, maintaining and exporting a healthy culture. The diagram to the right illustrates the following: Right Fit + Right Systems = Consistent Results Right Fit + Wrong Systems = Frustration Wrong Fit + Right Systems = Inconsistent Results Wrong Fit + Wrong Systems = Poor Outcomes I believe that it’s possible to “right fit” every person. As my good friend pastor Brad Stahl (Volunteer pastor at Gateway Church) says, “Everybody’s a ’10’ somewhere!”. The right fit with the right systems is always the goal. Relational Responsibility System Once you get past about 50 people that you can know well, it’s hard to keep up with the rest of the people in your sphere of influence. So, in essence, any local church with more than 50 people is, for all intents and purposes, a mega church (which is commonly associated with being “too big” for many). Today, many churches have adopted some form of an electronic database for keeping track of attendees (some still track membership – but if they’re a member, aren’t they attending & serving? Why count membership?). The practicality of an electronic ‘Rolodex’ is helpful, but ultimately insufficient. The point of keeping...

Managing Minutes and the Gerbil Wheel

In my many years consulting with organizations – both secular and church – the major issue that comes up in regards to technology is not the tech itself, but the time management of those using the tech. In the end, Truman’s Triangle (Good, Fast, Cheap – pick any two) always – ALWAYS – comes into play. Since technology is a force multiplier, it is therefore understood there must be ‘force’ before there can be a ‘multiplier’. That force is time, and many of us are not very good at managing it. “I recommend to you to take care of the minutes; for hours will take care of themselves.” – Lord Chesterfield I initially named this “linear growth vs. logarithmic growth” because that’s really the crux of this message, but it’s not as good for SEO. 🙂 Here’s a metaphor to help: If an organization has a goal of 10% growth in, say, new membership over one year, then it would be logical to expect a 2.5% growth every 3 months (for a total of 10% over a year). That would be linear growth. And it would also probably be unrealistic. Logarithmic growth, on the other hand, assumes that ramping up will take time, effort and refinement. The growth may be .5% after the first three 3 months, 1.5% at 6 months and a larger ramp-up over the last half of the year. That’s logarithmic growth. I don’t think it’s a shock to hear that the best results almost always come about after a period of sustained, goal-focused effort. We all want the results (I know I do), but we...