Tag: Decision-Making (Page 1 of 2)

Planning Horizon

Life is too busy. I continue to hear this from many people and it is especially true for the ones leading organizations. The leader often relays that they are so stuck in the day-to-day management of the business they cannot spend any time on the vision and direction. There are many techniques that help this, and I think one is getting clear on your planning horizon. What time frame should you be spending most of your time thinking about?

You have people for that

Let’s use the founder of the church as an example. Ten years ago he planted the church, and it has grown now to about 1000 people attending services on the weekend. In the beginning, he had to do nearly everything on his own, including dreaming about the long-term future and preparing for next Sunday. That works ok when an organization is very small because there aren’t that many details or moving parts to worry about. It is still a lot to think about and do. Now, he has staff and volunteers helping to run everything, but he is still in contact with each and every detail.

Do you trust people enough to guide and let go? If there are performance issues, then you can coach and train most people to get better over time. However, if there are trust issues where you can’t let go, that is usually a leadership challenge. Think about the worst thing that could (realistically) happen if you let them go on their own? If that risk is acceptable (and it usually is), then practice letting go.

Visualize your planning horizon

If you have a way to see your planning horizon, the time frame that should consume most of your thinking, then you can communicate effectively to others about your role and theirs.

What most people do as the organization grows and their leadership role expands is shown below. Note how they might be the founding pastor with visionary responsibilities, but they are still operating in the near term.

Common Planning Horizon

What I recommend is to shift the planning horizon rather than expand it. We all have to do a little bit of thinking about today and this week so we remember to get up in the morning, attend the staff meeting, or buy groceries. The question is where most of your time is focused at work.

Preferred Planning Horizon

Your Next Move

The next time you are too busy to think about the vision and direction of your church, consider drawing out your planning horizon, and do the same for those around you. If there is too much overlap, or you see gaps, then you have work to do so each of you can be working on the right stuff.

When To Renege on Your Commitment

I am a big fan of doing what I said I would do. I consider that to be a sign of trustworthiness and reliability. Interestingly, if you fail to meet your commitment once it is not that big of a deal, but a trend means people discount your word completely.

Always Keep Your Commitments

I think if we start with the attitude of always keeping all the commitments we make, we will all be better off. The keys to being successful at that include

  • Consider Carefully – Before you make any commitment, regardless of how big or small, truly consider whether you can pull it off. Given everything you know right now, can you really do that? Can you do it well and on time? It is great to take risks or have “stretch goals” and please make them at least a little realistic.
  • Accept Inconvenience – When we agreed to this, it might have sounded easy. Now that you are neck deep in it..not so much. “This is such a mess, I didn’t realize how much I would have to clean up before I could do my work.” The other day, I agreed to do a small house project that would involve cutting some baseboard material, painting it and installing it. No problem – should take an hour, tops! As it turns out that one hour estimate was poorly informed. When I went to the garage to start, I realized I had not cleaned up my last project (or seven). As a result, the first hour of this one hour project was spent organizing the work bench so I could get to the saw. The effect is the job did not get done in an hour, so I was not able to do the next thing I really wanted to do. However, rather than weaken my word, I kept at it and finished, even though it was inconvenient for me.

Except When You Should Renege

If keeping all our commitments is a starting point in our thinking, that is great. However, it is not reasonable all the time. So, when should you bail out?

  • The World Changed – In 2006, Seth Godin did a TED Talk called This is Broken. I have watched it several times and I like it more and more each time. The point he makes that is relevant here today is some things are broken because the world changed. My friend recently (casually) agreed to do some balloon work for me in May. He is very talented and a great fit for the job, and he was more than happy to do it. Last week, he got a new job that is a 10-hour drive away. His world changed, and I think it is OK for him to bail on my job.
  • Your Health is at Risk – Although I believe accepting inconvenience is a good idea, there are limits. When you have been working tons of hours and the kids are all sick and the dishwasher is broken and you have had a raging headache for three days…you might need a break. With as much warning as possible, you should cancel your commitments and take care of yourself first. If you are not healthy, you are useless. Remember, this includes mental and emotional health. If you ignore your emotional health on a regular basis, I encourage you to watch this TED Talk with Guy Winch.
  • You Should have Said No – Back to that Careful Consideration thing. When you immediately have buyer’s remorse over an agreement, bail out quickly. You go to lunch with a friend and they ask a favor. Through guilt, care, or habit you agree. Moments later you get in the car and ask yourself, “Why did I agree to that, I can’t do that.” Call your friend quickly and renege. Sure, that might be a tough conversation, but it is better to rip off that band-aid quickly instead of letting the decision fester.

Your Next Move

Are you overcommitted?

If so, it is time to change your habits about committing in the first place, then go back and evaluate what agreements you can get out of. In my experience, it took about six months before my calendar was markedly different…and it was worth it.

Simple or Simplistic?

In these days of swirling technology and overall busy-ness, many of us want our lives to be simpler. The Simple mantra is becoming the rallying cry of churches, businesses, families, and individuals. But what does that really mean…”Simple”?

Well, I decided to consult the oracle of Google and I learned Simple is defined as

Easily understood or done, presenting no difficulty.

Don’t we all wish life were that way?

Is it Simple, or just Simplistic?

On the contrary to having a simple, clean, elegant solution to a problem, we often resort to simplistic solutions. By definition, Simplistic is to treat a complex issues and problems as if they were much simpler than they really are. Another thing that caught my eye was a synonym of simplistic… “superficial”. I have recently read a couple books on being simple, like Insanely Simple and Getting Real. Both books celebrate, and even idolize, the goal of being simple.

What’s the Difference?

If you are motivated to create simple solutions or simple processes, you might be tempted to go the simplistic route instead.

  • Simple is complete and elegant, Simplistic takes short cuts and leaves major things out
  • Simple is often the result of that “Aha!” moment, Simplistic is the result of fatigue
  • Simple is beautiful and catches on quickly, Simplistic is met with tons of questions like, “what about…”

Your Next Move

Next time you have a desire for Simple, but find yourself cutting corners, feeling fatigued, or ignoring other’s challenges, stop. Stop and listen to their input, take some time to refresh, and design a complete and useful solution. Once a solution is complete, then the Simple will be revealed.

How Come?

ladder_of_inference This past week, the Coaching team at Church Community Builder was brushing up on the Ladder of Inference. The Ladder is a concept that describes how humans make conclusions about our world. For a quick intro, I love this video from Trevor Maber. Recognizing the concept of the Ladder can be helpful in understanding how you or others think, but what about “short circuiting the ladder” as Trevor mentions in the video? I find the best way to diagnose and change your own inferences is to practice asking “How Come?”.

How Come

How did I come to this conclusion? In linguistics we learn that words often elicit specific responses. In this context, the word How elicits a process response in our brain. That is helpful because we want to know the process (the Ladder) I used in getting to my latest opinion, feeling, conclusion, or action. To take the time and think through what led me here can open the door to self awareness. I recommend asking your self How Come several times in sequence and just pay attention to the response you get (from yourself). In fairness, this might be best done in private the first few times or you can raise some eyebrows while talking to yourself.

The other day, I was irritated with my mechanic. I had taken my truck in for service and the result was a large bill, larger than I could afford. At the top of the ladder, I concluded they were an unethical bunch. So, I asked, “How did I get to that conclusion?” With several cycles of that question, I was able to find these Ladders at work:

  • He is unethical. (so, How Come I got there…)
  • He is out to get me, and my money. (so, How Come I got there…)
  • He is recommending some preventive services I don’t think I need. (so, How Come I got there…)
  • I can’t afford this stuff…money is really tight right now.
  • I just never seem to get ahead.
  • I wish I hadn’t spent so much money earlier this year.
  • I have really failed at managing our money.
  • …and on and on.

Notice here that the top of the Ladder is an attribution about the other guy and his character. Then, as I start to work down my Ladder, that character flaw is reframed to be more about the situation, then eventually about me and my character. The bottom line is I know my mechanic is ethical and trustworthy, and he just touched a nerve in me that triggered my Ladder.

As a result of working myself down the Ladder, I was able to come to a very different opinion about his recommendation, and feel much better about the interaction.

Why not Why

There is a temptation to replace How Come with Why. I would caution against that. Again, back to linguistics. The question Why tends to elicit defensive postures. “Why did you do that?” “Well, because I felt like it.” Recognize the emotional difference if you ask your self, “How did you get to that conclusion?” vs. “Why did you do that?”

Maybe it is just me, and I feel better with explaining the process rather than defending the position.

Your Next Move

Next time you notice you are making a conclusion about the world around you, ask How Come. This is particularly powerful when you are making a judgement about another person. From the video, think of that other driver, the jerk. Talk yourself down the Ladder and give that other person a chance to reveal some extra data.

Planning Takes Too Long

Planning takes too long, let’s just get started.


I use OmniPlan for the Mac for my project planning

When we start coaching a new church to implement a change, we make a plan. Usually this is a pretty detailed plan with lots of tasks, dependencies, dates…the whole bit. We often get feedback that this planning process takes too long and they just want to get started. In my mind, planning equals speed. I know that sounds contradictory, but the key is whether you are in a hurry to start, or to finish.

What’s the Hurry?

If you are in a hurry to start a project, then planning is indeed a waste and should be ignored. However, let’s first ask what is driving us to be in a hurry. Here are some common reasons that we hear:

  • I have to show ____ I am making progress.
  • If we have a plan, we will be forced to follow it and I want to be more flexible.
  • I am new here and I need to show them I know what I am doing.
  • You just can’t plan this type of work.
  • I am an action-oriented person. All this talking just wears me out.

None of those hold water in my mind, they are excuses. When exploring a brand new thing nobody has ever done, the plans are a lot more vague and loose. In fact, sometimes projects are entering into such an unknown territory there is no way to make a meaningful plan – so don’t waste a lot of your time. However, if you are motivated by the end of the project, the results part, then planning that project out really increases speed to finish.

How Does Planning Make us Faster?

Below are four key benefits to a solid plan.

  • A good planning process clarifies the direction, the scope, and the value of a project before you begin. How many times have you started a project that seemed like a good idea, then realized half way through you can’t even remember what you were trying to accomplish? Planning allows you to firm up those reasons and success criteria early. Sometimes creating a plan helps you to realize the project isn’t even worth doing….before you started working in earnest. Great savings. The last thing any of us need in our busy lives is a project we shouldn’t be doing.
  • My personal favorite, a good plan helps us to stay focused. I get so easily distracted, I need tools to help me only think about what is relevant right now. Back to the house: spending days working on the color of the curtains is not time well spent while trying to rough-in the plumbing and electrical. Stay focused on the work at hand, and know that other thing is in the plan and will come up at just the right time.
  • A good plan helps us to avoid rework. “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing over again.” While I have always enjoyed that adage, It bothers me that we behave that way so frequently. Think of the time and costs associated with having to go back and redo something…that time could have been saved with a good plan. The more we do work in the “right” order, then the dependencies flow nicely and we don’t have to go back and fix things. Think of building your new house: pouring the foundation before you have decided where the bedrooms go would be a real mistake. You would have to tear it out and pour more concrete later when you really had a design.
  • A good plan shows us progress. A plan with some milestones in it allows us to track our progress. That progress status is used for three things that tends to increase motivation, resources, and speed.
    1. Communicate with the organization. “We are 30% done on this and we estimate being complete in October”. This builds clarity and reminds others you are still working and progressing.
    2. Celebrate. “Yahoo…we reached the end of the design phase!” This helps to lift spirits and keep the motivation to focus on the work.
    3. Compete. “We still need Bob on our team. Look at all he has done and what other tasks are assigned to him.” In this world of limited time and resources, we often have to fight to keep the resources we secured at the beginning of the project.

Your Next Move

Be willing to focus on the outcome you want before starting. Think of that project you are hesitating to start. Make a quick plan… at least enough to get started.

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