Reduce Complexity by Moving from Planning to Preparation

How to be both resolved in planning, yet responsive to changes, as you lead toward vision.

In the life of church leaders, Sunday is always coming. There are sermons to prepare, volunteers to be trained, worship to plan, and dozens of other tasks repeated weekly.

Yet in the midst of it all, life sometimes throws us a curve, and we are faced with a crisis of minor or major proportions. Or, maybe the opposite is true: an unbelievable opportunity for ministry presents itself out of the blue.

What do you do?

Move from planning to preparation.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Agility Shift, Pamela Meyer

As contrary as it sounds, “planning” – as we traditionally understand the term – can be the worst thing a company can do. Consider that volatile weather events disrupt trusted supply chains, markets, and promised delivery schedules. Ever-shifting geo-political tensions, as well as internal political upheaval within U.S. and global governments, derail long-planned new ventures. Technology failures block opportunities.

There are a myriad of ways in the current business environment for a company’s well-considered business plans to go awry.  Most business schools continue to prepare managers to be effective in stable and predictable environments, conditions that, if they ever existed at all, are long gone.

The Agility Shift shows business leaders exactly how to make the radical mindset and strategy shift necessary to create an agile, entrepreneurial organization that can innovate and thrive in complex, ever-changing contexts. As author Pamela Meyer explains, there is much more involved than a reconfiguration of the org chart and job descriptions. It requires relinquishing the illusion of control at the very foundation of most management training and business practice.

Despite most leaders’ approaches, “Agility is not simply accelerated planning.”  Unlike many agility books on the market, The Agility Shift provides specific, actionable strategies and tactics for leaders at all levels of the organization to put into practice immediately to improve agility and achieve results.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Move from planning to preparation

The world is constantly getting more complicated, the lives we lead are gaining complexity at an ever-increasing rate. This rapid cultural change has meddled with the assumption that the near future will resemble the recent past. Change now happens so fast that the planning processes currently in use are obsolete.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” Another Einstein quote is closely linked: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

If today’s leaders want to move out of the same cycle of planning and programming to just keep up, they are going to have to make an intentional shift in their thinking and actions.

It’s time to make the shift from planning as an event to developing a focus on preparing as a process.

The Agility Shift is the intentional development of the competence, capacity, and confidence to learn, adapt, and innovate in changing contexts for sustainable success.

Three Cs of the Agility Shift

Agility competence consists of the skills, knowledge, and abilities necessary to respond to the unexpected and unplanned, as well as to find opportunities in new development and emerging trends.

Agility capacity is the degree of uncertainty and volatility in which a person can be effective. For example, a team may have the competence to get a new product to market on a tight deadline, but it may not have the capacity to do so if the deadline changes several times, if the product specifications change, and/or if there is a worker strike at the manufacturing facility.

Agility confidence is the human need to trust in one’s own and others competence and capacity to be effective in changing contexts.

The 3 Shifts Needed for Agility

From Planning to Preparing

The agility shift is a shift from planning – with its focus on a linear process with a beginning, middle, and end resulting in an actual plan – to a focus on preparing, where all aspects of the system continuously develop the competence, capacity, and confidence to perform effectively in changing contexts.

From Events to Processes

Organizations must make both a mind-set shift and a practice shift, in which everything from preparing to learning to innovating is continuous, engaging activity rather than simply moments in time.

From Information to Interactions

We operate under the illusion that if we can gain more information, we will not only understand what is happening, we might just be able to control it. The mind-set necessary to improve agility is a change from an overreliance on information and uncertainty reduction toward intentional interaction.

Pamela Meyer, The Agility Shift


The agility shift is first and foremost a shift in mind-set. This mind-set values interactions within the dynamic present moment. It is also a shift from the false comfort of “a plan” to achieving a state of readiness to find opportunity in the unexpected.

Agile leaders, teams, and organizations maintain creativity under pressure. Awareness of available resources is clearly not enough; agile organizations must have the capacity to use their resources creatively and effectively at a moment’s notice in response to the unexpected. Truly agile organizations have a well-developed ability to make shifts that turn those challenges into opportunities.

Using the following SOAR techniques to lay the foundation for beginning the Agility Shift. On a separate chart tablet for each, list each of the four words:

S – Strengths

O – Opportunities

A – Aspirations

R – Results

As a team, discuss the following questions, listing group answers on each chart.


  • What are we doing really well?
  • What are our greatest assets?
  • What are we most proud of accomplishing?
  • What do our strengths tell about our skills?


  • How do we collectively understand outside threats?
  • How can we reframe to see the opportunity?
  • How can we best partner with others?


  • Considering Strengths and Opportunities, how should we make changes?
  • How do we allow our values to drive our vision?
  • How can we make a difference for our organization and its stakeholders?


  • What are our measurable results?
  • What do we want to be known for?
  • How to we tangibly translate Strengths, Opportunities, and Aspirations?

By identifying and expanding existing strengths and opportunities, your organization identifies what it does well and expands on that, thus giving you more energy to take action when confronted with sudden changes or opportunities.

Adapted from The Thin Book of Soar, by Jacqueline M. Stavros and Gina Hinrichs

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 62-1, released March 2017


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.


Just Who is My Neighbor, Anyway?

Does your church realize that Jesus really meant that they should love their actual neighbors? Do you?

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest Commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40, NIV)

Do you think that Jesus meant we should love our actual neighbors – those who live next door, behind us, or across the hall?

We may live in the most connected time in world history, but as a society we are as isolated as we have ever been. People drive alone to work, sit alone in an office, eat alone, drive home alone, and watch TV alone, all while our neighbors are doing the same thing.

Implicit in the Great Commandment is the admonition to break out of that isolation and walk across our yard or down the hall and make a connection to our neighbors – those who live closest to us.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Art of Neighboring, by Jay Pathak and David Runyon.

When Jesus was asked to sum up everything into one command, He said to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Most of us have turned this simple idea of loving our neighbors into a nice saying, putting it on bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets and then going on with our lives without actually putting it into practice.

What would happen if every follower of Jesus took the Great Commandment literally? Is it possible that the solution to our society’s biggest issues has been right under our noses for the past 2,000 years?

The Art of Neighboring is a unique and necessary addition to any serious Christian’s missional library.


If we take the Great Commandment literally, we must open our eyes and our hearts to love the people on the street where we live. The act of loving our actual neighbors is one of the simplest and yet most powerful things that we can do to make an impact in our world.

The solutions to the problems in our neighborhoods can’t be found in governmental programs or getting more people to come to your church. The solutions are with people just like you in your neighborhood.

The solution is to get back to the basics of what Jesus commanded: love God and love your neighbors.

What if we took the time to get to know the people next to us and discovered that they aren’t so menacing after all? Perhaps we would find that the people on our block are normal people just like us. At the end of the day, they long for a place to belong, a place to be accepted and cared for.

The people you don’t know by name are strangers. You might occasionally see them, and they have hopefully seen you, but the level of your interaction with them is minimal; perhaps it’s only a wave from the car on the way to work in the morning. You may even know something about them, but the bottom line is if you don’t know their name, you really don’t know them.

The first step to taking the Great Commandment literally is to move from stranger to acquaintance in your relationships with those who live nearest you. Learning a person’s name is the first and easiest step you can take to become a better neighbor.

Once you have learned and remembered someone’s name, your relationship has moved from stranger to acquaintance. That’s a crucial first step. However, Jesus didn’t tell us to become acquaintances with our neighbors; he called us to love them, and that means we need to have an actual relationship with them.

Moving from acquaintance to relationship is not as clean or as easily defined as the first step. There isn’t a simple tool that can move you into relationship, because it is impossible to program relationships. All of us can, however, create environments where relationship might develop and grow into something significant.

It may sound weird to categorize levels of friendship, but we have found it’s crucial to define where we really stand with our neighbors so we can know what to do next. And understanding the neighboring framework of stranger-acquaintance-relationship can help us accomplish just that. It prompts practical steps that we can take to make real progress.

Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring


Sketch the image below on a chart tablet.

Imagine that the middle box in the image is your house and the other boxes are the eight houses situated nearest to you – the eight households that God has placed closed to where you live.

You probably don’t live in a community that looks so neat and precise as the image; that’s okay! Whether you live in or on a neighborhood street, a cul-de-sac, a rural lot with five-acre parcels, or in a corner apartment, try to picture the locations of your eight nearest neighbors, however they might be situated.

In the box representing your home, write your address. In the other boxes, fill in the three sub points within each box – A, B, and C – as follows:

  1. Write the names of the people who live in the house represented by the box. If you can give first and last names, that’s great. If it’s only first names, that’s fine too.
  2. Write down some relevant information about each person, some data or facts that you couldn’t see just by standing in your driveway – things you might know if you’ve spoken to the person only once or twice.
  3. Write down some in-depth information you would know after connecting with people. This might include their career plans or family dreams or anything to do with the purpose of their lives. Write down anything meaningful that you’ve learned after interacting with them.

How did you do?

According to the experiences of authors Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, after leading this exercise with thousands of people, the results are strikingly consistent.

  • About 10% of people can fill out the names of all eight of their neighbors on line A.
  • About 3% can fill out line B for every home.
  • Less than 1% can fill out line C for every home.

Are we fulfilling the Great Commandment with our actual neighbors?

– adapted from The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon

Make a plan, include your family, to get to know more about your neighbors. Ask God to open the door for natural and meaningful interaction. Bottom line: take the time to invest in their lives, who knows, eternity may depend on it.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 63-1, March 2017.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

Success Brings Unintended Consequences

During a recent Auxano All-Staff call, founder Will Mancini brought up a conversation that he, Auxano Managing Officer Jim Randall, and noted church consultant George Bullard had that revolved around a book by Jim Collins – How the Mighty Falland its relevance to church and denominational settings today. This post from 2011 came to mind, so I’m reposting it.

Starbucks’ battle back from mediocrity is well documented in CEO Howard Schultz’s 2011 book Onward. Pairing it with Jim Collins’ 2009 book How the Mighty Fall gives ChurchWorld leaders a sobering lesson in how to handle success.

Collins’ 5 Stages of Decline begin with “Hubris Born of Success.” He describes it in a short paragraph:

Great enterprises can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward, for a while, even if its leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline. Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. When the rhetoric of success (“We’re successful because we do the specific things”) replaces penetrating understanding and insight (“We’re successful because we understand why we do the specific things and under what condition they would no longer work”), decline will likely follow.

Here’s what Starbucks’ Schultz had to say in looking back to early 2008:

If not checked, success has a way of covering up small failures, and when many of us at Starbucks became swept up in the company’s success, it had unintended effects. We ignored, or maybe we just failed to notice, shortcomings.

We were so intent upon building more stores fast to meet each quarter’s projected sales growth that, too often, we picked bad locations or didn’t adequately train newly hired baristas. Sometimes we transferred a good store manager to oversee a new store, but filled the old post by promoting a barista before he or she was properly trained.



As the years passed, enthusiasm morphed into a sense of entitlement, at least from my perspective. Confidence became arrogance and, as some point, confusion as some of our people stepped back and began to scratch their heads, wondering what Starbucks stood for.

In the early years at Starbucks, I liked to say that a partner’s job at Starbucks was to “deliver on the unexpected” for customers. Now, many partners’ energies seemed to be focused on trying to deliver the expected – mostly for Wall Street.

Great organizations foster a productive tension between continuity and change. On the one hand, they adhere to the principles that produce success in the first place, yet on the other hand, they continually evolve, modifying their approach with creative improvements and intelligent adaptation.

When organizations fail to distinguish between current practices and the enduring principles of their success, and mistakenly fossilize around their practices, they’ve set themselves up for decline.

By confusing what and why, Starbucks found itself at a dangerous crossroads. Which direction would they go?

Questions for ChurchWorld Leaders:

  • Is your organization locked in on your vision, core values, purpose, and culture?
  • Or do you move in first this direction, then that, just to have “success”?

Beware the unintended consequences of success.

an updated post on a series reviewing Onward, by Howard Shultz


preparation for a new series coming soon on Leading the Starbucks Way, by Joseph Michelli


We Are Freed by Our Choices

During a recent Auxano All-Staff call, Auxano founder Will Mancini brought up a conversation that he, Auxano Managing Officer Jim Randall, and noted church consultant George Bullard had that revolved around a book by Jim Collins – How the Mighty Fall – and its relevance to church and denominational settings today. This post from 2011 came to mind, so I’m reposting it today.


Here’s a quiz for you: What does this list of companies have in common? Xerox. Nucor. IBM. Texas Instruments. Pitney Bowes. Nordstrom. Disney. Boeing. HP. Merck.

Every one took at least one tremendous fall at some point in its history and recovered.

In every case, leaders emerged who broke the trajectory of decline and simply refused to give up on the idea of not only survival, but of ultimate triumph despite the most extreme odds.

Churches – and denominations – can go through the same cycle. During a conversation with a pastor today, he asked me what I thought about his church, and by extension, his denomination – in terms of success and failure. The lively discussion that followed reminded me of Jim Collins’ book How the Mighty Fall, ” in which he examines the five stages of decline and comes to a surprising conclusion:

 Circumstances alone do not determine outcomes. We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our setbacks, our history, our mistakes, or even staggering defeats along the way. We are freed by our choices.

The signature of the truly great versus the merely successful is not the absence of difficulty, but the ability to come back from setbacks, even cataclysmic catastrophes, stronger than before. Great nations can decline and recover. Great companies can fall and recover. Great social institutions can fall and recover. And great individuals can fall and recover. As long as you never get entirely knocked out of the game, there remains always hope.

A major source of Collins’ inspirations has been Winston Churchill, a lesson in life of how the mighty fall – and come back stronger than ever. One of his most famous and inspiring speeches occurred in the darkest days of World War II. Collins adapted and expanded it for his closing remarks in “How the Mighty Fall.” With apologies to both Churchill and Collins, here is a modification of that same speech for the church.

Never give in. Be willing to change tactics, but never give up your vision. Be willing to end failed ministry ideas, even to stop doing things you’ve done for a long time, but never give up on the idea of building a great church to reach people for God. Be willing to change the way you do ministry, even to the point of being almost unrecognizable with what you do today, but never give up on the principles that define your church’s vision. Be willing to embrace the inevitability of creative destruction, but never give up on the discipline to create your own future. Be willing to embrace loss, to endure pain, to temporarily lose freedoms, but never give up faith in the ability to prevail for the cause of Christ. Be willing to work together with other churches, to accept necessary compromise in the areas of non-essentials, but never-ever-give up your core vision and values.

Failure is not so much a physical state as a state of mind; success is falling down, and getting up one more time, without end.





How to Build Trust That Will Bind Your Team Together

How do you help your staff work together as a true team, not just a collection of individuals?

Mention the word “team” and most people think in context of a sports activity. That may be the primary association with a team – a group of people we observe or cheer for, but in some way, everyone works together with others to achieve a goal: families, schools, businesses, non-profits – these are all teams.

Your church staff is a team as well. Are your leaders functioning in unison as a team or operating individually as a collection of individuals?

When you are part of a team, you’re not giving up your individual goals or sacrificing your personal success. Instead, team members set their sights on an even higher goal in order to magnify greater success.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni

In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Patrick Lencioni once again offers a leadership fable that is as enthralling and instructive as his first two best-selling books, The Five Temptations of a CEO and The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive. This time, he turns his keen intellect and storytelling power to the fascinating, complex world of teams.

Kathryn Petersen, Decision Tech’s CEO, faces the ultimate leadership crisis: Uniting a team in such disarray that it threatens to bring down the entire company. Will she succeed? Will she be fired? Will the company fail? Lencioni’s utterly gripping tale serves as a timeless reminder that leadership requires as much courage as it does insight.

Throughout the story, Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions that go to the very heart of why teams even the best ones-often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team. Just as with his other books, Lencioni has written a compelling fable with a powerful yet deceptively simple message for all those who strive to be exceptional team leaders.


As leaders advance in their education and careers, many find it difficult to trust other members of their teams. After all, success often comes soonest to those who are competitors – even with their own teammates. Success also makes individuals protective of their reputations. Having arrived at the “top,” many leaders find it difficult to turn off the very instincts that got them there for the good of the team.

A high level of trust allows people to say what is on their minds and not feel that it will come back to hurt them. A sufficient level of trust ensures that the lines of communication are open and that no one is hiding information or wasting time trying to decide the implications of his or her view.

The costs of failing to do this are great: wasted time and energy, reluctant risk-taking, lack of communication and coordination, and low morale. Trust is necessary if people are to be open and candid about the things that have gone wrong – and accurate about what is going right.

Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is all but impossible.

Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.

Trust requires shared experiences over time, multiple instances of follow-through and credibility, and an in-depth understanding of the unique attributes of team members.

As “soft” as all of this might sound, it is only when team members are truly comfortable being exposed to one another that they begin to ac without concern for protecting themselves. As a result, they can focus their energy and attention completely on the job at hand, rather than on being strategically disingenuous or political with one another.

Members of trusting teams:

Admit weaknesses and mistakes

Ask for help

Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility

Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion

Take risks in offering feedback and assistance

Appreciate and tap into one another’s skills and experience

Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics

Offer and accept apologies without hesitation

Look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group.

Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team


Some of the most effective and lasting tools of building trust on a team are profiles of team members’ behavioral preferences and personality styles. These help break down barriers by allowing people to better understand and empathize with one another.

Dozens of assessments, profiles, tests, and indicators have been developed to help individuals and teams understand more about their own personality and that of their teammates.

At their simplest, all these different methods consider two things:

  1. How you relate to others.
  2. How you respond to opportunities.

Looking at these two areas will help you gain a better understanding of your personality characteristics.

If your church currently uses some type of personality assessment, when is the last time you discussed your team’s personality mix?

If it has been over six months, or if you have new team members, it’s time for a new assessment.

Here is a brief recap about the type of personality assessment Auxano uses in our consultations with churches, The Insights Discovery Profile.

Though there are variations of each color (based on your secondary color), the tool helps team members know their towering personality when it comes to serving on a team. The tool focuses on the strengths of each personality type, while also giving insight into the potential downsides of each.

A “red” is strong-willed and purposeful, a “yellow” is enthusiastic and persuasive. A “blue” is precise and deliberate, and a “green” is encouraging and sharing.

It would be a mistake to think that only a “red” can lead a team. Successful teams have a diversity of colors indicating a diversity of personality style. Good leaders appreciate the effectiveness of team members who are wired differently. Not all leaders are wired the same way. Here are the leadership personalities of each color.

Red: Directional leadership

Some are wired, and feel most comfortable, providing directional leadership. Clarity is the gift a directional leader gives to an organization. A directional leader is driven by purpose, values bright and helpful ideas, and is determined to push things forward. Without directional leaders on a team, purpose and direction will wane over time.

Yellow: Inspirational leadership

Some are built to inspire others. While a directional leader leads with the strength of the idea or the mission, an inspirational leader leads with relationships. An inspirational leader excels at investing in people and inspiring people for action. Without inspirational leaders on a team, mission can feel mechanical and purpose can feel cold.

Blue: Operational leadership

Some are built to build processes and systems that enable the organization to succeed. An operational leader has the ability to create culture and serve people by wisely implementing structures and systems that help. Without operational leaders on a team, mission will not gain traction, as there will not be systems beneath the surface.

Green: Collaborative leadership

Some are built to build consensus, collaboration, and encourage team members in the midst of exciting or challenging times. A collaborative leader excels at lateral leadership, bringing others together who are not in his or her “reporting line.” A collaborative leader makes everyone better and has the trust of the team. Without collaborative leaders on a team, silos can develop and team unity can suffer.

Hopefully the team you lead and the team you are on is a diverse mix of leadership personalities. If not, something is missing. People who are different than you make you better.

Learn more about the Insights Discovery Profile here. For a more through and guided assessment, contact us for a discussion about the Insights Discovery Profile.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 60-3, February 2017


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

How to Communicate Your Message So It Catches Fire in People’s Imaginations

Every day, your church stewards thousands of moments of truth. Every time a member talks to a neighbor, someone drives by the church facility, ministry e-mail goes out, a pastor’s business card is left on a desk, some interaction on behalf of the church has transpired. Every time these events happen, the church’s vision glows brighter or dims in the tiniest little increments.

The leader’s role is to crank up the communication wattage. The visionary cares too much about the message to let it just blow in the wind, unattended. Rather, they grab the message and affix it to a kite for all to see. This can happen only with a tremendous amount of intentionality in the complex discipline of church communications.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Pop! by Sam Horn

Why do some ideas break out and others fade away? What causes people to become so excited about a product that they can’t wait to tell their friends? How can an idea be communicated so that it catches fire in people’s imaginations?

Popular author, consultant, and workshop leader Sam Horn identifies what makes an idea, message, or product break out, and presents a simple and proven process – POP! (Purposeful, Original, Pithy) to create one-of-a-kind ideas, products, and messages that pop through the noise, off the shelf, and into consumers’ imaginations.


John 15 tells us that the Spirit of God is sovereignly convicting people of sin and righteousness and judgment. In other words, God is wooing men, women, boys, and girls to Him in your community. The question is, when they are ready to act on it, where will they go? Even though the primary mode of awareness happens through word-of-mouth advertising, the North American culture supplies other media to help broadcast your position.

By broadcasting your position, two things are intended. First, think like a retailer and let people know that you exist and where you exist. Second, position yourself in the sense of differentiating yourself among other churches in your community. In the kingdom economy, other churches are not competitors but collaborators. The best thing you can do is broadcast a clear, crisp message of what makes your Church Unique.

Remember that there are competitors to your mission—that is, anything else that distracts people from being the church under the Lordship of Jesus. These competitors, whether Home Depot, the local sports league, Old Navy, or 24 Hour Fitness, are doing everything to broadcast their position. Shall we stand by as nonparticipants in the game of PR, marketing, and advertising and let them take the day?

Use of marketing should never replace the essence of a missional heart-beat: a life-oriented, conversation-driven, love-lavished pursuit of those whom Jesus misses most. Jesus’ famous sermon was not “in the valley” but “on the mount.” Jesus positioned himself to broadcast his message. If we propose to advance the gospel in and through the culture, we can’t afford to see the cultural use of communication as an enemy but as an ally. Use of marketing tools can be a powerful support to personal evangelism. These are exciting times to steward the most important message to be heard.

People today are busy, so bombarded with information, that we only have about sixty seconds to connect with them. If we don’t convince them in our one-minute window of opportunity that we’re worth their valuable time, money, and attention, they’ll switch their focus to something else.

The premise of POP! is that the best way to attract instant interest is to make our communication (in particular our titles, taglines, elevator introductions, and sales slogans) Purposeful, Original and Pithy. This is so rarely done, it makes what we’re saying and swelling incredibly appealing.

Here is a little more detail about the three components of POP!

P Stands for Purposeful

Communication that features brilliant wordplay doesn’t qualify for POP! status unless it does two things: accurately articulates the essence of you and your offering, and positions you positively with your target audience.

If people are scratching their heads after we’ve introduced our idea or invention, wondering what this has to do with them, we’ve just wasted their time and ours.

O Stands for Original

It’s almost a given that no matter what you saying or selling, you’re one of many. What is about you that distinguishes you from your competition?

One way to distinguish yourself is to be original and offer something unlike anyone or anything else. Instead of competing in a crowded niche, create your own. When you’re one of a kind, there is no competition.

People are yearning for something fresh. When we see or hear something original, we find it appealing. That product or business is no longer inanimate or boring. Instead of dismissing it, we feel compelled to try it.

P Stands for Pithy

The word pithy, which means concise and precise, may not sound very eloquent, but it’s an important part of POP! communication.

The human brain can only hold approximately seven bits of information in short-term memory. If our description of our offering is longer than seven words, chances are people won’t be able to remember it. And if they don’t remember it, our effort to obtain their attention, support, and money for our offering has failed.

Sam Horn, POP! Stand Out in Any Crowd


Imagine that your team has taken over a local news station. Give the station new call letters – tell what it stands for. Be as cheesy as possible here.

Brainstorm story possibilities based on the announcements for this week’s worship service. Now select the top three stories that your team will produce for the news “broadcast.” Now assign members of your team to be reporters who would anchor the stories for broadcast to the team.

In preparation for the simulated “newscast,” have each Anchor and their reporting team answer these questions:

  • Why do people need to hear these stories?
  • How do they communicate our vision?
  • What would happen if we really could have these stories broadcast inside and outside the church?

As a team, think of how you can use a similar decision-making process, and filtering questions, to prioritize announcements in your worship service each week.

– Adapted from The Vision Deck

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 57-3, January 2017


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

Make Your Culture Conversation Clear About Results

Either you will manage your culture, or it will manage you.

Simply defined, culture is the way people think and act.

Every organization has a culture, which either works for you or against you – and it can make the difference between success and failure. Managing the organizational culture so that leaders, managers, and team members think and act in the manner necessary to achieve desired results has never mattered more.

When most organizations try to improve their culture, they focus on the negative aspects, and try to fix them. This sounds reasonable, but the opposite approach is much more successful. You may find greater success in identifying a few positive attributes within your culture that are connected directly to your identity and mission. Focus on them and find ways to accelerate and extend them throughout the organization.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Change the Culture, Change the Game, by Roger Connors and Tom Smith

Two-time New York Times bestselling authors Roger Connors and Tom Smith show how leaders can achieve record-breaking results by quickly and effectively shaping their organizational culture to capitalize on their greatest asset – their people.

Change the Culture, Change the Game joins their classic book, The Oz Principle, and their recent bestseller, How Did That Happen?, to complete the most comprehensive series ever written on workplace accountability. Based on an earlier book, Journey to the Emerald City, this fully revised installment captures what the authors have learned while working with the hundreds of thousands of people on using organizational culture as a strategic advantage.


In all too many organizations, there is a lack of clarity about results. To the extent we are unclear about the results we want, most actions taken to achieve them will lack cohesion at best or be at cross purposes at worst.

The culture conversation at your organization has to be clear about the results you intend to achieve.

A culture of accountability exists when people in every corner of the organization make the personal choice to take the steps to accountability. Each step builds on the previous one and involves best practices that typify what taking that step truly requires.

See It – means moving above the line of accountability or staying there whenever a new challenge arises. When you See It, you relentlessly obtain the perspectives of others, communicate openly and candidly, ask for and offer feedback, and hear the hard things that allow you to see reality.

Own It – means being personally invested, learning from both successes and failures, aligning your work with desired organizational results, and acting on the feedback you receive. When you Own It, you align yourself with the mission and priorities of the organization and accept them as your own.

Solve It – requires persistent effort as you encounter obstacles that stand in the way of achieving results. When you take this step, you constantly ask the question “What else can I do?” to achieve results, overcome obstacles, and make progress.

Do It – the final step of the process represents the natural culmination of the first three steps. Once you See It, Own It, and Solve It, you must get out there and Do It. That means doing what you say you will do, focusing on top priorities, staying above the line of accountability by not blaming others, and sustaining an environment of trust.

Roger Connors and Tom Smith, Change the Culture, Change the Game


In your next leadership team meeting, go around the room and ask each team member to define their job. More than likely, most people will simple state their job title or a short summary of that position.

The problem with answers like that is they are just identifying where people are located in an organization – which, in turn, has a tremendous impact on how people think about their jobs.

Now, go around the room and ask each team member to define their job based on what is needed to do to achieve results in achieving your mission. List these on a chart tablet, and ask each member to write them down as well.

Ask each team member to take some time over the next week, noting where the results needed to achieve their mission could be improved. Have them prepare an action plan, based on the four steps listed above, to achieve those results in the coming month.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 58-2, January 2017


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.