Altitude Affects Attitude

Take a drive through the beautiful Western North Carolina mountains, especially around Asheville, and you will see why the city has used the above saying as their tagline.

FallMtn

Chamber of Commerce thinking aside, being aware of your altitude also helps when reviewing your priorities in order to get things done. In order to fully understand your priorities, you need to know what your work is. Using an aerospace analogy by management consultant David Allen in his book Getting Things Done, the conversations you need to be having have a lot to do with altitude:

50,000 feet: Life – this is the “biggest picture” view you can have. Why does your organization exist? The primary purpose for anything provides a core definition of what its “work” really is. All goals, visions, objectives, projects, and actions both derive from this, and lead toward it.

40,000 feet: Three to Five Year Vision – projecting three to five years into the future generates thinking about big categories like organization strategies, trends, and transition circumstances. Decisions at this altitude could easily change what your work might look like on many levels.

30,000 feet: One to Two Year Goals – One to two-year goals add a new dimension to defining your work. Meeting goals and objectives often require a shift in emphasis of your job focus.

20,000 feet: Areas of Responsibility – You create or accept most of your projects because of your responsibilities, which for most people can be defined in ten to fifteen categories. These are key areas in which you want to achieve results and maintain standards. Listing and reviewing these responsibilities gives a more comprehensive framework for evaluating your inventory of projects.

10,000 feet: Current Projects – Creating many of the actions that you currently have in front of you are the thirty to one hundred projects on your plate. These are relatively short term outcomes you want to achieve.

Runway: Current Actions – this is the accumulated list of all the actions you need to take – phone calls to make, emails to respond to, errands you need to run, and the agendas you want to communicate to your boss or team.

Though these altitude analogies are somewhat arbitrary, they provide a useful framework to remind you of the multi-layered nature of your “job” and the resulting commitments and tasks it demands.

Mastering the flow of work at all the “altitudes” you experience provides a “flight plan” that will help you accomplish a great deal and feel good in the process.

Fasten your seat belts and make sure your tray tables are in the upright and locked position –

…it’s time for your framework for decision-making to take flight.

Waiting is a Less Risky Form of Saying “No”

A few thoughts from the intersection of Seth Godin, George Harrison, Alice in Wonderland, Dr. Seuss, and Todd Henry…

Auxano’s Founder and Team Leader, Will Mancini posed the following question in a morning text to our team:

Where could you use breakthrough clarity on your leadership team? 

The question is intended to be asked by our Navigators to the leaders they are connecting with in churches – but it’s also appropriate for leaders everywhere. Most leaders can immediately identify a barrier or roadblock that stands in their way of moving forward to better future. Many leaders also have some idea about how to break that barrier.

It begs another question: What are you waiting for?

That question was on my mind as I began my day’s reading, researching, curating, and editing – and over a period of a few hours, the following came together:

Excellence isn’t about working extra hard to do what you’re told. It’s about taking the initiative to do work you decide is worth doing. It’s a personal, urgent, this-is-my-calling way to do your job. Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them.   – Seth Godin

Mapmakers are those who can effectively circumnavigate constraints in order to make things happen. We all deal with constraints, especially if we are working inside an organization. There will always be organizational charts, reporting structures, budgets, and defined career paths of some sort. The question isn’t whether constraints exist, but whether persist in finding our way around and through them.

Where in your life and work are you waiting for permission? Don’t anticipate that someone is going to hand you a map. You’ll probably have to make your own. The good news is that once you get moving, the terrain becomes more visible and navigable. It’s only when you’re standing still, unaware of what’s over the next hill, that the path of progress is opaque and frightening.

Say yes, then figure it out along the way.

Todd Henry, Die Empty

A quote often wrongly attributed to The Cheshire Cat:

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.   – George Harrison, from his song “Any Road”

The actual conversation between Alice and The Cheshire Cate:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

And, from everyone’s favorite graduation gift book,

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…

   – Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

A closing challenge from Todd Henry:

When you look back on your life, the moments you will be most proud of will likely be the ones where you stepped out of your comfort zone in the pursuit of something you believed in. Don’t allow the lull of comfort to keep you trapped in a place of complacency and subpar engagement.

You must own your own growth and take responsibility for your own progress.

inspired by, and adapted from, Todd Henry’s Die Empty

 Die Empty

with a little help from Dr. Seuss, Seth Godin, George Harrison, and Lewis Carroll

 

One Button: The Official Symbol of Simplicity

…a single iconic image can be the most powerful form of communication.

– Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall was the creative director at several ad agencies, working for big-name tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Dell. However, it was his work with Apple over a period of years that gives him a unique perspective of the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity.

The obsession with Simplicity is what separates Apple from other technology companies. Led by Steve Jobs’ uncompromising ways, you can see Simplicity in everything Apple does: the way it’s structured, the way it innovates, and the way it speaks to its customers.

Like this:

Or even this:

Apple branded itself using iconic images and two words that perfectly described the spirit of the company. Every Apple produce sold contributed to the brand image; every product became a manifestation of the brand.

There’s one more example:

One is the simplest number ever invented. It’s so simple, a child can understand it. The further you get away from one, the more complicated things get.

That’s why Steve Jobs insisted on iPhone having only one button, rejecting many models before arriving at the final version. You don’t even have to use an iPhone to get that it’s simple. In fact, one could say that the single button has become an icon of Apple’s devotion to Simplicity.

Simplicity requires little effort.

If Apple had it’s way, all of its products would feature a single button. Now that the iPhone has Siri, the voice-controlled assistant, you might want to prepare yourself for Apple products with zero buttons.

After all, zero is the only number that’s simpler than one.

I’ve really enjoyed reading Insanely Simple and its true insider’s perspective on Apple’s obsession with Simplicity. Ken Segall has really brought the concepts of Simplicity home.

As a leader, are you practicing Simplicity?

Utilizing the Power of the Lineup with Your Guest Services Team

It’s one thing to have a Credo, Three Steps of Service, and 12 Service Values like the Ritz-Carlton (see the post here for more details on these Gold Standards). Many businesses go through the exercise of defining key values or composing mission statements. They might even display them in their literature, or in imposing art displays on the corporate walls.

But how many business leaders understand the importance of regular and repetitive presentation of these core aspects of their business – not only to management, but also to their front-line staff?

Enter the “lineup” at Ritz-Carlton.

To truly appreciate the Ritz-Carlton leadership approach to repeated dissemination of the “Gold Standards” mentioned above, you would have to drop in on a section of the housekeeping staff as they prepare for their days work – or at the corporate headquarters – or in the kitchen of the fine restaurants that serve the hotel chain – or anywhere, and everywhere, throughout the entire organization.

You would observe that a meeting is taking place at the beginning of each shift. Not just any meeting, though: the leader in each group starts by sharing the Credo and talking about the importance of creating a unique guest experience. Another team member might share a guest story from a Ritz-Carlton hotel in another country. Another team member shares how what they do in their department helps create memorable guest experiences. Then a few quick announcements, special recognitions are given, and another team member closes the meeting with a motivational quote.

All in about 20 minutes.

Every day.

On every shift.

In every Ritz-Carlton hotel and office around the world.

The magic of the lineup involves the following:

  • Repetition of values – the core belief that values need to be discussed daily, and that values can’t be discussed enough
  • Common language – shared phrases across all tasks binds the team together
  • Visual symbols – The Credo is printed on a card that all team members carry at all times
  • Oral traditions – Personal, direct, and face-to-face communication makes a huge impact in a world increasingly dominated by e-mail, text, and voice messages
  • Positive storytelling – stories communicate life in a powerful and memorable way
  • Modeling by leaders – the active, daily presence of the leaders communicates the importance of the time together

What would “lineup” for each of your Guest Services teams do to preserve the core values, communicate the importance of everyone on the team, and provide momentum for the day’s activities?

Or how about this word for the process?

Alignment.

13 for 13

This is not a post about triskaidekaphobia, but today would be a good day for one. No, it’s a simple question:

What if Pixar came to your church?

This is Pixar Animation Studio’s track record: 13 for 13.

That’s thirteen films since the studio’s launch in 1995, every one of them a smashing success. What’s their secret?

Their unusual creative process.

Unlike the typical studio that gathers all the necessary personnel to produce a film and then releases them after it is finished, Pixar’s staff of writers, directors, animators, and technicians moves from project to project.

The result: a team of moviemakers who know and trust one another in ways unimaginable on most sets.

My wife and I saw “Brave” recently, and it reminded me of an article in Wired magazine from a couple of years ago on how Pixar does it, using “Toy Story 3” as the example. You can read the whole article here, but take a look at their step-by-step process in a nutshell:

Inspiration

  • Day 1 – coming up with a great story. The creative team leaves the campus for an off site retreat, and knocks out a quick storyline – which they promptly discard.
  • Day 3 – working from a series of plot points, screenwriter Michael Arndt begins drafting the script. Director Lee Unkrich and the story artists start sketching storyboards. The storyboards allow the filmmakers to begin imagining the look and feel of each scene.

Presentation

  • Day 36 – character design begins. Working in digital images, sketches, and clay figures, each character comes to life in a process called simulation – a constant negotiation between the artistic and technical teams.
  • Day 123 – the storyboards are turned into a story reel that can be projected, much like an elaborate flip book. This allows the team to watch along with an audience and determine what works and what doesn’t.

Characterization

  • Day 380 – actors come into the studio to record all the lines – dozens of times. The actors are also being filmed, so the animators can watch the actor’s expressions and use them as reference points when they animate the characters’ faces.
  • Day 400 – shaders began to add color and texture to character’s’ bodies and other surfaces that appear in the film. Complex algorithms are used to simulate the effect of light and shadow on different toy surfaces like plastic, cloth, or wood.

Animation

  • Day 533 – the pictures are moving, defined by up to 1,000 points of possible movement that animators can manipulate like strings on a puppet. Each day the team starts by reviewing the previous day’s work, ripping it apart to make each scene more expressive.
  • Day 806 – technical challenges pile up. The studio’s design which places essential facilities in the center allows the team to have unplanned creative conversations while on the way for a cup of coffee or walking to the bathroom.
  • Day 898 – the animators hit high gear, working late into the night in customized and personalized offices.
  • Day 907 – rendering, the process of using computer algorithms to generate a final frame, is well under way. The average frame (a move has 24 frames per second) takes about seven hours to render, though complex frames can take nearly 39 hours of computer time. The Pixar building has two massive render farms, each of which contains hundreds of servers running 24 hours a day.

Resolution

  • Day 1,070 – the movie is mostly done. the team has completed 25 of the film’s sequences and is finishing the most complicated scene of the move. It has taken 27 technical artists four months to perfect that single scene.
  • Day 1,084 – Only weeks away from release, the audio mixers at Skywalker Sound combine dialog, music, and sound effects. Every nuance is adjusted and readjusted. Director Unkrich: “We don’t ever finish a film – I could keep on making it better. We’re just forced to release it.”

And you thought getting a sermon ready for Sunday was difficult!

The process depicted above can be highly constructive for you and your team. Granted, you don’t have either the budget or the time to produce a film like Toy Story 3, but you can take the principles above and apply them in your context, resources, and time frame.

So, how about it? What Pixar creative magic can you put to use this week?

Simplicity Never Stands Still

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.

– Leonard Bernstein

Former ad agency creative director Ken Segall’s new book Insanely Simple is written from a unique perspective: developing marketing campaigns for technology giants like IBM, Dell, Intel, – and Apple. It was the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity – and inspired him to help others benefit from it.

In the chapter entitled “Think Motion,” Segall refers to Apple’s practices of fast-tracking project and marketing development.  Apple has grown to point where it does a tremendous number of things at once, and in doing so has built one of the world’s greatest juggling acts. Apple:

  • lives in constant motion
  • never stops thrilling its audience
  • never lets things get old

The best illustration of this comes from an example of Segall’s work with both Dell and Apple on similar ventures – developing a new branding campaign.

Apple set out to create a brand campaign in 1997.

   Dell set out to create a brand campaign in 2008.

Apple wanted to start its campaign immediately.

   Dell pondered a schedule that would take months.

Apple’s brand team was led by its CEO.

   Dell’s brand team was led by a committee.

Apple trusted a small group of smart people.

   Dell trusted a small group of incompatible people.

Apple knew exactly who it was.

   Dell need to figure out who it was.

Steve Jobs was an active participant.

   Michael Dell would look in when the project was complete.

Apple’s brand team required only the CEO’s approval.

   Dell’s brand team required each division’s approval.

Apple took a month to conceive and create a campaign.

   Dell required a month just to talk about strategies.

Apple ended up with the Think Different campaign.

   Dell ended up with a stack of presentation boards stored neatly in a dark closet.

Simplicity – represented in the above example by Apple’s actions – is a fundamental requirement when you’re trying to achieve lofty goals. As Dell discovered, a fractured, leaderless group without an urgent mandate is Simplicity-proof.

Will you walk the straight path of Simplicity or choose the dark, winding road of Complexity?

Small is the Ultimate Efficiency

When process is king, ideas will never be. It takes only Common Sense to recognize that the more layers you add to a process, the more watered down the final work will become.

– Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall was the creative director at several ad agencies, working for big-name tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Dell. However, it was his work with Apple over a period of years that gives him a unique perspective of the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made him appreciate the power of Simplicity. Segall recently released a book about these lessons – Insanely Simple. More than just another repetition of Apple lore, it chronicles an outsider’s long relationship with Apple and Steve Jobs that will provide leaders in any organization with the powerful tools of Simplicity.

Simplicity’s Best Friend: Small Groups of Smart People

While working with Apple, Segall often experienced the strict enforcement of one of Simplicity’s most important rules: Start with small groups of smart people – and keep them small. Every time the body count in a meeting or working on a project goes higher, you’re simply inviting Complexity to take a seat at the table.

This small-group principle is a key to Apple’s ongoing success and key to any organization that wants to nurture quality thinking. The idea is pretty basic: Everyone in the room should be there for a reason. Segall distilled years of observing and practicing this idea down into two “Laws of Small.”

The quality of work resulting from a project is inversely proportional to the number of people involved in the project.

The quality of work resulting from a project increases in direct proportion to the degree of involvement by the ultimate decision maker.

To even speak of putting process before creativity did not happen in an environment like Apple’s. A better idea is a better idea – no matter where it fell in the process. The high value placed on ideas is one of the things that Steve Jobs burned into the Apple culture and it will likely continue to guide the company into the future.

How would small groups of smart people work in your organization?

Leadership = Vision Clarity

When I was in graduate school in the early 80’s, strategic planning processes included five-, ten- and sometimes even twenty-year plans. The past was relatively stable and indicated that things would continue as they were into the future. The assumption was that the near future would resemble the recent past. Rapid cultural, technological, and geopolitical change has rendered that assumption obsolete.

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and author of the best-selling book Church Unique states it this way:

Leaders must focus more on preparation than on planning.

Mancini taps heavily into Reggie McNeal’s work here. McNeal, a consultant with The Leadership Network, has written several great books. In The Present Future he addresses 6 tough questions for the church. The one of interest here is “How do we plan for the future?” The short answer is, as both Mancini and McNeal elaborate, you don’t plan – you prepare.

Planning on past actions and assumptions will lead you to cultural irrelevance, methodological obsolescence, and missional ineffectiveness. Churches looking to planning like they always have will be left answering the wrong questions at best; at worst, they will be answering questions not asked!

Church Unique is not a road map that assumes predictability of fixed points and roads that stay unchanged over time. Instead, the tools of Church Unique are more like the compass, sextant, and chronometer of the sailor who moves across an ever-changing sea. Navigating the waters of today’s rapidly changing times requires ceaseless observation and adaptation to the surrounding environment. The better (and biblical) approach to the future involves prayer and preparation, not prediction and planning.

As a leader, are you seeking vision clarity first?

>>Download a free summary of Church Unique here.

>>Download a free summary of The Present Future here.

Got Clarity?

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. – the Cheshire Cat

Where’s your red X?
You know, the spot that says “You are here.”

Looking for the shortest distance between Point A and Point B?

The answers to the above questions aren’t in Will Mancini’s Visual Summary to his book “Church Unique,” but you will be able to grasp the process that just might answer the tough questions you’re facing today.

Take a look.

Download the free e-book.

Start out on the journey…

…today!

If you are the Exponential Conference today and would like a free copy of The Visual Summary, show this post or a Tweet related to it to the guys at the Auxano booth near the Worship Center entrance (while supplies last).

Granite Etching vs Sand Writing

This  post wraps up a quick look at a section of Will Mancini’s book “Church Unique“. I’m at the Exponential PreConference event in Orlando with part of the Auxano team, and this section has been jumping all over me!

So far, it’s been all about Soul Fast Food – but now it’s down to some “solid” stuff! The real nourishment of your people should come from the vision of your Church Unique. Only then will the enduring purpose of the church reflected locally can replace the substitutes of place, personality, programs, and people.

In his book “Built to Last“, author Jim Collins found that enduring organizations have two dominant characteristic that are complementary opposites:

  • A strong conviction about core ideals that never changes
  • A clear understanding that everything else must change in order to preserve the core

If people are nourished by unchanging vision, they are more agreeable when the rules change with tactics. It takes clarity and discipline to understand which things in the organization belong to which category. But what if our people were so captivated by the granite etching that it set us free to play with sand drawings? The leader’s role is not just to communicate in both granite and sand but to show how the two components work together. The leader should help people embrace change by nurturing an emotional connection to the unchanging core vision. The leader should preserve and champion the core vision by showing people how to constantly adapt.

Our change management problems today are vision problems first and people problems second. Many leaders want their people to run a missional marathon but unknowingly feed them junk food, leaving them malnourished and unprepared for the future. 

If you are leader in ChurchWorld, don’t be part of “feeding” your congregation junk fast food – focus on the Bread of Life, and watch your church thrive and grow! When we fail to clarify and nurture the things written in granite, our people get too attached to the things written in sand. This is how the four P’s (place, personality, programs, and people) fit in. These are sand, not granite. As the fluid and flexible stuff of the kingdom they not only should change, but must change. In the absence of vision, the stuff of sand becomes the vision. In the absence of granite, sand is all we can grasp. 

What’s on Your Menu?

The last few posts on 27gen have been a closer examination of Will Mancini’s book Church Unique. Specifically, the chapter entitled “Lost Congregations” that examines how churches adapt to a vision vacuum. Using the metaphor of Soul Fast Food, Mancini challenges the church leader to examine how their structures, programs, and ministries may have become a substitute for the real meal – what God intends for the church.

To wrap this up, I simply want to restate some of Mancini’s questions for your consideration.

  • What really happens in the soul of a congregant when left in a church’s vision vacuum over time?
  • What is left to excite the heart of church attenders?
  • What then fuels the dreams of your people?
  • What nourishes the identity of those who call your church home?

God’s people have a heart for mission; we need guidance to carry it out – vision. When a church articulates and clarifies its vision, the people of God will be released in a powerful realization of God at work in their world.

What’s on your menu?

If you are at the Exponential Conference and you resonated with the Church Unique material, I invite you to participate in the Intentional Discipleship track for your workshops. You can look at a preview here.