Learning from the World of Business Bankruptcy and Software Development

Kodak, the iconic company that was synonymous with pictures, has declared bankruptcy.

When that news came out last week, I knew I would be getting around to connecting it to ChurchWorld. James Emery White, pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, already has: What Business Are You In? is a great post that every ChurchWorld leader needs to read.

As soon as I had finished reading it, my thoughts went back to the Generation Flux cover story from Fast Company that I posted here, here, and here last week. There were several topics that I had marked in it for future research, and one of them ties in nicely to the bankruptcy announcement by Kodak and White’s post.

It’s about being agile.

I’m not talking exclusively about physical agility, the ability to move quickly and with suppleness, skill, and control; I’m not talking only about mental agility, the ability to be able to think quickly and intelligently. It’s really a combination of the two, and more.

Software development used to be developed by what chaos expert DJ Patil called the “waterfall” process:

One group develops the product, another builds visual mockups…and finally a set of engineers builds it to some specification document.

Think Microsoft and their practice of having a designated schedule of issuing large, finished releases of their products (Windows 95, Windows 2000, etc.). Today that process has given way to “agile” development, what Patil calls “the ability to adapt and iterate quickly throughout the product life cycle.” In today’s software world, that concept follows the precepts of “The Agile Manifesto,” a 2001 document written by a group of developers who stated a preference for:

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • working software over comprehensive documentation
  • responding to change over following a plan

Maybe it’s time for an Agile Manifesto for ChurchWorld.

If Only Things Were Like They Used To Be

Nostalgia is a natural human emotion, a survival mechanism that pushes people to avoid risk by applying what we’ve learned and relying on what’s worked before.

It’s also about as useful as an appendix right now.

That quote is from Fast Company Editor Robert Safian, writing the cover story “Generation Flux” for the February 2012 issue. He goes on to add:

When times seem uncertain, we instinctively become more conservative; we look to the past, to times that seemed simpler, and we have the urge to recreate them. This impulse is as true for organizations  as for people. But when the past has been blown away by new technology, by the ubiquitous and always-on global hypernetwork, beloved best practices may well be useless.

ChurchWorld, to a great extent, finds itself in that situation right now.

There are huge shifts occurring in the economic, social, cultural, and spiritual fabric of our lives right now. That’s not new – change has always been a part of who we as humans are. But what’s different is the pace of change. It’s not just getting faster – it’s accelerating along an exponential curve.

And the response of ChurchWorld?

Put a fence around your facility and charge admission to a museum dedicated to the 1990s – or 1980s – or 1970s – or 1960s – or 1950s – or…

Oh, it’s not that blatant – but it is obvious.

It’s time to change.

My absolute favorite quote about change is from Will Rogers:

Will Rogers quote

To survive THRIVE in this age of flux, you have to claim what makes your church unique, what sets you apart from 10,000 other churches, what God has uniquely gifted your people to be and doHold onto that – and change any and every thing else that needs to be changed in order to live out God’s calling.

Generation Flux

In our hypernetworked, mobile, social, global world, the rules and plans of yesterday are increasingly under pressure; the enterprises and individuals that will thrive will be those willing to adapt and iterate, in a disciplined, unsentimental way.

The above quote by Fast Company magazine editor Robert Safian is the introduction to the cover story on Generation Flux. That cover story, plus several other articles, are a great primer to introduce you to Generation Flux.

Generation Flux is less a demographic designation than a psychographic one: What defines GenFlux is a mindset that embraces instability, that tolerates – and even enjoys – recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions. Not everyone will join Generation Flux, but to be successful, organizations and individuals will have to work at it.

Clarity evangelist Will Mancini, in a recent post, described five “tweaks” that ChurchWorld leaders need to practice in order to keep their ministry. They are just the kind of actions that Generation Flux can pull off.

Another powerful quote from Safian: “The vast bulk of our institutions – educational, corporate, political – are not built for flux. Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.”

To his list above, add ChurchWorld. Then ask yourself, “What am I going to do about it?”



The Irony of Change

It’s actually pretty ironic.

All week long I have been writing and speaking about “change.” I’m in Dallas for the NACDB annual meeting and the 2011 Worship Facilities Conference & Expo.

Late Thursday afternoon, just as the Expo was closing, my bag with laptop, Kindle, some books, and project files was stolen from our display booth. 5 minutes before it was there; I turned around from talking to someone and it was gone.

It was just a “thing,” not a person. In the grand scheme of things I’ve heard this week and the life stories I’m a part of, it should be no big deal.

But in a whole lot of ways, it was my “life” – certainly my professional life for the last 7 1/2 years, and a majority of my other life – writings, projects, research, church stuff, and a whole lot of things I’m even now trying to remember.


I’ve always been a pragmatic, bridge-under-the-water guy. Long a student of history, I’ve thought & told others that what’s happened can’t be changed, that you must live in the present and create your own future.

Sounds good till the only past you have resides in a spotty memory, your present is filled with sleepless anxiety, and the future is dark.

So it’s 4:30 AM, sleep has eluded me, reading just isn’t working, and TV is dreary infomercials and bad news. I’m writing a lot and posting a little via my cell phone to see if I can begin to process what’s going on.

I don’t know – and am having difficulty expressing – what’s going through my head.

But change is here.

Change and What You Do

Change is important.

But it’s also important to cling to core values. Paul experienced that tension, and God helped him to facilitate change while not abandoning his core values. In Acts 16:6-10, Paul is all set to carry the Gospel message to Bithynia – but the Spirit of God redirected him to Macedonia. Change – new direction. But it was only a new direction, not a new message. Paul’s core value was not Bithynia; it was fulfilling God’s desire to expand His kingdom. Because he didn’t confuse his desire (to go to Bithynia) with his core value (to follow God’s call), Paul sailed straight for Macedonia.

In the great book Built to Last, Jim Collins notes that once a visionary company identifies its core ideology, it preserves it almost religiously – changing it seldom, if ever. Collins concluded that:

Core values in a visionary company form a rock-solid foundation and do not drift with the trends and fashions of the day. In some cases, these core
values have
remained in place for over one hundred years. Yet, while keeping their core ideologies tightly fixed, visionary companies display a powerful desire for progress that enables them to change and adapt without compromising their cherished core ideals.

The point? Capable leaders who recognize their core values can change practices and procedures to enable their organizations to move forward while preserving those same core values.

Like Paul, all godly leaders need the ability to hold on to core values while making those changes necessary to advance their cause.


Change and How It Works as a Leader

Change is tough enough when we’re the only ones involved. But the role of a leader is to bring about change in others and in an organization. All of a sudden, there are more people involved, and this change business just got a lot tougher!

God modeled some powerful principles of organizational change when He urged the exclusively Jewish church in Jerusalem to embrace Gentiles (Acts 10:9-23). This passage shows how God led Peter from being an opponent of change to becoming its champion. Take a look at these 7 principles of change God led Peter to

  • God started where Peter was
  • God allowed Peter to challenge the idea
  • God gave Peter time to work through his resistance
  • God permitted Peter to experiment with small changes first
  • The change proposal was well-prepared
  • God didn’t ask Peter to “change”; He invited Peter to participate in what Peter already loved
  • God convinced a key leader and allowed that leader himself to champion the change

Can you think of a situation today that these principles would be of help to you?

If so, then Change Away!

Change and Who You Are

Change and innovation are integral components of both biological and spiritual growth. In the medical world, a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death.

  • If you don’t change, you die.
  • It’s that simple. It’s that scary.

Spiritual growth is more about process than product, because all believers are in a process (whether we resist it or not) of becoming the people
God meant us to be. In the same way as biological growth, without change, spiritual growth is impossible.

Consider Abram and the immense change through his encounters with God. This was not simply a shifting of external elements in his life, and adjustment to his schedule. God asked for a complete overhaul of Abram’s career, dreams, and destiny. God even changed his name to Abraham to signify the depth of the change.

When leaders contemplate change, their first consideration must be the anchors that provide stability in a changing environment. Abraham believed in the Lord, and that security allowed him to pursue revolutionary change. Similarly, the Christian life is an ongoing process of change and internal revolution, grounded in the belief that this process is reforming us to become more Christ-like.

How do you find yourself resisting the changes God brings into your life? Do you focus more on process or on product?