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

A NEXT STEP

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.

Strengths

  • 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?

Opportunities

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

Aspirations

  • 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?

Results

  • 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.

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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.