Leaders Forecast the Future

Do you feel like most days you are running on a ministry treadmill? You know the feeling – it’s when the busyness of ministry creates a progressively irreversible hurriedness in your life as a leader. The sheer immediacy of each next event or ministry demand prevents you from taking the time to look to the future horizon – and sometimes even today’s calendar – until it crashes in on you.

All too often, today’s demands can choke out the needed dialogue for tomorrow. When this occurs, your multiplied activity accomplishes little of value and prevents you from ministry with a clear sense of what God has called you to do.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Signals Are Talking, by Amy Webb

Amy Webb is a noted futurist who combines curiosity, skepticism, colorful storytelling, and deeply reported, real-world analysis in this essential book for understanding the future. The Signals Are Talking reveals a systemic way of evaluating new ideas bubbling up on the horizon – distinguishing what is a real trend from the merely trendy. This book helps us hear which signals are talking sense, and which are simply nonsense, so that we might know today what developments-especially those seemingly random ideas at the fringe as they converge and begin to move toward the mainstream-that have long-term consequence for tomorrow.

With the methodology developed in The Signals Are Talking, we learn how to think like a futurist and answer vitally important questions: How will a technology-like artificial intelligence, machine learning, self-driving cars, bio hacking, bots, and the Internet of Things – affect us personally? How will it impact our businesses and workplaces? How will it eventually change the way we live, work, play, and think-and how should we prepare for it now?

Most importantly, Webb persuasively shows that the future isn’t something that happens to us passively. Instead, she allows us to see ahead so that we may forecast what’s to come – challenging us to create our own preferred futures.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Forecast the Future

Though it may often seem like it, tomorrow doesn’t arrive fully formed, but develops in measured steps. The tomorrow in question is not a calendar day, but the whole spectrum of actions, activities, and personalities that together make up your future.

No, your tomorrow begins taking shape with seemingly disparate events from all directions around you. They may seem random, but in the right context these points will be discerned first as a fuzzy pattern before developing into a meaningful whole. Before you know it, your future has arrived.

Are you ready for the future? Maybe the bigger question should be, did you see it coming? 

No one should plan for a future she cannot see.

Futurists are skilled at listening to and interpreting the signals talking. It’s a learnable skill, and a process anyone can master. Futurists look for early patterns – pre-trends, if you will – as the scattered points on the fringe converge and begin moving toward the mainstream. They know most patterns will come to nothing, and so they watch and wait and test the patterns to find those few that will evolve into genuine trends.

Each trend is a looking glass into the future, a way to see over time’s horizon. The advantage of forecasting the future win this way is obvious. Organizations that can see trends early enough to take action have first-mover influence. But they can also help to inform and shape the broader context, conversing and collaborating with those in other fields to plan ahead.

One of the reasons you don’t recognize this moment in time as an era of great transformation is because it’s hard to recognize change. The pace of change has accelerated, as we are exposed to and adopt new technologies with greater enthusiasm and voracity each year.

Forecasting the future requires a certain amount of mental ambidexterity. Just as a piano player must control her left and right hands as she glides around the keyboard playing, you need to learn how to think in two ways at once – both monitoring what’s happening in the present and thinking how the present relates to the future.

Amy Webb, The Signals Are Talking

A NEXT STEP

Mapping the future for your church begins with identifying early signposts as you look out on the horizon. In order to chart the best way forward, you must understand emerging trends: what they are, what they aren’t, and how they operate.

Amy Webb has developed a six-part process that can help you forecast the future. These six steps were developed during a decade of research at the Future Today Institute.

  1. Find the Fringe – Make observations and harness information from the fringes of society or a particular area. What can you observe about the groups of people in your church that might look or act different from the majority? What motivates or demotivates them?
  2. Use CIPER – Uncover hidden patterns by searching for Contradictions, Inflections, Practices, Hacks, Extremes, and Rarities. Are there any “unwritten” rules at your church in parking, arrival time, or ministry patterns that tell a story?
  3. Ask the Right Questions – Determine if whether a pattern is really a trend.
  4. Calculate the ETA – Ensure that the timing is right for the trend and for your organization.
  5. Write Scenarios – Scenarios inform the strategy you will create to take the necessary action on a trend. Talk through any changes that you might make as a result of the discoveries above. What complications and opportunities emerge as you think through the impact on the congregation.
  6. Pressure-Test the Future – Are your scenarios comprehensive enough? Is the strategy you’re taking the right one for the future?

Write each one of the six steps above on a separate chart tablet. Set aside three hours with your team to work through the six steps above, answering the question “What is the future of X?” where X is a proposed new ministry initiative.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 64-1, April 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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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 Do You Get Dreamers and Doers on the Same Page?

Most pastors will invest more time on preaching preparation for the next month than they will on vision communication for the next five years. How about you?

That quick experiment is a great way to introduce a special two-part SUMS Remix devoted to the visionary planning problems you must solve.

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and author of God Dreams, has never had a pastor disagree with him about the simple time analysis above. Most quickly nod with agreement, and understand that something is not quite right about it.

Of the many reasons (let’s be honest… excuses) given, one of the most important is that no one has shown the pastor how to spend time on vision planning. That’s what God Dreams is designed to do. Central to the book’s process is the Horizon Storyline, a tool leaders can use to connect short-term action steps with the long-range dream, while leveraging the power of storytelling to make the plan stick.

Vision Planning Problem #4: People who like to dream and people who like to execute are rarely on the same page. 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Sprint, by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz

From three partners at Google Ventures, a unique five-day process for solving tough problems, proven at more than a hundred companies.

Entrepreneurs and leaders face big questions every day: What’s the most important place to focus your effort, and how do you start? What will your idea look like in real life? How many meetings and discussions does it take before you can be sure you have the right solution?

Now there’s a surefire way to answer these important questions: the sprint. Designer Jake Knapp created the five-day process at Google, where sprints were used on everything from Google Search to Google X. He joined Braden Kowitz and John Zeratsky at Google Ventures, and together they have completed more than a hundred sprints with companies in mobile, e-commerce, healthcare, finance, and more.

A practical guide to answering critical business questions, Sprint is a book for teams of any size, from small startups to Fortune 100s, from teachers to nonprofits. It’s for anyone with a big opportunity, problem, or idea who needs to get answers today.

Solution #4: The Horizon Storyline will bring your dreamers and doers together around one vision.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

The fact that most primary leaders in the church communicate for a living amplifies this problem. Sermon development is intuitive, creative, and idea-oriented. It’s often hard to get conceptual thinkers like that sitting down with the operational leaders who manage, budget, and make decision after decision, day after day. These two staff functions usually pass like ships in the night hardly recognizing the other is present.

Entrepreneurs and leaders face big questions every day: What’s the most important place to focus your effort, and how do you start? What will your idea look like in real life? How many meetings and discussions does it take before you can be sure you have the right solution?

Good ideas are hard to find. And even the best ideas face an uncertain path to real-world success. That’s true whether you’re running a startup, teaching a class, or working inside a large organization.

The sprint is Google Venture’s unique five-day process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers. It’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavioral science, design, and more – packaged into a step-by-step process.

Sprint is a DIY guide for running your own sprint to answer your pressing business questions. On Monday, you’ll map out the problem and pick an important place to focus. On Tuesday, you’ll sketch competing solutions on paper. On Wednesday, you’ll make difficult decisions and turn your ideas into a testable hypothesis. On Thursday, you’ll hammer out a realistic prototype. And on Friday, you’ll test it with real live humans.

Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz, Sprint 

A NEXT STEP

The sprint, as outlined in the book of the same name, is a five-day process for answering tough questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas. First developed at Google Ventures, it’s now been used by hundreds of organizations around the world.

The sprint process is a literal “greatest hits” of strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking – packaged into a one-week process.

When your team takes on the process of a sprint, you can shortcut the endless debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. It’s almost like having a team superpower: you will be able to fast-forward into the future to see the finished “product” – without having to make expensive commitments of resources.

Gather your team together and watch this video to help set the stage for the process.

It will be helpful for you to review this DIY page prior to this session.

Set the stage for the Sprint Process by downloading the kickoff PDF. Review it and be comfortable enough to lead the session as noted.

Download the Sprint Checklists and review the first three pages, “Setting the Stage” and “Supplies.”

Choose a big picture vision and use the Sprint Process with your team.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 47-4, August 2016.

 


 

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.

Is Your Vision Caged on Paper?

Most pastors will invest more time on preaching preparation for the next month than they will on vision communication for the next five years. How about you?

That quick experiment is a great way to introduce a special two-part SUMS Remix devoted to the visionary planning problems you must solve.

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and author of God Dreams, has never had a pastor disagree with him about the simple time analysis above. Most quickly nod with agreement, and understand that something is not quite right about it.

Of the many reasons (let’s be honest… excuses) given, one of the most important is that no one has shown the pastor how to spend time on vision planning. That’s what God Dreams is designed to do. Central to the book’s process is the Horizon Storyline, a tool leaders can use to connect short-term action steps with the long-range dream, while leveraging the power of storytelling to make the plan stick.

Vision Planning Problem #1: You craft a vision statement, but it’s not meaningful enough to talk about after it’s been written.

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Illuminate, by Nancy Duarte

“THE PEOPLE WHO ARE CRAZY ENOUGH TO THINK THEY CAN CHANGE THE WORLD ARE THE ONES WHO DO.”

With these words, Apple Inc., and its leader, Steve Jobs, catalyzed a movement. Whenever Jobs took the stage to talk about new Apple products, the whole world seemed to stop and listen. That’s because Jobs was offering a vision of the future. He wanted you to feel what the world might someday be like, and trust him to take you there.

As a leader, you have the same potential to not only anticipate the future and invent creative initiatives, but to also inspire those around you to support and execute your vision.

In Illuminate, acclaimed author Nancy Duarte and communications expert Patti Sanchez equip you with the same communication tools that great leaders like Jobs, Howard Schultz, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to move people. Duarte and Sanchez lay out a plan to help you lead people through the five stages of transformation using speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols.

This visual and accessible communication guidebook will show you how Apple, Starbucks, IBM, charity:water, and others have mobilized people to embrace bold changes. To envision the future is one thing, getting others to go there with you is another. By harnessing the power of persuasive communication you, too, can turn your idea into a movement. 

Solution #1: The Horizon Storyline will teach everybody to use vision everyday.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

As crazy as it seems, the problem listed above <<repeat problem>> is a common experience. The words become “caged” on paper after the vision retreat or committee meeting. The problem is that vision transfers through people, not paper.

The visionary leader must also be a cultural architect. Transforming the future is made possible because the cultural perspective is held in conscious view. While it’s possible to communicate your vision in many ways, the spoken word has the ability to grip hearts in a way no other medium can.

Only when you pull people together in a room are you able to create a unique opportunity for human connection. Speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols become your unique torchbearer kit to help communicate your dream in a compelling and desirable way, helping your travelers long for and help achieve it.

Deliver Speeches

When you deliver a speech, you have the opportunity to explain your ideas and directly address resistance to change. By contrasting the current situation (what is) with the improved reality travelers will enjoy if they embrace your dream (what could be), you’ll be able to make the future more alluring than the present.

Tell Stories

Whereas speeches structurally move back and forth between the present and the future, a story follows a single protagonist’s transformation. We remember stories because they connect our hearts and minds to an idea.

Hold Ceremonies

Ceremonies fulfill a need to express emotion collectively resulting in communal catharsis. Ceremonial acts help travelers envision new behavior or purge old mindsets so they can move forward unencumbered. Use ceremonies to mark important transitions to provide your troops the opportunity for community and commitment.

Use Symbols

Symbols are ordinary artifacts that take on meaning because they were part of a speech, story, or ceremony. They express ideas and emotions in concentrated form. Because of their resonance, symbols become the visual language of a social group. They express people’s thoughts, feelings, and values in a shorthand and sometimes highly charged way.

Nancy Duarte, Illuminate

A NEXT STEP

At your next leadership team meeting, break the team into four groups. Each group will write a compelling story describing what you would like the church to become in the next three to five years. Start the story with “Once upon a time,” and be sure to reveal heroes, villains, battles and victories.

Instruct the teams to utilize all four of the methods listed above. Be sure to give as much detail as possible.

When completed, do these three steps for each:

  1. Have each group read their story for the rest of the team.
  2. Ask the other teams to specifically name what possible outcome or reality described that they like best or get most excited about from each story.
  3. Start a list of short-term actions that are do-able first steps to see that dream become a reality.

Now prioritize the first four action initiatives, assigning a key leader and completion date to each. For more on developing short-term action initiatives refer to Chapter 17 in God Dreams.


Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 47-1, published July 2016.


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.

Learn to Think Beyond “Right Now”

Imagine that the role of vision in your church is like an axe.

When skillfully used, it makes a path clear. It removes obstacles. It broadens the path for others to follow. It enable greater accomplishment.

Most pastors regularly pick up the axe of vision in their ministry. Some quickly set it back down, having never been trained in its effective use. Others swing like crazy, unaware that they wield a dull edge. Too often they become frustrated or confused by too little return for their tireless work.

One way to sharpen the axe of vision is by thinking beyond “right now.”

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THE QUICK SUMMARY – God Dreams, by Will Mancini

Is your team excited about the next big dream for your church?

You are a visionary leader and your church probably has a vision statement. Yet most churches are stuck in a trap of generic communication without a truly visionary plan. Just like a visionary restaurant needs a more specific focus than “serving food,” a visionary church needs something more than biblical generalizations like “loving God, loving people” or “making disciples and serving the world.”

When a team doesn’t share an understanding of God’s next big dream, leadership grows tired, overworked by an “all things to all people” ministry approach. Too often there’s no unified picture of what success looks like. People can feel uninspired and your church’s programming can seem more optional than ever.

Ministry without clarity is insanity. Are you ready for a better way?

In this groundbreaking work, based on Will Mancini’s 15 years and over 10,000 hours of church team facilitation, God Dreams reveals a simple and powerful planning method that will bring energy and focus to your church like never before.

First, God Dreams shows how to reclaim the role of long-range vision today by providing 12 vision templates, each with biblical, historical, and contemporary illustrations. These vision starters will dramatically accelerate your team’s ability to find complete agreement regarding your church’s future.

Second, God Dreams explains how to overcome the fruitless planning efforts that many church teams experience. With a tool called the Horizon Storyline, leaders can connect short-term action steps with the long-range dream, while leveraging the power of storytelling to make the plan “stick.” This tool will galvanize a diverse team of ministry leaders and volunteers with unprecedented enthusiasm.

Imagine leading with a refreshed sense of freedom and confidence, with a totally new way to inspire your church. Imagine the ability to harness the energy and resources of your people toward a specific dream of gospel impact, in your church and in your lifetime.

God Dreams is your passport to leading into a better future.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

For more than a few reasons, the practice of long-term thinking is hard to come by these days. Steward Brand, who is working on an interesting project called the 10,000-year clock project writes:

Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next election perspective of democracies or the distractions of personal multitasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective is needed.

This “think long” clock is consistent with God’s view of time.

God chooses to reveal Himself through redemptive history. Time is His canvas. This simple fact by itself challenges us to think about the future in epic chunks of time.

It’s time to trade an obsession with now for a mind-set that values thinking long, beginning with the discovery of twelve compelling benefits in the value of thinking long.

thinklong

Will Mancini, God Dreams

A NEXT STEP

Review the twelve compelling reasons to think long above, and note that they are grouped into three broad categories. We think long first because the Bible challenges us to do so, second because practical considerations invite us to do so, and third because it’s a key for unlocking the motivation of people.

To broaden this discussion with your team, reproduce the chart above with each of the three categories and their reasons on a single chart tablet sheet. Using these three sheets, discuss each of the 12 in terms of how you and your church can begin to think long.

Do you really want to inspire people? Don’t flood your church with more programs and events. Rather, blow their minds with new context. Give them something that blows up the smaller stories of the now. Disrupt the casual week-to-week worship routine with a real, visible, and dramatic picture of the specific difference your church will make 10 years from now. Give people something epic!

If you think long, you are more likely to dream big and attempt great.


Life is too short and ministry is too hard to swing all day with a blunt-edged vision.

 

Taken from SUMS Remix 31-3, published January 2016.


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. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Starting at the End

TheImagineeringWorkout

inspired by and adapted from The Imagineering Workout, by the Disney Imagineers

– Peter Steinman, General Counsel, Disney Imagineering

Working from the back-end is finding the lessons that you don’t want to learn in the midst of your project. 

This practice of back-end visualization is essential to almost everything we do and can be adapted to any project. 

Next, consider how you could minimize these challenges so they do not negatively impact the project, and take necessary preventive action. This might be done through a contract, through people you might hire, materials you might use, or by adjusting a schedule.

Imagine all the reasonably possible outcomes of the project, select one that best meets your needs, think through all things that could delay, detour, or diminish your outcome and write them down.

Anticipating the possible outcomes of everyday decisions before you make them helps you avoid calamities, not to mention inconveniences.

WDVision

It takes a special kind of vision to see the end before the beginning.

“Of course he did,” recounted his wife Lillian. “If he had not seen it then, we would not be seeing it now.”

After being around Disney cast members for several days this week, the story of people lamenting the fact that Walt died before Walt Disney World was built was recounted several times.

Being onsite at a Disney theme park always heightens my awareness of Walt Disney and the vision he had to bring so much to our world – groundbreaking animation, the concept of the storyboard creative process, live action/animation  movies, and especially the concept of theme parks.

January 31, 2016

A celebration of National Backwards Day

Focus on the Ultimate to Make Your Vision Sharp

What does it take to gain the focus required to become a truly effective leader?

The Apostle Paul had absolute focus on his mission – a focus that enabled him to let go of everything that was not critical to his mission. In Philippians 3:5-9, Paul willingly discarded his heritage, his lineage, his former legalism, and his past zeal in order to advance his mission.

Paul’s focus was so sharp that he discarded everything he once counted gain. But he goes beyond that: he counted everything as garbage for the sake of obtaining Christ.

Leaders who want to change the world need to have this same kind of sharp focus. The keys are priorities and concentration. A leader who knows his priorities but lacks concentration knows what to do, but never gets it done. A leader with concentration but no priorities has excellence without progress. But when leaders harness both, they gain the potential to achieve great things.

John Maxwell, writing in The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader says that leaders base their decisions on a variety of things:

  • The Ultimate – First things first
  • The Urgent – Loud things first
  • The Unpleasant – Hard things first
  • The Unfinished – Last things first
  • The Unfulfilling – Dull things first

Paul exemplifies a leader who focused on the ultimate every day. How about you? To get back on track with your focus, work on these items:

  • Work on yourself: you are your greatest asset or worst liability
  • Work on your priorities: fight for the important ones
  • Work in your strengths: you can reach your potential if you do
  • Work with your colleagues: you can’t be effective alone

Focus on the ultimate, and your vision will become sharper.

 

inspired by and adapted from The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader