The Secret to My Deliberate Practice of Reading

Part Three of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020


During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “The Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Regular reading of both books and magazines remains a part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for writing and publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders.

SUMS Remix is beginning its eighth year – the first two years contained a single book in each issue; the last five years include three books in each issue. If I’ve done my math correctly, that’s 453 books covered in 186 issues since the fall of 2012.

I do like to read!

I’ve recently referenced the “Four Levels of Reading” from a book by Mortimer J. Adler, and how critical they are to my deliberate practice of reading. To help understand, I’m going to illustrate some of the books I’ve read during 2019 by those four levels.

In the process, to close out this “reading week,” I’m taking you back to the very first SUMS book summary…

… because there’s no better place to start than “How to Read a Book.”


You have a mind. Now let us suppose that you also have a book that you want to read. The book consists of language written by someone for the sake of communicating. Your success in reading it is determined by the extent to which you receive everything the writer intended to communicate. – Mortimer J. Adler

 

sums-1-howtoreadabookMortimer J. Adler was an American author, educator, and philosopher who championed the repopularization of the Great Books and Great Ideas curriculum of study. A prolific scholar, he was the author or editor of more than fifty books, including editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It’s very fitting then, that one of his best-known works is How to Read a Book.

The art of reading is the process whereby a mind, with nothing to operate on but the symbols of the readable matter, and with no help from the outside, elevates itself by the power of its own operations.

 

The Levels of Reading

There are four levels of reading – so called because they are cumulative in that each level includes all the others, and you can’t progress to a higher level without mastering the levels that come before. They four levels are:

  • Elementary
  • Inspectional
  • Analytical
  • Syntopical

1 – Elementary Reading – What does the book say?

In mastering this level, one learns the rudiments of the art of reading, receives basic training in reading, and acquires reading skills. Our first encounter at reading is at this level; sadly, many people never progress beyond this level.

At this level of reading, the question asked of the reader is “What does the sentence say?” While that could be conceived as a complex question, in this setting take it at its simplest sense.

The attainment of the skills of elementary reading occurred some time ago for almost everyone reading this summary. Nevertheless, we continue to experience the problems of this level of reading, no matter how capable we may be as readers.

Many readers continue to have various kinds of difficulties reading at this level. Most of the difficulties are mechanical, and can be traced back to early instruction in reading. Overcoming these difficulties usually allows us to read faster.

There are four basic stages of Elementary Reading:

  1. Reading readiness’ (early physical development)
  2. Simple reading (small vocabulary; simple skills)
  3. Expanded reading (large vocabulary; diverse subjects; enjoyment)
  4. Refined reading (understand concepts; compare different views)

Almost all of the books I get on a weekly basis from my local library are Elementary Reading. Sometimes, they intrigue me enough that I will acquire my own copy for deeper reading, but for the most part, just the pure pleasure of reading is enough.

2 – Inspectional Reading – What is the book about?

The focus of reading at this level is to get the most out of a book with in a given amount of time. When reading at this level, your aim is to examine the surface of the book, to learn everything that the surface alone can teach you – which is often a good deal.

Techniques for Inspectional Reading of a book include:

  1. Systematic skimming or pre-reading
  2. Look at the title page and preface: try to pigeonhole type of book
  3. Study table of contents: look for structure/road map for trip
  4. Check index: estimate range of terms and topics; look up some passages that seem crucial
  5. Check the dust jacket: read the publisher’s blurb
  6. Look for chapters which seem most pivotal: read opening and/or
 closing passages/pages carefully
  7. Thumb through entire book, reading a few paragraphs and/or pages
 here and there, esp. at the end, looking for the main argument(s)

Some books, whether from the library, or perusing the shelves at a bookstore, by prior experience with the author, or from a recommendation from a friend, require deeper reading – if even for only a short while.

 

3 – Analytical Reading – What does the book mean?

The third level of reading, analytical reading, is both a more complex and a more systematic activity than either of the previous two levels of reading. Analytical reading is thorough reading, complete reading, or good reading – the best you can do. The analytical reader must ask many organized questions of what he is reading.

Analytical reading is hardly ever necessary if your goal in reading is simply information or entertainment. Analytical reading is preeminently for the sake of understanding. Moving your mind from a condition of understanding less to a condition of understanding more with the aid of a book is almost impossible unless you have at least some skill in analytical reading.

Techniques for Analytical Reading include:

  1. Underlining key sentences
  2. Vertical lines to mark key sections
  3. Marginal doodads like asterisks and stars
  4. Numbers of other pages in the margin
  5. Circling key words or phrases
  6. Writing in margins, or top and bottom
  7. Structural notes – about the content of the subject
  8. Conceptual notes – about the truth and significance
  9. Dialectical notes – about the shape of the argument in the larger discussion of other people’s ideas

Many of my books are specifically acquired with the purpose of having a conversation with the author – through the process outlined above. These are for specific projects, deeper levels of interest, or candidates for the fourth level of reading. Here is part of my bookshelves in a large area of analytical reading – customer experience, to be “translated” into the area of Guest Experiences.

4 – Syntopical Reading – How does this book compare with other books?

The fourth and highest level of reading is the most complex and systematic type of reading. It makes very heavy demands on the reader, even if the materials themselves are relatively easy and unsophisticated.

Another name for this level of reading may be called comparative reading. The reader is reading many books, not just one, and places them in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve. Mere comparison of texts is not enough: syntopical reading involves more. With the help of the books being read, the syntopical reader is able to construct an analysis of the subject that may not be in any of the books. Syntopical reading is the most active and effortful kind of reading.

Techniques in Syntopical Reading include:

  1. Find the relevant passages
  2. Establish a common terminology
  3. Clarify the questions
  4. Define the issues
  5. Analyze the discussion and look for the truth

The final level of reading, Syntopical Reading, I break down into two categories. The first is best illustrated by SUMS Remix. After developing a problem statement, I research and read books that will provide a solution to that problem. I am searching for the “best” three for each issue – “best” being defined in some combination of recent publication, unique solutions, or something that is worth considering but comes from left field. The timeframe for this type of syntopical reading is very compressed. With a biweekly publication schedule, the research, reading, first drafts, reviews, initial design, final design, and shipping mean that at any given time, twelve books are in the pipeline for inclusion in a SUMS Remix.

The other category of Syntopical Reading I use is for longer-term projects, in which I am continually researching for both current application and future use. An example is shown below: First Place Hospitality. Other examples I could use would be a specific part of Guest Experiences, like the Journey Map; or, maybe ongoing research into the life of Walt Disney, viewed from early accounts from the 1930s-40s, as well as more recent efforts.

That’s it – the Four Levels of Reading illustrated above are the secret to my deliberate practice of reading.

Reading and the Growth of the Mind

Active reading is the asking of questions and looking for answers. Good books stretch our minds, improve our reading
 skills, and teach us about the world and ourselves. Good books make demands on us.

But there is a world beyond good books – that of great books. Good books need have no more than one meaning and one reading
. Great books, on the other hand, have many meanings and need to be read over and over again.

The test of a great book:

  1. If you were marooned on a desert island, which ten books would you select?
  2. Does the book seem to grow with you?
  3. Do you see new things every time
 you re-read it?
  4. Is the book is able to lift you over and over again?

Seek out the few books that have these values for you.

Reading well, which means reading actively, is not only good in itself, nor is it merely a means to advancement in our work or career. Reading keeps our minds alive and growing. – Mortimer J. Adler

 


 

> Part One of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020

> Part Two of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020

 


 

Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix from the past year and publishing an excerpt.

If you like those, you will probably be interested in current and/or past issues.

>> Purchase a current subscription to SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

You Can’t Read All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning

Part One of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020


One of my greatest passions is reading.

I developed this passion at an early age, and have continued to strengthen it over the years. In addition to being my passion, reading is also an important part of my role as Vision Room Curator at Auxano. In that role, I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix every two weeks. SUMS Remix is a modified book excerpt in which I develop a solution to a common problem faced by church leaders from 3 different books. So, preparing SUMS Remix in 2019 alone means I have gone through over 100 leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 76 used in producing 26 issues this year.

Other parts of my role requires reading current trends books, used for social media posting and content writing.

Then there’s my passion area of Guest Experience, in which I am constantly researching customer service books for application for churches. I’m building The Essential Guest Experience Library.

And, as many readers know, I am a Disney Fanatic – which extends to building a Disney library, currently over 405 volumes and growing!

Finally, there’s just the pure pleasure of reading – an almost nightly hour or two in the late evening reading a wide range of books, both brand new and classics, fiction and nonfiction.

Add those 5 categories all together, and by the end of 2019 I will have added 268 books to my library, and brought home another 110 books from the library. 

First, a disclaimer: I did not read all 378 cover to cover. With such an immense (and pleasurable) task in front of me, and knowing there is more to my job than reading, I have to resort to some method of finding out what an author is trying to say without reading the whole book. There’s dozens of that total in which I only read the “highlights,” following the methods below.

To get the most out of a book in the least amount of time, try this strategy:

  • Read the title.
  • Read the introduction
  • Read the Table of Contents
  • Flip through the material, scanning the chapter titles and subheadings. Note the words that stand out as bold, different colors, underlined, or italicized.
  • Examine the illustrations, captions, charts and diagrams. Read the pull-quotes and sidebars.
  • Scan through the index looking for buzz words that interest you.
  • Read the first chapter.
  • Flip through the book and read the first sentence of each paragraph in each chapter. In a well written and edited book, the most important sentence containing the topic is usually the first sentence of the paragraph — but not always.
  • Read the last chapter. If there is an executive summary, read it.
  • Read any other information on the cover or dust jacket.

If the book captures your attention after doing the above tasks, then by all means dive right in!

The converse is true: if a book doesn’t capture your attention after a few attempts, stop reading it. Pick out another one on the topic – there are always more waiting for you!

With that caveat in mind, my “cover-to-cover” reading for 2019 was 213 books.

For the curious, like picking your favorite child (I have four), I don’t typically make a “Best of” list for the year. I find some value in almost every book I read, and for me, that’s good enough.

I talked about that in a recent podcast with Bryan Rose. You can listen here.

While the knowledge gained from reading is important, the real benefit is from the habit of reading. When you are continually reading, you condition your mind to keep taking in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning on new ideas, looking for new connections it can make. Every day you pour in more ideas, which your brain must find a way to integrate into your existing knowledge base. Frequent reading fires up your neural activity, even during the periods when you aren’t reading.

Reading is a gift that you can unselfishly give yourself, one that truly keeps on giving. Why don’t you bless yourself and those around you by reading a new book in the first weeks of 2020, and sharing its wisdom with others?

Me? Well, I’m visiting one of my favorite bookstores later this week, I’ve got three books lined up for delivery by the end of this week, and I’m headed to the library today to pick up another couple on reserve.

After all, you can’t read all day…

…if you don’t start in the morning!

 

Part Two of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020

 

Sharpen Your Presentation to Fuel Transformation

Do you think people care about what you have to say? The truth is that the average person doesn’t know you. It’s not that you’re not likeable or smart; it’s just a matter of survival for people in today’s world. There is simply too much out there and not enough time to take it all in.

These words by communications expert Kem Meyer succinctly point out the dilemma for communicators today: for many people, the last thing they are looking for is unsolicited information, or someone to tell them to change their ways.

And yet many, if not most, of the sermons preached by pastors attempt to do just that.

However, many people will take the time to read or listen to something that reinforces an opinion they already have or speaks to a real need in their lives. If they are not looking for it, they won’t hear it. But, if you take the time to learn what they’re looking for, you can get in on a conversation already in progress in their minds.

How then, can a leader understand their audience in such a way to make their message more receptive? How can you connect, communicate, and influence your audience toward life-long transformation?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Five Stars by Carmine Gallo

Ideas don’t sell themselves. As the forces of globalization, automation, and artificial intelligence combine to disrupt every field, having a good idea isn’t good enough. Mastering the ancient art of persuasion is the key to standing out, getting ahead, and achieving greatness in the modern world. Communication is no longer a “soft” skill―it is the human edge that will make you unstoppable, irresistible, and irreplaceable―earning you that perfect rating, that fifth star.

In Five Stars, Carmine Gallo, bestselling author of Talk Like TED, breaks down how to apply Aristotle’s formula of persuasion to inspire contemporary audiences. As the nature of work changes, and technology carries things across the globe in a moment, communication skills become more valuable―not less. Gallo interviews neuroscientists, economists, historians, billionaires, and business leaders of companies like Google, Nike, and Airbnb to show first-hand how they use their words to captivate your imagination and ignite your dreams.

In the knowledge age―the information economy―you are only as valuable as your ideas. Five Stars is a book to help you bridge the gap between mediocrity and exceptionality, and gain your competitive edge in the age of automation.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

If your great ideas are locked in your head they are useless to you, your team, and your audience. You have to be able to explain your ideas efficiently and persuasively.

Mastering the ancient art of persuasion is the key to thriving in a world of rapid change. Developing superior communication skills is no longer an option; it’s fundamental for success. Being able to communicate persuasively and entertainingly makes a compelling case for communication as the crucial differentiator – even in this digital age.

In a world where everything and everybody is competing for the attention of your audience, the ability to communicate is becoming more important than ever.

How can you get better at transporting your thoughts and emotions into the minds of other people?

Mastering the ancient art of persuasion – combining words and ideas to move people to action – is no longer a “soft” skill. It is the fundamental skill to get from good to great in the age of ideas.

The TED stars all practice five presentation habits.

Replace bullet points with pictures

People love pictures because they are a communication tool that dates back as far as humans roamed the planet – back to the cave drawing. Study after study confirms that pictures are far more impactful – and, ultimately, memorable – than text alone.

Make the audience laugh

Humor almost always leads to engagement because it’s one of our most primal and engrained emotions. While you don’t need to be a stand-up comedian to be a hit on the TED stage, a little humor will help you stand out. If they’re laughing, they are listening.

Share personal stories

The ancient brain is wired for stories. Today neuroscientists in the lab are using science to prove what we’ve know for thousands of years – stories are the best tool we have to develop deep, meaningful connections with those we wish to persuade. Facts don’t launch careers; stories do. Facts don’t launch movements; stories do.

Make presentations easy to follow

Skilled TED speakers use humor, tell stories, and structure the argument so that it’s easy to follow and easy to remember. They rely on two specific techniques to do so: headlines and the rule of three.

Promise your audience that they will learn something new

Learning is addictive, thanks to that part of our brain known as the amygdala. When you receive new information, the amygdala releases dopamine, which acts as your brain’s natural “save” button. The need to explore, to learn, something new, to be attracted to something that stands out is wired deep in our DNA. Give your audience something new and delicious to chew on.

Carmine Gallo, Five Stars

A NEXT STEP

While preparing for your next communication opportunity, take the time to review the five ideas above, using them to sharpen your presentation skills.

On a chart tablet, write the five key points listed above, leaving space below each one.

With an outline of your topic in hand, go down the list and write in ideas and actions that can be used for each of the points. After you have finished, review the list and choose at least one from each of the five areas to implement.

Prior to your presentation, enlist the help of a close friend or colleague who is familiar with your communication style. Tell them you would like for them to listen to your presentation, taking notes on not just the information being presented, but also the style and methods used.

Within a day after the event, arrange for a “debrief” with your friend or colleague. Bring out the chart tablet, and make notes from the debrief on it in a different color.

Use the debrief time to sharpen your presentation skills by adding the ideas and actions that worked to your regular preparation and presentation methods.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 104-3, released October 2018.


 

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 “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

Uncover the Only You

We live in a world where every artificial thing is designed. Whether it is the car we ride in, the streets we drive on, the lights that illuminate the road, or the building that is our destination, some person or group of people had to decide on the layout, operation, and mechanisms of the journey described above.

Your life has a design, too.

Design doesn’t just work for cars and roads and streetlights and buildings, and all the hundreds of thousands of components that make those things up. You can use design thinking to discover the life God has uniquely created for you. It is a life that is meaningful, joyful, and fulfilling.

Several years ago, Auxano founder Will Mancini launched Life Younique, a training company that certifies church leaders to offer gospel-centered life design through their church. Will, along with co-founder Dave Rhodes, is passionate about helping people get life mission right – what exactly is the best way to know and name what God has created you to do?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly

In The Rhythm of Life Matthew Kelly exposes the lifestyle challenges and problems that face us in this age obsessed with noise, speed, and perpetual activity. Kelly’s message rings out with a truth that is challenging and unmistakably attractive Who you become is infinitely more important than what you do, or what you have. Are you ready to meet the best version of yourself?

The Rhythm of Life is a brilliant and clear-eyed rejection of the chaotic lifestyle that has captured the world, written with common sense, humor, and extraordinary insight. This book is destined to change lives.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

What is the brief and bold big idea that best captures today what God made you to do?

Think of it as a golden compass pointing the way or a silver golden thread that weaves through every activity of your life. It’s the enduring rally cry of team-you; it’s the victory banner waving over everything you do.

Ideally, every priority, project, and penny is filtered through, guided by and championed through this concept. Imagine every person in your sphere of influence being blessed better, served stronger, and loved longer because you form a unique life mission every day.

Translate a wide variety of life-awareness and self-awareness into a meaningful, practical, and simple understanding of what God has made only you to do.

Who you become is infinitely more important than what you do or what you have. The meaning and purpose of life is for you to become the best version of yourself.

In the diagram below, Point A represents you right now – here and today – with all your strengths and weaknesses, faults, failings, flaws, defects, talents, abilities, and potential.

Point B represents you as the person you were created to be – perfectly. If you close your eyes for a few moments and imagine the better person you know you can be in any areas of your life, and then multiply that vision to include the better person you know you can be in every area of your life, that is the person you have become when you reach point B – the best version of yourself.

At every point along the path closer to point B, we more fully recognize, appreciate, and use our talents and abilities and are more dedicated to our development – physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

At each point along the path toward point B, there is a more harmonious relationship among our needs, desires, and talents. Through this process of transformation, we begin to reach our once hidden potential. At point B, through the dual process of self-discovery and discovery of God, we have overcome our fears and transformed our faults and failings into virtues.

Matthew Kelly, The Rhythm of Life

A NEXT STEP

Duplicate the drawing above on a chart tablet. Add the four words “Physically, Emotionally, Intellectually, and Spiritually” above the line between Point A and Point B.

Below the line, and under each of the words, write in actions that will help you move towards Point B. These are the best things you can do for your spouse, your children, your friends, your colleagues, your employees, your employer, your church, your nation, the human family, and yourself.

The best thing you can do is to become the-best-version-of-yourself, because it is doing with a purpose.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 101-1, released September 2018.


 

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 “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

Creative Leaders Explore Three Areas of Prototyping

Despite all our planning and analyzing and controlling, the typical church’s track record at translating its rhetoric into results is not impressive.

In the business world, researchers estimate that only somewhere between 10% and 60% of the promised returns for new strategies are actually delivered. The reality for many churches would be between 10% and 30% – tops. Practices that consume enormous amounts of time and attention mostly produce discouraging results.

All the empty talk is making it harder and harder to get anything to actually happen. Churches expect the staff to be member-focused while the majority watches. When a staff or volunteer actually takes a risk, they are punished if it doesn’t succeed. Ambitious growth goals aren’t worth the spreadsheets they are computed on.

Getting new results requires new tools – and design thinking has real tools to help move from talk to action.

Design thinking is actually a systematic approach to problem solving.

Design thinking is fundamentally an exploratory process; done right, it will invariably make unexpected discoveries along the way.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Change by Design by Tim Brown

The myth of innovation is that brilliant ideas leap fully formed from the minds of geniuses. The reality is that most innovations come from a process of rigorous examination through which great ideas are identified and developed before being realized as new offerings and capabilities.

This book introduces the idea of design thinking‚ the collaborative process by which the designer′s sensibilities and methods are employed to match people′s needs not only with what is technically feasible and a viable business strategy. In short‚ design thinking converts need into demand. It′s a human−centered approach to problem solving that helps people and organizations become more innovative and more creative.

Design thinking is not just applicable to so−called creative industries or people who work in the design field. It′s a methodology that has been used by organizations such as Kaiser Permanente to increase the quality of patient care by re−examining the ways that their nurses manage shift change‚ or Kraft to rethink supply chain management. This is not a book by designers for designers; this is a book for creative leaders seeking to infuse design thinking into every level of an organization‚ product‚ or service to drive new alternatives for business and society.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Iterate – Leaders who thought like designers would see themselves as learners.

Leaders often default to a straightforward linear problem-solving methodology: define a problem, identify various solutions, analyze each, and choose one – the right one. Designers aren’t nearly so impatient, or optimistic. They understand that the successful invention takes experimentation and that empathy is hard won. So is the task of learning.

For example, the IKEA way of business we know (and love!) today didn’t originally start out that way. Almost every element of IKEA’s legendary business model – showrooms and catalogs in tandem, knockdown furniture in flat parcels, and customer pick-up and assembly – emerged over time from experimental response to urgent problems.

“Regard every problem as a possibility,” was IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad’s mantra. He focused less on control and “getting it right” the first time and more on learning and on seeing and responding to opportunities as they emerged.

Prototyping at work is giving form to an idea, allowing us to learn from it, evaluate it against others, and improve upon it.

Anything tangible that lets us explore an idea, evaluate it, and push it forward is a prototype.

Techniques borrowed from film and other creative industries suggest how we might prototype nonphysical experiences. These include scenarios, a form of storytelling in which some potential future situation or state is described using words and pictures.

Prototypes should command only as much time, effort, and investment as is necessary to generate useful feedback and drive an idea forward.

Prototyping is always inspirational – not in the sense of a perfected project but just the opposite: because it inspires new ideas. Once tangible expressions begin to emerge, it becomes easy to try them out and elicit feedback internally from management and externally from potential customers.

In the ideation space we build prototypes to develop our ideas to ensure that they incorporate the functional and emotional elements necessary to meet the demands of the market.

In the third space of innovation we are concerned with implementation: communicating an idea with sufficient clarity to gain acceptance across the organization, proving it, and showing that it will work in its intended market.

There are many approaches to prototyping, but they share a single, paradoxical feature: They slow us down to speed us up. By taking the time to prototype our ideas, we avoid costly mistakes such as becoming too complex too early and sticking with a weak idea too long.

Tim Brown, Change by Design

A NEXT STEP

Quick prototyping is about acting before you’ve got all the answers, about taking chances, stumbling a little, but then making it right.

Prototyping is a state of mind.

A prototype is a simple experimental model of a proposed solution used to test or validate ideas, design assumptions, and other aspects of its conceptualization quickly and cheaply, so that the leaders involved can make appropriate refinements or possible changes in direction.

Long used in the design of “things,” prototyping is increasingly used to work on designing experiences or other non-material objects.

To explore a current situation at your church that can be improved, work through the following prototyping exercise:

Select a situation consisting of multiple elements and nuances that a guest encounters at your church. For example, a guest family with a preschool child visiting for the first time.

Prepare any accessories (props) needed to recreate the scene where the action takes place. Use cardboard, tape, or any cheap material at hand to create the “sense” of the action a guest is going through.

Make a list of the roles people are involved in and define the sequence and time required to enact them.

Replay the situation three – four times. Each time, try to understand the emotional layers of the situation. Then add elements you forgot at the beginning.

Video record the re-enactment, playing different roles each time. Assign one team member to observe and take notes.

After the exercise, watch the video and listen to the observer’s notes. What parts of the process can be changed to make the experience more enjoyable to the guest? What types of training are needed for your volunteers to make that happen? Are there any physical or space layouts that can be improved?

Leaders who practice design thinking are energized by the ambiguity and uncertainty that comes with constant change. These leaders don’t accept the hand-me-down notion that cost cutting and innovation are mutually exclusive, or that short-term and long-term goals are irreconcilable. They reject the tyranny of “or” in favor of the genius of “and.”

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 98-3, released August 2018


 

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 “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

How to Develop Processes that Help Create Clarity

We all have days during which we feel as though we are running at full speed from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning till the time we stumble into bed late that night. These are the days of deadlines to meet, tasks to accomplish, meetings to lead, and … the list goes on and on.

Do we ever stop to think that our busyness might actually be dangerous?

Busyness can be dangerous, because it causes us to focus on pressing problems rather than on priorities. When that happens, we can miss strategic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – like developing the leaders on our teams toward their highest potential.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Clarity First by Karen Martin

Award-winning business performance improvement and Lean management expert Karen Martin diagnoses a ubiquitous business management and leadership problem―the lack of clarity―and outlines specific actions to dramatically improve organizational performance.

Through her global consulting projects, keynote speeches, and work with thousands of leaders, Karen has seen first-hand how a pervasive lack of clarity strangles business performance and erodes employee engagement. Ambiguity is the corporate default state, a condition so prevalent that “tolerance for ambiguity” has become a clichéd job requirement.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In Clarity First, Karen provides methods and insights for achieving clarity to unleash potential, innovate at higher levels, and solve the problems that matter to deliver outstanding business results. Both a visionary road map and practical guide, this book will help leaders:

  • Identify and communicate the organization’s true purpose
  • Set achievable priorities
  • Deliver greater customer value through more efficient processes
  • Build organization-wide problem solving capabilities
  • Develop personal clarity to become a more direct, purposeful, and successful leader

Eliminating ambiguity is the first step for leaders and organizations to achieve strategic goals. Learn how to gain the clarity needed to make better decisions, lead more effectively, and boost organizational performance.

When it comes to leading an outstanding organization, every great leader needs Clarity First.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Processes, in their broadest meaning, are a series of actions, changes, or functions that are strung together to produce a result.

They combine human and physical resources in various ways to produce different outcomes. A car is produced using a process that combines parts and labor in specific sequences on an assembly line. An appendectomy is performed using a process that combines medical staff and an operating room in a sequence of actions. All organizations can be thought of as a collection of processes. A process delivers a result. That is, it delivers an output, such as a product or service.

Think of process as a railroad engine. If the engine does not run properly, it does not matter how friendly the conductor acts or how attractive the passenger cars look, the train will still not move and the passengers will not pay their fares.

Process is the engine of clarity.

Everything a business does – in fact, everything in life – occurs as a result of processes. Yet few leaders overtly advocate for process to the extent needed for clarity.

I would argue that one of the most high-impact activities for a leader is to understand and improve the processes under his control.

The degree of detail that an individual needs about the processes that make work happen throughout the organization differs depending on the level at which he or she operates.

Clarity by itself does not make outstanding processes, but no process can reach outstanding levels without absolute clarity in its design, execution, and management.

Well-managed processes are:

Documented. Not only are the process steps captured, but so are the descriptions of how the work should be performed within each step.

Current. The documentation reflects the way the work should be performed today, not how it was performed last month.

Followed. Team members have been trained in the process, and adhere to it until the process is improved.

Consistently monitored. Process performance is measured against relevant key performance indicators.

Regularly improved. Processes that consistently meet KPI targets are analyzed to identify performance gaps with the goal of setting new, more aggressive targets, and identify process changes necessary to meet them.

Karen Martin, Clarity First

A NEXT STEP

Begin your journey toward greater process clarity in one area of your organization. Work on the processes in that area to learn about and improve your training methods for designing, documenting, training, measuring, and improving them.

Use the following six steps to guide your development of processes:

  • Identify and select the problem to be worked on
  • Analyze the problem
  • Generate potential solutions
  • Select and plan the best solution
  • Implement the solution
  • Evaluate the solution

Once you have identified a solution and find that it works, continue to use it, evaluating it periodically as needed, replacing it completely when it no longer works.

Pay close attention to the results you reap from greater clarity.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 96-2, released July 2018.


 

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 “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

How to Work Smarter: Do Less, Then Obsess

We all have days during which we feel as though we are running at full speed from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning till the time we stumble into bed late that night. These are the days of deadlines to meet, tasks to accomplish, meetings to lead, and … the list goes on and on.

Do we ever stop to think that our busyness might actually be dangerous?

Busyness can be dangerous, because it causes us to focus on pressing problems rather than on priorities. When that happens, we can miss strategic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – like developing the leaders on our teams toward their highest potential.

THE QUICK SUMMARY

From the New York Times bestselling coauthor of Great by Choice comes an authoritative, practical guide to individual performance—based on analysis from an exhaustive, groundbreaking study.

Why do some people perform better at work than others? This deceptively simple question continues to confound professionals in all sectors of the workforce. Now, after a unique, five-year study of more than 5,000 managers and employees, Morten Hansen reveals the answers in his “Seven Work Smarter Practices” that can be applied by anyone looking to maximize their time and performance.

Each of Hansen’s seven practices is highlighted by inspiring stories from individuals in his comprehensive study. You’ll meet a high school principal who engineered a dramatic turnaround of his failing high school; a rural Indian farmer determined to establish a better way of life for women in his village; and a sushi chef, whose simple preparation has led to his restaurant (tucked away under a Tokyo subway station underpass) being awarded the maximum of three Michelin stars. Hansen also explains how the way Alfred Hitchcock filmed Psycho and the 1911 race to become the first explorer to reach the South Pole both illustrate the use of his seven practices (even before they were identified).

Each chapter contains questions and key insights to allow you to assess your own performance and figure out your work strengths, as well as your weaknesses. Once you understand your individual style, there are mini-quizzes, questionnaires, and clear tips to assist you focus on a strategy to become a more productive worker. Extensive, accessible, and friendly, Great at Work will help you achieve more by working less, backed by unprecedented statistical analysis.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

We all know the feeling of not enough hours in the day to accomplish all the tasks in front of us. The platitude, “work smarter, not harder” often rings hollow in our ears. Yes, we must work smarter, but work oftentimes is hard, and there’s no way around that fact.

Conventional wisdom states that people who work harder and take on more responsibilities accomplish more and perform better. Countering this view, management experts recommend that people focus by choosing just a few areas of work.

“Doing more” is usually a flawed strategy. The same goes for being asked to “focus harder.” Focus isn’t simply about choosing to concentrate on a few areas, as most people think.

The smart way to work is to first do less, then obsess.

People in our study who chose a few key priorities and then made huge efforts to do terrific work in those areas scored on average 25 percentage points higher in their performance than those who pursued many priorities. “Do less, then obsess” was the most powerful practice among the seven discussed in this book.

“Doing more” creates two traps. In the spread-too-thin trap, people take on many tasks, but can’t allocate enough attention to each. In the complexity trap, the energy required to manage the interrelationship between tasks leads people to waste time and execute poorly.

Here are the three ways you can implement the “do less, then obsess” principle:

  1. Wield the razor: Shave away unnecessary tasks, priorities, committees, steps metrics, and procedures. Channel all your effort into excelling in the remaining activities. Ask: How many tasks can I remove, given what I must do to excel? Remember: As few as you can, as many as you must.
  2. Tie yourself to the mast: Set clear rules ahead of time to fend off temptation and distraction. Create a rule as trivial as not allowing yourself to check email for an hour.
  3. Say “no” to your boss: Explain to your boss that adding more to your to-do list will hurt your performance. The path to greatness isn’t pleasing your boss all the time. It’s saying “no” so that you can apply intense effort to excel in a few chosen areas.

Morten Hansen, Great at Work

A NEXT STEP

Set aside a two-four hour time block when you can work on the principle outlined above by Morten Hansen: First do less, then obsess.

Create three chart tablets, listing each of the three phrases above on a page.

Review the activities listed under each phrase, and brainstorm how you can accomplish each.

After you have completed the task, schedule a time to review the results with your supervisor, and work toward a mutually-agreed upon plan of action.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 96-1, issued July 2018.


 

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 “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<