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Posts tagged ‘Management’

“Handsome is as Handsome Does”

“Handsome is as handsome does.”  Samwise Gamgee

Having lofty goals and big visions is important. But they’re nothing more than words unless an organization takes  intentional and thoughtful steps to make them reality. And it’s in taking tangible, day-to-day action that separates ineffective from effective organizations.

So there are two additional questions an organization needs to answer if it’s going to make its dreams come true. The first question is “what do we have to do to be successful?” and the second question is “what’s important right now?”

The first question drives an organization to determine the key long-term actions necessary to reach their targets and move towards their BHAGG and Vision. At SpringHill we call these long-term actions (actions that takes more than a year to implement) our “Big Moves”. They’re strategic in nature and typically center on major initiatives and shifts within our organization or the ministry we do that will help propel us forward.

The second question, “what’s important right now?” drives those Big Moves into our daily work. We call these our Annual Moves (to be completed within a year) and our Seasonal Moves (to be completed within the next four months). Annual and Seasonal Moves are tactical in nature. They’re the work that needs to be done “right now” and should align with our Big Moves.

We spell out our Big, Annual and Seasonal Moves with as much definition as possible, including having defined beginnings and endings. Then we review their progress every week so that they become things we do and accomplish not just grandiose words or ideas.

Now I’ll admit implementing tactics isn’t as sexy as developing strategy and vision. But the truth is it’s in this day-to-day work that Visions and BHAGG’s become a reality. It’s what “handsome does.”

This is part 5 of 6 in a series of posts about the questions every organization needs to answer to achieve their vision.

Do You Know What You’re Shooting For?

“What get’s measured is what gets done.”

I live in northern Michigan where opening day of deer season is a holiday. Schools close and very little business transacts. Part of the deer hunting tradition is the annual “sighting in” of a hunter’s gun that usually happens the weekend before opening day. “Sighting in” is where hunters shoot at a target for the purpose of aligning their gun’s sights/scope. The marks shot on the target indicate how aligned the gun’s sights are and direct the hunter’s sight adjustments. Obviously  “sighting in” is important to achieving  the goal of shooting a trophy deer.

It’s this idea of targets, goals, and indicators that help SpringHill answer the question “How will we know we’re being successful?” Targets are what we shoot for in the long run (more than a year away) and goals are the immediate things (year or less) we’re trying to accomplish. Indicators, on the other hand, are those measurements that help us assess how we’re doing accomplishing our goals and targets. Targets and goals should align with each other and both should align with the future aspirations of an organization (its vision and BHAG).

Typically an organization has a number of targets, goals and indicators that centered on such key areas as customers, finances/stewardship, market size, people, and operations. Every organization is different so the targets, goals and indicators should be different. The key is finding the right ones that lead the organization forward and tell its people how they’re doing. Then the team’s responsibility is to faithfully and regularly measure, watch, and effectively respond to those numbers.

Targets, goals and indicators are essential for an organization’s ability to answer the question “are we being successful and heading in the right direction?” Without them, and the proper tracking of them, an organization is left to guessing at how they’re doing, which is never good when hunting for a trophy.

This is part 4 of a series of posts about the questions every organization needs to answer to achieve their vision.

Some Lessons Learned the Hard Way about being Connected 24/7

On any given day I have people contacting me by voice through my office phone and smart phone, via email accessed through my laptop, IPAD and smart phone, text messages via my smart phone, as well as people contacting me through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,and on my Blog all accessed, as well, by my laptop, IPAD and smart phone.

This simply means, if I allow myself, I can be responding to people’s inquiries (in other words, working at my job) 24/7 on four different tools through seven different communication mediums (yes insane, but I have no one to blame but myself). So out of sheer necessity I’ve learned the following lessons and have incorporated them into my routine in an attempt to put some sanity into my work and personal life.

  • First, when I’m off work, I don’t answer any of the above except for personal contacts and when I receive a text signaling an emergency at camp (we have a protocol for this).
  • Second, when I’m on, I look at and respond to inquiries from all 7 mediums only 3 times day – first thing in the morning (usually between 5:30 and 6:30 am), after lunch and before I go home.
  • Third, my goal is to respond within 24 hours except over weekends and vacations (I’ll admit I can do better on this one).
  • Fourth, I don’t answer any inquiries from any mediums when I’m with people – be it meetings, meals, casual conversations, or on the phone. I think it’s inconsiderate and inefficient use of my time and the time of the people I’m with. My goal is always to focus first and foremost on the person, or people, I’m with.
  • Finally, I prioritize my responses this way – phone calls first, followed by texted messages, then emails, my blog and finally Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (so now you know how to increase your chances of a quicker response).

I’m not perfect at all of this, but when I’m disciplined in this way my life seems to have a bit more sanity and make a bit more sense.

Being Wrong about Better Planning

I’ve always believed better planning would eliminate the last-minute scramble to accomplish work before a deadline. Over the past few years this is the theory we at SpringHill have believed to be true, especially in preparing for summer camp. We’ve believed if we planned well we’d coast smoothly into summer instead of scrambling and working nonstop in the weeks before camp.

Well, I’m now admitting my theory is wrong. Based on watching our team over the last few years continue to improve its planning for summer camp, I now realize I’ve misunderstood the true benefits of good planning. For one thing coasting into summer camp hasn’t happened; instead our better planning has created more capacity to do more things, and to do them with higher quality.

This, as I now think about it, makes total sense. It’s because our culture has never been a “coasting” culture. Instead it’s always been a “what more can we do to create better life-transforming experiences?” culture.

Our long history of using every last-minute of every last day before the start of summer camp to do as many of these things as possible to exceed our campers’ and parents’ expectations hasn’t changed. But now, with better planning, we just do more of these things and do them better.

So how do I feel about my theory being wrong? Well I have to admit, apart from continuing to improve our pacing before summer; I rather think increasing our capacity to do more things better is the right outcome for good planning.

A Case for More (and better) Meetings

In honor of today’s SpringHill Leadership Team’s monthly strategy meeting, I found Patrick Lencioni’s perspective on meetings in his new book The Advantage – Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, both helpful and hopeful.

“No action, activity, or process is more central to a healthy organization than the meeting. As dreaded as the ‘m’ word is, as maligned as it has become, there is no better way to have a fundamental impact on an organization than by changing the way it does meetings.

In fact, if someone were to offer me one single piece of evidence to evaluate the health of an organization, I would not ask to see its financial statements, review its product line, or even talk to is employees or customers; I would want to observe the leadership team during a meeting. This is where the values are established, discussed, and lived and where decisions around strategy and tactics vetted, made and reviewed. Bad meetings are the birthplace of unhealthy organizations, and good meetings are the origin of cohesion, clarity and communication.

So why in the world do we hate meetings? Probably because they are usually awful. More often than not they are boring, unfocused, wasteful, and frustrating. Somehow we’ve come to accept this – to believe that there is just something inherently wrong with the whole idea of meetings. It’s almost as though we see them as a form of corporate penance, something that is inevitable and must be endured.

Well, I am utterly convinced that there is nothing inherently bad about meetings, nothing that can’t be fixed if we confront the problems we’ve allowed to calcify over the years.”

Check out Lencioni’s books The Advantage and Death by Meetings for practical ways to have better, more effective meetings.

Propulsion into the Future

With the rollout of our new vision, and with SpringHill staff and board being the people they are, I’m expecting over the next year a lot of new ideas for programs and ministries we could embark on. Thus our challenge will be in screening and prioritizing these ideas, with the goal of only doing what will propel us towards fulfilling our vision and BHAGG.

So as I’ve thought about this opportunity it’s become apparent that there will three groups of ideas we’ll be evaluating.

Humility Ideas:

Humility ideas are all the possibilities that result from seeing a need or an opportunity in the world and wanting to do something about it. Most will be great ideas, ideas that can and should become reality. But they won’t align with our mission, vision, core values and philosophy of ministry, thus we shouldn’t do them. They’re humility ideas, because it’ll require us to remember – we can’t do all things and be all things to all people.

One off Ideas:

These are ideas that do align with who we are and direction we’re going but do not propel us forward or give energy to our envision future. Though they may align, they don’t integrate well with SpringHill and the direction it’s going, thus they provide little momentum forward, and so, as a result, they will be lower priority ideas.

Propelling Ideas:

Propelling ideas will be our top priority. These are ideas that are both aligned and have the potential to propel us forward in fulfilling our future goals. These ideas will give energy to SpringHill because they’ll integrate with other initiatives, with our ministry allies, with our staff, and with our supporters.

So over this next year we’ll need wisdom and humility as we work to take on only what will lead SpringHill be all that God’s called it to be, and to do only what God’s called it to do.

“Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else”

In Patrick Lencioni’s new book The Advantage he makes his case for why organizational health is the most important characteristic in any successful business or not for profit organization.

“At its core, organizational health is about integrity, but not in the ethical or moral way that integrity is defined so often today. An organization has integrity – is healthy – when it is whole, consistent, and complete, that is, when its management, operations, strategy and culture fit together and make sense.

…any organization that really wants to maximize its success must come to embody two basic qualities: it must be smart, and it must be healthy.

Smart organizations are good at those classic fundamentals of business – subjects like strategy, marketing, finance, and technology – which I consider to be decision sciences.

But being smart is only half the equation. Yet somehow it occupies almost all the time, energy, and attention of most executives. The other half of the equation, the one that is largely neglected, is about being healthy.

A good way to recognize health is to look for the signs that indicate an organization has it. These include minimal politics and confusion, high degrees of morale and productivity, and very low turnover among good employees.

The vast majority of organizations today have more than enough intelligence, expertise, and knowledge to be successful. What they lack is organizational health.

This point is worth restating.

After two decades of working with CEO’s and their teams of senior executives, I’ve become absolutely convinced that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre or unsuccessful ones has little, if anything, to do with what they know or how smart they are; it has everything to do with the how healthy they are.”

Prep – Do – Review

Being the Boss – The 3 Imperatives for becoming a Great Leader by Linda A. Hill and Kent Linebeck is a helpful book for new or growing leaders. It provides both a philosophical and practical approach to leading yourself, leading your network and leading your team.

For example one of the most practical suggestions the authors give is a simple, three-step tool for tackling any kind of task or situation, called Prep – Do – Review.

The first step – “Prep. Before acting, take literally a minute to prepare. Ask yourself, What am I about do to? Why am I going to do it? (That is, what goal, no matter how simple, are you trying to reach?) Who will be involved or affected, and what are their interests? And how am I going to do it?

Step two – “Do. Perform the action you prepared to take in the prep stage.”

Finally, step three – “Review. Afterward, reflect on what was done and the outcome, including any expected or unexpected consequences. Identify the lessons to be learned. How would you perform the action differently in the future?”

As you can see one the keys to using it effectively is asking a lot of the right questions. And as Hill and Linebeck state, asking good questions is “a fundamental skill that, in our experience, all effective managers possess to a high degree.”

And the beauty of Prep – Do – Review is that it can be applied to everything from simple tasks to major events, from going through your day or week, to career planning. And, if it can become a regular part of how you work, it will undoubtedly make you a more effective leader.


The Reality about Time

As I mentioned in previous posts, springtime at SpringHill is absolutely our busiest time of year as we prepare for summer camp and the 1000’s of campers we’ll serve in the next 3 months. So time is always at forefront of my mind during this season. I find myself asking – “how can I make more time to do all the things I want and need to do in the weeks ahead?”

The problem with this question is it’s usually being asked by an exhausted and fuzzy  thinking person (me). It assumes that we can “make time”. But the hard truth is we can’t create time, only God can do that. The best we can do is to care for the time God has given us as a gift.

But what’s even harder to face than the fact that we can’t “make time” is the stubborn truth that we’re actually losing time. The most time we ever have in our entire life is the moment we’re born. From that minute forward, day by day, moment by moment, we’re using up our time, like water flowing from a well.

It’s these dual realities – we can’t create time but instead we’re actually losing it – that should create a sense of urgency and purpose in how we use the time given us. It means we absolutely have to be careful and intentional in how we spend every single moment of time we have left.

I’ve found the better question to ask myself during these moments of too much to do in too little time to do it is “what’s really important now and in the long run?” The answer always frees up time because it points to the best place to spend my dwindling moments.

“If You Don’t Have Time To Do It Right, When Will You Have Time To Do It Over?”

In these busy weeks of May and June, as we prepare for summer camp, all of us at SpringHill reap what we’ve sown over the past 8 months. We’ve either prepared well and have a manageable, yet challenging schedule, or we end up with an impossible schedule trying to accomplish an impossible list of tasks, in an impossibly short amount of time.

It’s during these crazy months that I often return to a simple question, attributed to the great basketball coach John Wooden, I learned while leading a Quality Assurance initiative back in my former life in corporate American – “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

You see if we haven’t done our preparation for summer camp right, we’ve literally run out of time to do it over. Unintended results can be – staff burnout, lower quality of camper experience, disappointed parents, and missed opportunities. Even if we’re able to recover by doing it over again, it’s usually at the cost of our personal health, our families, our relationships with each other, and our own spiritual well-being. None of these are worth the time we thought we were saving by not doing it right the first time.

But, as I watch our team this spring, it’s obvious, that through training and discipline, we continue to become better at doing things right the first time, and thus eliminating the need to find time to do them over again, especially in these craziest of seasons.  So I’m proud of our team, as well as I’m confident of a great summer of SpringHill Experiences that’s ahead.

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