• Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    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.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    What Sandbox Are You Playing In?

    Remember those days as a child when playing in a sandbox was glorious? The self-contained structure filled with sand allowed us to use our imaginations to create our own little worlds, fight great battles, and build towering castles all in one spot. A sandbox is a brilliantly simple play option for kids while helping parents provide fun boundaries for their kids.

    This concept of a sandbox helps SpringHill answer the question “Where and who will we serve and through what products/ministries?” It’s the second of the Game Plan Questions every organization needs to answer if it wants to make an enduring difference in the world. An organizational Sandbox defines the self-imposed boundaries our organization will “play in” over a given period of time.

    Typical Sandbox boundaries include defining the target market, including geographic reach, the primary customers, and the products and services an organization will provide. A good Sandbox also acknowledges these “boundaries” are not forever so it includes a time horizon (typically no less than 3 years).

    Now the reason an organization benefits from such self-imposed boundaries is simple. Effective organizations typically experience more opportunities than it can successfully take on. The Sandbox becomes a useful tool to screen those opportunities and provide needed organizational discipline so it can stay focused on its best opportunities for success (and build the best castle in the world).

    The tension we’ve experienced at SpringHill, and one I’m sure is common among mission driven organizations, is our desire to be open to God’s leading and discerning the opportunities He may be providing. We don’t want to be too calculated and not allow room for something we didn’t see. But we’ve also discovered the Sandbox’s isn’t an automatic “no”, it just provides the reason to stop, evaluate and pray whether an opportunity is really right for our organization.

    So defining your Sandbox will not only help your organization make an enduring difference in the world, it will likely make your organization a fun place to play.

    This is part 3 of a series of posts about the questions every organization needs to answer to achieve their vision.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    The 20 Mile March

    How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

    The first “Game Plan Question” an organization needs to answer is “What are the consistent steps we need to take to achieve our BHAGG and our Vision?” It’s a question SpringHill has wrestled with on and off for years. Common sense told us achieving a long-term goal requires breaking it down into manageable chunks. Yet we just couldn’t get our arms around how to do that.

    Then we read Jim Collins‘ new book Great by Choice. There we found the perspective we needed to answer this Game Plan Question. It’s a concept Collins calls the “20 Mile March” based on the Antarctica explorer Roald Amundsen’s strategy to be the first person to reach the South Pole. Amundsen planned his entire trip on 20 mile marches. He and his team did everything in their power to march 20 miles a day, no more or no less, regardless of the weather. This breakdown of his “BHAG” – to be the first to the South Pole – into manageable chunks was a key factor in his team achieving their goal.

    Collins defines a 20 Mile March in organizational terms by saying it’s “more than a philosophy. It’s about having concrete, clear, intelligent, and rigorously pursued performance mechanisms that keep you on track.” He also provides a number of compelling case studies worth reviewing.

    For SpringHill we’re testing a 20 Mile March defined by annual growth in campers served that will move us towards fulfilling our BHAGG of serving 260,000 people a year by 2025. We’re simply calling it “the 13.5 March” representing the annual percentage increase in campers we serve each year. It’s a number we believe we can achieve year over year and it’s a number that provides us an annual target to strive for regardless of the conditions. It’s our attempt to eat this elephant one bit at a time.

    This is part 2 of a series of posts about the questions every organization needs to answer to achieve their vision.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Questions Every Organization Needs to Answer to Achieve Their Vision

    In the past I’ve written about what we at SpringHill call the “6 Key Questions.” They’re questions every organization needs to answer if it desires to make an enduring difference in the world.

    These 6 questions (and how we answer them) are:

    • What do we believe to be true? Statement of faith, beliefs about reality
    • What’s important to us? Core Values
    • Why do we exist? Mission
    • What do we want to become? Vision
    • What do we want to achieve? Big Hairy Audacious “God” Goal (BHAGG)
    • What makes us distinct? Hedgehog

    Yet if an organization answers these 6 questions but stops there, it could find itself falling short in making the answers a reality.

    So there are 6 other questions we address that flow out of the answers to the 6 Key Questions. I call them “The Game Plan Questions’ because they translate the Key 6 Questions into an actionable plan. The 6 Key Questions are strategic, philosophical and long-term in nature while the Game Plan Questions drive the organization towards tactics, goals, actions that ultimately make  the answers to the 6 Key Questions reality.

    The Game Plan Questions (and how we answer them) are:

    • What are the consistent steps we’ll need to take to achieve our BHAGG and Vision? 20 Mile March
    • Where and who will we serve and through what products/ministries? Sandbox
    • How will we know we’re being successful? Targets and Goals
    • What do we have to do to be successful? Big Moves
    • What’s important right now? Annual Moves
    • What do I need to do to contribute to our team’s success? Individual plans and goals

    Over the next couple of weeks I will provide a deeper look at each of these Game Plan Questions and how an organization can answer them to assure the necessary clarity, alignment and buy-in by its staff and board which is necessary if it’s to have the enduring impact in the world it desires.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    The Tension in Strategic Planning

    This month we’ve begun our annual work of updating the SpringHill strategic plan, or as we refer to it, our ministry plan. The process includes most of our staff and board at some level and culminates in our leadership team’s offsite annual planning meeting where we bring all the input and pieces together and update our plan.

    And every year, during our annual planning offsite, we find ourselves in this tension between detailed calculated planning verses faith driven, visionary planning. This tension is particularly strong in Christian organizations where we “want to leave room for God” in our plans because we know He can do more than “we could ever ask for or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

    But too often “leaving room for God” is an excuse for not doing the hard work of planning. We need to accept that planning clearly is a godly pursuit, the Scriptures are full of admonishment to “count the cost” and that “the noble man devises noble plans; and by noble deeds he stands” (Isaiah 32:8).

    On the other hand, planning can quickly replace sensitivity to God’s leading and having the faith that can “move mountains”. This most often happens when we’ve create well thought out plans because we move our faith to our plans and away from the God who makes the plans a reality.

    So how have we tried to reconcile this tension between planning and faith?

    We’ve accept that we need both – it’s not an “either/or” proposition but a “both/and” (like many things of faith). We’re committed to prayerfully creating the very best plans we can, using the very best tools, knowledge, and insight available to us. Yet, at the same time, we prayerfully set long-term goals and vision that we can’t always calculate our way too, knowing we have to move forward in faith, trusting God will provide what we need when we need it.

  • Ministry Strategy,  SpringHill Experiences

    The Quiet Force

    Matt and the two Resurrection Life camp administrators, Trisha and Rachel

    I can’t tell you how many times over the past number of months leaders of guest retreats have stopped me to say how much they’ve appreciated working with Matt Hildebrand, one of our Michigan Overnight Hosts, and what a great job he’s done for them and their group.

    If you’re not familiar with camping terminology, let me share with you what a camp and conference center Host does (and what Matt does so well).

    A Host’s job, just as the name implies, is to take care of guests and groups assuring they achieve their goals for their time at camp. The host is the main point of contact before, during and after a group visits camp. They make sure every detail’s thought through and every department on camp is ready to provide their part of the experience. When the group arrives a host works with them right through the experience, providing for any needs that come up and making any mid-course adjustments so they have an outstanding experience.

    For example, this past week Resurrection Life Churches had their annual youth camp with over 600 campers and leaders. When I bumped into Matt, he was on his way to meet with the Resurrection Life Camp administrators in the office space we provide them for the week. Matt’s immediate mission? He was bringing the two administrators card stock for their printers. A simple request, but a necessary one for this group, and one of 100’s like it Matt addressed for Resurrection Life while they were here.

    To be a great host, like Matt, requires a desire to serve others and see them succeed, great attention to detail, superb planning and foresight, tremendous flexibility, great relationship skills (and maybe even the ability to walk on water).

    So I’m thankful for Matt every time a leader stops me to say what a great experience they’ve had at SpringHill and how much they love Matt, reaffirming what we already know – Matt’s been the quiet force behind their success.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader

    The Uncomplicated Rule

    If you want to lose weight what’s the one best thing you can do? Take the stairs? Eat more grapefruit? Take diet pills? Lift weights? Run farther or eat better?

    The truth is if you really want to lose weight there’s only one thing you can and need to do – eat fewer calories and carbohydrates than you use. As a personal trainer friend of mine once told me “you are what you eat”. Research has continually demonstrated that exercise programs, special diets, and supplements, though marginally helpful in losing a few pounds, will not, by themselves, bring you to your proper weight, only eating the right amount of calories and carbohydrates can you get to you there and stay there (though exercise has other essential health benefits we shouldn’t ignore).

    It’s what I call the “uncomplicated” rule. The uncomplicated rule goes like this. Almost always the simplest, most straight forward and common sense solution to a problem is usually the best one. Why? Because most problems are not as complicated as many people (and companies) want us to believe. Simple problems, like being overweight, require uncomplicated solutions – eat less.

    But why do we believe our problems are so complicated that they require complex and magical solutions? Because people’s problems are opportunities for marketers to offer products and services that solve our problems. But to convince us that need help in solving our problems they need us to believe our problems are too hard or complicated to solve on our own. You see simple, straightforward and uncomplicated problems don’t require complex and costly solutions but instead require simple ones (which don’t sell well and have poor margins).

    So next time you’re faced with a problem or have a goal you want to achieve, look for the simple, straightforward and uncomplicated solution, most likely it’ll be the one that brings you to the place you want to be.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership,  Summer Camp

    The Lesson in Eclipsing 19,000 Summer Campers

    “By the summer of 2019, 19,000 kids will attend one of six summer camps.” It was 1997 and the SpringHill board and leadership had just updated and approved the ministry’s strategic plan using Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’ book Built to Last as a guide.

    Collins and Porras’ research revealed that enduring organizations had a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG). The “19 by 19” goal, as it was soon to be called, was SpringHill’s BHAGG (we added the first G – God – to our definition).

    Now understand, in 1997 SpringHill’s board and leaders were people of talent and faith who wanted to do something significant for kids and Christ’s Kingdom. And the “19 by 19” goal reflected both this desire and the best information available to them at the time.

    Yet today as I write, here in the summer of 2012, we just eclipsed this “19 by 19” goal. Please know I’m not sharing this with you so you can be impressed or congratulate us for handily beating our goal, but instead to demonstrate a point about goal setting that Collins and Porras doesn’t address.

    In goal setting we tend to be overly optimistic about short-term goals and overly pessimistic about long-term goals. The main reason for this phenomenon is that we tend to think of the future only in the context of what we know in the present. For example, our staff and board knew and understood overnight camping but could not possibly have foreseen the dramatic demographic changes that would lead us to begin our Day Camp ministry nearly 10 years later (this ministry has played a significant role in our beating the 19 by 19 goal seven years early).

    The lesson we learned, and then implemented in restating our BHAGG back in 2003 was that a visionary goal isn’t based on a “calculation”. It’s  bigger than that, so big that we’d have no any idea how it would be achieved. The goal needed to be big enough “to leave room for God”, as one board member put it. Today our BHAGG is that, by 2025, we’ll have 260,000 people a year experience SpringHill.

    Now, to be completely honest, only time will tell if we got this long-term goal setting thing right and whether the next generation of SpringHill leaders will judge us as fool hearted souls or Saturday morning sand baggers.


  • Organizational Leadership

    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.

  • Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    Getting to “Running Smoothly”

    Legend has it that the late, great coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, was nearly useless during games, at least from the player’s perspective. If this was actually true then the question is how can one of the greatest football coaches of all time, the man for whom the Super Bowl trophy’s named after, be of no use during the most important events in a team’s season – the football games?

    The answer to that question also answers the question why the SpringHill summer camp teams have been able to describe the first two weeks of camp as “being remarkably smooth”. As I promised in my last post, below are the steps we expended an enormous amount of energy on to assure “running smoothly” this summer became a reality.

    Warning – there’s no magic formula here, just common sense stuff written about and practiced by effective organizations, including the Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s, since the beginning of time:

    First, we find the right people. At SpringHill we define the “right people” as being “mission driven and mission effective”. “Mission driven” describes people who committed to our mission, align with our values and fit our culture. “Mission effective” people have the skills, abilities and experiences to advance our mission (not just believe in it) and achieve our goals.

    Second, we take these “right people” and make sure they clearly understand their jobs in terms of roles, responsibilities and outcomes.

    Third, we train and equip “the right people” mentally, physically and spiritually so they will achieve their job outcomes and help SpringHill fulfill its mission.

    Finally, we coach, communicate, encourage, inspire, and provide positive accolades and helpful critique about how the “right people” are doing on the job and how SpringHill’s doing overall.

    When we take these four steps the odds are very good that, like this summer, camp will “run remarkably smoothly”.

%d bloggers like this: