Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Consider today’s blog “Part II” in “What I Learned about Life from My Basement!” In “Part I,” I discussed how my basement refinishing project reminded me of the principle of Sharpening the Saw.

Measure Twice, Cut Once in Home Improvements

Here in “Part II,” my basement work has caused me to reflect on the principle of Measure Twice, Cut Once. If you’ve done any home repairs or remodeling, or any woodworking, then you are familiar with this principle.

If you have a piece of lumber to cut to fit a certain space, you measure carefully—twice. Because, it is much better to measure twice and get it right, then to measure once, get it wrong, and have to cut a second piece of wood. Measuring twice saves time, material, and aggravation.

Measure Twice, Cut Once in Ministry Leadership

As I consult with various ministries, as I work on Boards of various companies, and as I reflect on my own leadership of various ministries now and over the years, this principle shows up—for good or for ill—all the time. It seems that in Christian ministry in particular, and with visionary leaders specifically, there is a tendency to measure once, cut twice.

That is, there seems to be an impatience to get things done, to keep things moving. This impatience then can lead to executive decisions that have never been “measured” via what I call “change management.”

Change Management

Change management, as the label suggests, is the simple process of managing change (duh!). Early in my ministry leadership, being too young, too impatient, and not trained well enough in leadership dynamics, I assumed that managing change meant communicating that change was coming. Of course, this “communication” dropped the “co” off the word co-mmunication!

It was a monologue. “I want you to be prepared because change is coming.”

Well, as I consult with other ministry leaders today, I recognized that at least I was saying something, and at least I was giving a “heads up!” Some ministry leaders don’t even do that much.

However, when they do “communicate,” they assume, as I mistakenly used to, that one-way monologue is communication and equals change management. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Organizing the Organism

True management of change is true co-mmunication. It is true dialogue. A visionary leader gets an idea (and if he/she is a good visionary leader, that idea comes from interaction with his/her team to begin with), and then bounces that ideas off of others in the organization. For after all, the “organ” in organization means that ministry teams are people—living, breathing organisms. In fact, that’s another phrase I use when consulting with ministries: organize the organism.

When visionary leaders recognize that the ministry God called them to lead is a living organism, part of the Body of Christ, then those leaders can “chill.” They stop. They choose the patient route. They decide to measure twice, cut once. They take the extra time to do due diligence in dialogical communication.

Not only does this make good people sense, it makes good practical sense. How many times I have seen visionary leaders try to quickly force change rather than relationally manage change, only to have to spend scores of hours cleaning up the mess. The time spent measuring twice (change management through relational dialogue) is so much shorter than the time spent cutting twice (cleaning up the mess of poorly managed, non-relational change).

Boatloads, Battleship Loads, Sinking Ships, and One Crew in Christ

Ah. Basement projects. I learn so much from them.

Hopefully we can all learn from them.

Remember, in the basement, and when building up the foundation of any ministry, measure twice, cut once. If we spend boatloads of time dialoguing within the organization about change, then we won’t have to spend battleship-loads of time fixing the sinking organizational ship. Instead, we can sail together as one crew in Christ.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sharpening the Saw

Sharpening the Saw

I’ve picked up a new “hobby” the past year in a new home—woodworking. As in working with wood to finish my basement, including framing, building ceiling soffetts, putting in a wood floor, and putting in the floor trim and shoe.

Of course, all of this takes a sharp saw. Working with my circular saw for several projects, I finally decided to replace the blade. But I did something first. I timed how long it took to cut a piece of wood with the old blade. I then timed how long it took to cut the same length piece of wood with the new blade.

The old blade? Fifty-five seconds.

The new blade? Twelve seconds.

Not only was the time incredibly less; the work and effort were much less. It was like the proverbial hot knife through warm butter when I used the new blade.

There was something else about this little experiment that intrigued me. Since the saw blade only slowly became duller, I had not detected the extra time and effort necessary to use my saw. This was like another proverbial image: the frog in the kettle of slowly heating water who never detects that he is being cooked! I was clueless to the huge amount of wasted time and effort that I was indulging in by using a warn out saw blade.

Readers of Steve Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People will be familiar with the principle of sharpening the saw in one’s personal and professional life. The concept highlights our need to take care of the tool of the soul—the self. To perform at the highest level, to function well emotionally, volitionally, mentally, relationally, spiritually, and physically, we must keep our saw sharp.

What is the “saw” personally? It’s our inner character—our spiritual maturity through spiritual connection to Christ.

How’s your character saw? If it were dull, would you even detect it since you’ve not checked your blade in ages?

We can try to “do” ministry minus the sharp ministry tool of a soul fine-tuned by spiritual formation. Try as we might, we’ll eventually fail—hurting others with our dull blade.

Here’s to keeping our spiritual saw sharp.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bill Cosby's Latest Book

Come on People!

Dr. Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint have penned an instant classic that every American, regardless of race should race out to purchase, read, and apply. As a middle-age white male, I fondly remember listening to the wit, wisdom, and humor of Bill Cosby on a 78 (a record for those too young to know). The joy he brought me as a youth is nothing compared to the joy he is bringing a race and a nation today as he and his co-author definitively address the "Path from Victims to Victors."

In 288 pages of tightly-written, well-crafted material, Cosby and Poussaint address, in turn, the topics of: "What's Going on with Black Men," "It Takes a Community," "We All Start Out As Children," The Media You Deserve," "Healthy Hearts and Minds," "The High Price of Violence," and "From Poverty to Prosperity." Simply reading these chapter titles demonstrates that "Come on People" holistically addresses the social ills of a people, wisely looking both at individual responsibility and societal/cultural influences.

From the very beginning, their words are riveting. "For the last generation or two, as our communities dissolved and our parenting skills broke down, no one has suffered more than our young black men. Your authors have been around long enough and traveled widely enough to, to think we understand something about the problem. And we're hopeful enough--or desperate enough--to think that with all of us working together we might find a solution" (p. 1).

Indeed, "Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors" is the single best modern book providing a solution to the problems facing a race and a nation. While an honest book, it is not a negative book. That is, it looks honestly at the negative factors influencing people today, while looking beyond the negative to positive answers and practical solutions.

Friday, October 12, 2007

My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir

My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is normally so quiet--on the bench and about his public life--that he almost has been perceived as reclusive. Finally, thoroughly, and happily, he has spoken (written) with "My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir." Thomas chronicles his rise from poverty, his upbringing by his grandfather who taught him lessons of personal responsibility, and his up-and-down road to the Supreme Court.

All the while Thomas honestly depicts the barriers he faced and the hurdles he had to overcome. Of course, Thomas also finally speaks about the Anita Hill charges. With candor about the pain and with substantiating evidence about the facts, his side of the story is finally told. But the greater message of the book is the story of how Thomas moved beyond suffering and prejudice and bias to live the America dream. It is a story filled with hope and dignity. It is a story worth telling and worth reading.