Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Secretary of the Future

Yesterday, I heard an interesting segment on the "Marketplace" radio show on NPR. The segment was based on Kurt Vonnegut's question about having someone leading national policy and sustainable actions with his children and grandchildren in mind. It's intriguing to imagine a Secretary of the Future at Cabinet level for a country. Many organizations are driven by folk rooted in history, yet with little strategic focus on "what is next?" and a futurist orientation. What are the threats and the opportunities today and tomorrow? Too often a country or an organization can get caught in replicating the past, and can be hard pressed if a new pattern emerges . In dynamic, changing times we need even more focus on tomorrow and how to best position ourselves. What about sustainability for a business? Or for a church or Church?

Check out the idea in more detail here.

Who is your church/Church Secretary of the Future? Who is on your church/Church sustainability team? How do you talk about the future for your church/Church, and how do you broaden ownership of a shared future beyond the futurist?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Lessons From an Aircraft Carrier Group, Part 2

So, I pushed my brother a little in his early response. After all, what are brothers for!

Regarding the plan and strategy I asked: "Would you say this is what it takes to 'move a fleet?' Does this pattern still hold if you are 'on the fly' or in the middle of a lot of changes... or maybe even a battle? Does urgency change the decision making process with a crowd or does it narrow the focus in any way?"

He replied, "... we 'fight as we train, train as we fight.' We try to stick to the plan, but like the saying goes, 'all plans change as soon as the battle starts and you meet your enemy.'"

Later Brother said, "... look at C5ISR- Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. Yes, urgency can but does not always change the decision tree or process- which is why each commander (battle group commander, ship's commanding officer, airwing commander) have a staff of folks who specialize in rapid data analysis and decision processes (sometimes that works, sometimes not)."

I think there are plenty of implications to consider for both church and Church in these lessons.

How does church train in ways that match the reality of the mission? What are the individual and group implications for such a training approach? Or have we so lost, or muddled, our mission goals that we this is meaningless?

Who is doing rapid data analysis? Who specializes in decision processes? How do these various roles and systems share information and interact? How does the process change with urgency? What roles are most critical to your church/Church accomplishing the mission?

I've sometimes used the imagery of moving a church/Church being similar to moving an aircraft carrier. The more I think about it the more I wonder if many of our current US churches just aren't built for mission or for movement. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Lessons From an Aircraft Carrier Group, Part 1

I've got two younger brothers who have done well in life, ventured away from Georgia, and have spent most of their adult lives outside the south. The middle one, who had the adjective "precocious" attached to him most often during our first 20 years, enjoyed a career with the Navy before his current government job. He spent many years on aircraft carriers (including USS Constellation [CV64], USS Kitty Hawk [CV63], USS Enterprise [CVN65] and others and concluding with USS Bush [CVN77]). After 20 years in the Navy he retired as a Lieutenant Commander. 

I asked him what it takes to move a carrier fleet and how they communicate and coordinate such movement. He's a person of deep faith, and we both recognize that we wouldn't want the Church to become a conquering, military operation. Instead, the curiosity is what might the church movement learn to become a movement again. It's not as simple a simple process as it is relational, contextual, and not a paid position. But in the complexity of people and roles and movement how do we function and can we learn from others? How does a complex organization with many people and a shared mission yet various roles arrive safely and fulfill the goals?

Brother said:
  • Create a plan (crawl, walk, run- the typical stages of planning). 
  • Communicate and get feedback on the plan.
  • Execute the plan. 
  • Learn from the event and plan for the next one. 
  • Use a multi-tiered approach throughout process including in person meetings, telephone/radio/email/newsletters/planning documents shared on computer, shared drive or internet; 
  • Keep up with changes to the plan and share the changes in enough time that people can react to them 
Most of this is standard systems operation though sometimes we get the stages out of order. I am reminded that too often the church/Church doesn't learn from a plan or event. We can fail to do evaluation and apply the learning to our next steps. It makes me wonder how many times a personality might dominate a plan instead of a group process which makes possible a larger mission and greater outcome. Further, I'm especially mindful that we sometimes don't share the changes in enough time for people to react. This sense of communication and timing seems even more important for Church and especially for a global denomination. And, again, while it may take one or two to lead and to facilitate the process there should be high levels of dialogue and input for mission effectiveness. 

While this may seem basic, in fact, it can be tough to keep up such practices and discipline the more complex an organization becomes. What do you see in this as you consider the way your church works the plan/s? We'll go a little deeper with this in Part 2 with more lessons from an aircraft carrier group.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lessons From a Marketing Campaign

I have an incredible circle of friends who are talented, hardworking, generous, and fun! One of these folk is a VO talent I got to know while serving Greensboro First United Methodist Church. I had no idea a few years ago that ""voice over" was even a job. It made sense once I thought about all those voices I hear on radio, in stores, on Pandora, etc. It's been fun to follow Kelley over the years and to listen more closely "at the voices" to hear if that's a friend talking to me.

Recently Kelley got my attention again as she launched a campaign directed at/for #Jeep. What is intriguing to me in this is that it's personal, matches Kelley's life, and somewhat blurs the line between typical advertising and a friend telling their story about a product. Kelley even got the attention of Adweek. She combined her interest, her friends and their talents, and reached out in a novel way with her marketing. Check out her risky, bold, authentic campaign. If you are a #Jeep person or #JeepFamily you may especially enjoy #KB4Jeep.

I told Kelley that I wondered what church could learn about running a marketing campaign. We both recognize a difference between an advertising company and the work of the church, but I've always thought the church can learn much from creative, generous, fun people that will make us stronger. So, while I wouldn't advise a church to lose it's distinctives I know that we must be savvy about reaching out to our community and world in risky, bold, authentic ways. It's a glutted market out there, with many aggressively reaching out to people, and the church must have a plan that embraces the individual and church need for connecting with the community.

I asked Kelley to share 3 principles of a creative campaign and she advised:
1. Research, research, and research your target some more.
2. Immerse yourself in your target's brand culture.
3. Make sure any marketing effort is reflective of the target's brand personality.

I translate this in some missional ways for a congregation as:
1. Learn the people, and the people groups, of your community. Don't think you are done learning!
2. Immerse yourself in the community. It may be that you, or your church, may only represent 1 or 2 people groups in the community. Go deep with community engagement to know the culture.
3. Learn to communicate in effective ways with the people group/s in your community that you know and can reach. Speak the language of the people so that the words, deeds, and community communication of the church are in alignment. Otherwise you are talking a different language.

This is intriguing as I think about who a congregation is and who we might be trying to reach in our community. Our challenge today, in our secular, cynical world, is building real relationships as we love God and love our neighbors as we do ourselves. As I transfer these marketing principles to the life of a church it opens up some good possibilities for a church. Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ that meets people where they live is still our calling, and we can do that in ways that connect the congregation and our community.

Check out Kelley's campaign and then imagine what risky, personal, authentic marketing plan your congregation might develop.