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.

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