Archive for the ‘Short Thoughts’ Category

The Dynamics of Innovation

30 Apr

Consider the following quote from James M. Utterback’s book titled Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation.

Firms owe it to themselves to improve and extend the lives of profitable product lines. these represent important cash flows to the firm and links to existing customers. They provide the funds that will finance future products. At the same time, managers must not neglect pleas that advocate major commitments to new initiatives. Typically, top management is pulled by opposing, responsible forces: those that demand commitment to the old, and those that advocate for the future. Unfortunately, advocacy tend to overstate the market potential of new product lines and understate their costs. Management, then, must find the right balance between support for incremental improvements and commitments to new and unproven initiatives. Understanding and managing this tension perceptively may well separate the ultimate winners from the losers.

Even those who were once considered on the forefront of innovation sometimes become entrenched in past accomplishments and are unable to embrace innovation past his or her initial own revelation. Consider the example of Thomas Edison. In 1879, he was considered a bold and courageous innovator. In 1889, he was a cautions and conservative defender of the status quo. Edison had adopted direct electrical current as the standard, even through alternating current was understood at the time. When George Westinghouse recognized the potential technical superiority of alternating current, Edison defended his turf in the legal system, through regulation, and in the court of public opinion.

Unless an organization and its leaders embrace innovation and change as a constant, they will succumb to the traditions of the past. The implementation of informal control will give way to an emphasis on structure, goals, and rules. Structure then becomes hierarchical and rigid, and tasks become formal. Ultimately, major innovations – once the life-blood of the organization – are less and less encouraged; continuous incremental improvements (though critical) become the norm.


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11 Feb

When does this term apply to us? Are we culpable as leaders or followers when we fail to oppose a leader whose actions and leadership conflict with the stated norm or criterion on which an organization was established? Are we culpable when we acquiesce to others, or simply do nothing, thus taking a course of action contrary to our beliefs and moral values for the sake of self-gain or to choose the path of least resistance?


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Change and Influence

23 Oct

Change is difficult; for some it is almost impossible. When innovators and agents of change are not in formal leadership roles, it can seem impractical to attempt to influence change for fear of experiencing backlash from those in authority over you. However, change is a constant, especially in this century – more than at any time previously.

So, how do we approach change? What ‘tactics’ can be initiated to parlay change when it is needed for the organization’s sustainability – viability when the leader does not see the need for change?

Barbara Moses, a Canadian consultant and author, offers the following advise:

If your boss doesn’t understand the need for change, this might be partly your fault. You can’t make change; you have to sell it. And the key to selling anything is to understand where the other person is coming from . . . rather than to assume that your boss is a jerk. But most of us communicate from an egocentric place. We construct an idea or a project mainly in terms of what makes sense to us. Instead, ask yourself; “What is mot important to my boss?” “What are his/her greatest concerns?” go forward only after you have answered these questions.   


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The Architecture of Church Governance – A Need for Change

10 Jan

In December, Charisma Magazine posted an article titled Spiritual Trends to Watch in 2012 written by J. Lee Grady. He begins by stating . . . Some people are terrified of 2012. Their fear is based on the fact that the Mayans of ancient Mexico mysteriously ended their 5,126-year-old calendar on Dec. 21, 2012—as if they expected the world to end that day.”


I appreciate his perspective and agree; I’m not worried about 12/21/2012 either. However, there are emerging trends that will dramatically affect the church and, as Grady presents, some are very positive and some, unfortunately, negative. You can access the entire article on-line at:

Although I would like to dialogue on each of the trends, number nine (9) struck me in particular because of the book I published recently, For the Sake of the House: organizational and leadership requirements for the 21st century church. Let me explain.

Grady writes . . . Denominations will be redefined:

Younger leaders today are uncomfortable with the rigidity and uniformity imposed by denominations. They place a high value on relationships and aren’t attracted to wasteful or needless structures. In order to keep younger ministers on board, some Pentecostal denominations will ditch old wineskins and change tired policies. The emphasis will shift from strict hierarchy to team-based leadership, and from impersonal organization to organic relationships. Denominations that don’t make this vital shift will shrink and become irrelevant.

As I write in the opening of my book, “(For the Sake of the Church) is written to heighten awareness of the organizational dynamics of the church and advance new strategies to meet the demands of this century. Despite the growing urgency on today’s organizations to poise themselves for sustainability, many local congregations and religious organizations continue to function as they have for decades, . . .”

I believe we need to address this on two fronts: 1) church leadership (plural, a teams-based approach), and 2) the church organization. Many books and articles have been written about leadership, however I believe tradition, fear of change, and no real understanding of strategic foresight analysis still too often influence our dialogue.

From an organizational perspective, structures and designs do not just happen. It takes much time, much effort, and many talented people. Again, as with leadership, our tendency is to rely on the familiar, our traditions. However, the changes the church currently faces are different now; they are discontinuous and not part of any pattern. Even the smallest changes can make the biggest differences, even if they go unnoticed for a time. For leaders, this may be confusing and troubling. But with proper preparation and foresight, with strategies, correct planning, and implementation, the local church organization will continue to flourish. The way we organize will determine our effectiveness. We need to be missionally responsive, culturally adaptive, organizationally agile multiplication movements.

Reggie McNeal’s statement echoes these sentiments and the impact it will have on those who are part of our congregations: “Missional Christians will no longer be content to help their church succeed in getting better at “doing church” or consider their commitment to the church as an expression of spiritual depth. They are shifting their commitments to people and causes beyond the church.” 


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Organizational Restructure and Redesign

30 Dec

In every aspect of restructure and redesign, it is imperative that organizational leaders rethink their roles. The only way for an organization to generate the speed necessary to succeed in the twenty-first century is to allow people within the organization to go as fast as they can. The notion of coaching from the bench takes on new meaning as leaders strategically implement new structures and designs and break down the barriers that traditionally gave status and power. Although the leadership aspects will be discussed in the following chapters, first and foremost, great leaders serve; they are not part of the organization to be served. Their primary goal is for the good of the organization, not for their own self-gratification.


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Leadership Secrets for 2012

13 Dec

At the 2011 World Business Forum, Ben Zander – conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, shared his leadership secrets to success. Consider them as you prepare for the New Year

  1. Visualize your role as a leader, not as the central figure of control, but getting players to explore the possibilities. When you make a mistake, or others do, respond with “How fascinating!” and don’t place blame.
  2. Opportunities always lie in reframing the question and examining the assumptions you and your teammates are taking for granted and don’t realize you are making. Anyone in the organization can identify and challenge assumptions, so get started today and engage in the exploration.
  3. You’ll never live a full life complaining. Today’s reality often seems fixed with strong competition and grim goals. Take the perspective of “what if” and “what’s next” and never lose sight of the broader vision.
  4. Distinguish the “downward spiral” from “radiating possibilities,” reliably and consistently. When things are defined as WIN/LOSE you constrain possibilities.
  5. The secret to life is “all is invented” and “all is in the perception and framed in your perspective.”
  6. Remember Rule #6 (when others are overcome by problems): “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” Essentially, turn everything to a positive and never complain, and you will stay closer to the track that will open possibilities. Tension never releases possibilities.


Let me add a 7th rule for 2012: “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.  And, never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

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Fear of Failure and Creativity

10 Dec

The fear of failure exists in an atmosphere where creativity is stifled. Creativity involves risks and failure must be regarded as a learning experience. Creativity is birthed where failing is good . . . as long as it (failing) doesn’t become a habit. There must be opportunity to ‘try’ even though  success is not guaranteed.

If you are in a working environment that encourages creativity, celebrate. If you are not, find one that gives you that opportunity. Great accomplishments are realized after much trial and error. But . . . you must try.

As hockey legend Wayne Gretzky states,“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”


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The Fallacy of Consensus

17 Nov

I have served on many committees and most tried to achieve consensus when members had opposing points of view. Consensus has always been considered an amicable compromise . . . a way to avert an impasse and move on with business. Getting members that disagree to ‘go along’ with the decision of the majority, thus reaching consensus, accomplish this.

Unfortunately, we mistakenly equate consensus with 100% agreement.

Consensus is in conflict with the purpose, goals, and working approach of real teams. This may sound confusing and conflicting but stay with me.

The objective of a team (identified by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith as a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable) is to achieve a purpose that a group of people working independently could not accomplish. And, the most powerful force for effective teaming arises from a common performance purpose, common team goals, and a commonly agreed upon working approach.

The key is in the word ‘common.’ And common is quite different from consensus since it integrates the best of opposing viewpoints to accomplish the vision, the common goal.

Consensus results when opposing viewpoints are expressed but disagreeing members are encouraged to ‘voice agreement. There are two specific dangers: 1) each member is given ‘veto’ power at any time, and 2) members opposing the consensus decision agree to agree in word only.

Another danger is that consensus leads the members to accept compromise solutions instead of working to integrate the best of opposing views, which requires team members to learn that common and shared directions, clear goals, and disciplined working approaches do not require 100% intellectual and emotional agreement.

In essence, if a group of individuals call themselves a ‘team’ yet fail to commit themselves to a common purpose, common performance goals, and common approach, they really are not a team and leave themselves open to members not supporting consensus decisions once outside the room.

Don’t be fooled into working towards consensus. The results are always less than optimal.


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Personal Mission Statement

11 Nov

During a recent teaching session, one of the students shared their personal mission statement – written over 20 years ago.

“To constantly seek more knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ and develop an ever increasing relationship with Him. To teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ when given the opportunity while being a living light of His love and salvation. I will strive for excellence in all aspects of my life through transformative leadership, commitment, integrity, truthfulness and dedication. To view life as a learning/growth continuum; striving for higher knowledge heights while lifting as I climb by first exhibiting those things I learn in my life and then by teaching everything I learn wherever and whenever possible to whomever is willing to listen.

To believe in the power of people; that people together can accomplish many great things. Finally, to concern myself with the well being of every person I encounter by believing that WE is always more important than me.” 

Long . . . but well stated. We are blessed to have this individual as a member of the masters program in management and organizational leadership.


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The Quest for Significance – 2

03 Oct

The publisher completed their work on my book, For the Sake of the House: organizational and leadership requirements for the 21st century church. It should be available shortly . . . hard cover, soft cover (paperback), and as an e-book. I’ll let you know where it can be purchased when I have the information.

My publisher sent me a hard and soft covered copy last week for my final review. Although there is a minor change or two I could have made, we’ve chosen not to do any further editing right now – the process has gone on long enough. If you’ve published a book, you understand what I am referring to . . . !

So, what does this have to do with our quest for significance? Let me explain .  .  .

After receiving the copies, I showed them to someone who has had a significant role in my life for many years. Anticipating some expression of excitement and congratulations, I was surprised . . . actually shocked . . . when the response was “I’ve done a lot of writing and should have had it published into a book.” No congratulations . .  . no “I’m proud of what you have accomplished!” . . . no ‘at-a-boy’ . . . nothing! Only comments about their past accomplishments and how their work should have received more acknowledgement.

Although it was disappointing, I admit it was more surprising than disappointing. It struck me immediately how quickly this individual needed to deflect the attention back to them. Their self esteem, their self worth, their significance seemed to demand that the attention be on them and not someone else.

We all want to feel important. We all want others to acknowledge our accomplishments. We all want to be appreciated.

It is a struggle . . .

I learned a lot during this interchange. I trust when someone shares his or her accomplishments or achievements with me I’ll be able to respond appropriately.

It’s really not always about me . . .



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