October 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In less than twelve months, together with the Holy Spirit, we have completely reinvented Kingsway Church. While our overall numbers may be the same, we have spread to two new neighborhoods, dramatically expanded our pastoral staff, and filled much of our congregation with renewed vision for reaching our communities.
What if that was just the beginning?
October 11, 2012 § 2 Comments
That is, we start with a shared belief that vision ought to be:
- Effective: timely, clear, actionable & aligned with the organization’s overall purpose
- Spread: distributed from the core leadership out to every member
- Owned: each person takes responsibility for how they implement that common vision
Working from there, we can adapt techniques from, e.g., Scrum, that will help our organization achieve that goal.
Here are what I consider the most powerful suggestions:
- Adopt a mindset of continuously developing and implementing new visions
- Care about improving how we do things, not just what we do
- Maintain a written backlog of “things worth doing/changing”
- Innovate in seasons of 4-8 weeks, tied to, e.g., a sermon series
- The leader (pastor) prioritizes 1-3 items from the backlog to focus on each season
- The team owns the vision (together) and its implementation (individually)
- Define the conceptual goal and practical metrics in terms of the value delivered to the customer (e.g., God)
- At the end of each season, celebrate what was accomplished (“thanksgiving”) and reflect on what did or did not go well (“confession”)
To me, the key is moving from strategic once-a-year vision-and-budgeting meetings for leaders towards tactical “sprints” that mobilize the entire organization (congregation).
This pace may sound a bit exhausting, but that very awareness forces us to alternate “productive” and “relaxing” sprints to keep the whole community healthy. It is already too easy to fall into ruts where some people never do much while others are continually burning themselves out. A good process should make explicit important issues that were previously implicit, so we are forced to consciously manage them.
October 5, 2012 § 3 Comments
As a followup to my post on the Agile Church, our elder’s board is having a spirited discussion of the appropriate role of metrics and goals when leading a church. My perspectives is that the main purpose of SMART Goals is to inspire operational metrics that enable continuous innovation.
In other words, knowing where we want to go is essential for prioritizing what we want to do; but, in an Agile world, we won’t know where we should be going until we get there.
To that end, I am deeply indebted to KISS Metrics for their article on How to Use a Single Metric to Run Your Startup.
“The One Metric That Matters (or OMTM) is a single number that you care the most about at the current stage of your startup (the OMTM will change).”
- It answers the most important question you have.
- It forces you to draw a line in the sand and have clear goals (defining success).
- It focuses the entire company.
- It inspires a culture of experimentation.
In particular, I love the point that “A rate or ratio is better than an absolute or cumulative value.” Agile is all about improving velocity — doing better work with the resources we have — not contorting ourselves to reach arbitrary goals.
To be sure, finding the right metric for a non-profit is a perilous endeavor, in that the wrong choice can be devastating to individuals and the organization; of course, that is also true of for-profit metrics! However, there is a growing body of research from impact investing that demonstrates the enormous value that is created when you do find the right metric .
The reality is that churches already measure crude metrics such as attendance and giving. Either we ignore them as irrelevant (at our peril), or we focus only on those (which could be worse). I believe we owe it to God as our customer to wisely discern how He wants our churches to grow in each “season”, and identify metrics to keep us accountable. Some possible metrics include:
- First-time guests
- Church members added
- New baptisms
- Number of regular, tithing attenders
- Leaders trained/sent out
- New ministry initiatives launched
There are no obvious right and wrong answers; the question is rather “What is a workable way to capture where God wants us to be growing?“
To be clear, this is primarily a matter of spiritual discernment from the pastor (as the “Product Owner“). But, supporting that vision with the right metric will help flesh out the spirit!
September 28, 2012 § 2 Comments
The modern church is typically structured like a 20th-century business, with distinct, mostly autonomous departments focused on executing an agreed-upon “business plan” that changes very slowly over time. The church adds a layer of relationship and prayer, and relies on volunteer labor, but overall mostly matches the model invented by Alfred Sloan at GMover 50 years ago.
The important thing to realize about this model is that it is optimized
for better doing the same thing over and over again — what’s known as
“disciplined execution.” This is contrast to “rapid innovation”, which
is better done by small, high-performance teams.
For years, management theorists assumed that a single organization could not do both. This split is somewhat reflected in the historic distinction between “church” (execution) and “parachurch” (innovation).
In the last decade, a new approach to managing software projects has
emerged called “Agile“, which has achieved remarkable success at doing both
disciplined execution and rapid innovation. The key cultural values
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
If that sounds a bit foreign to the church, try reading it as:
- People and relationships over processes and tools
- Transformed lives over written agreements
- Glorifying God over fulfilling the Law
- Responding to today’s culture over following tradition
The critical term is “over”: the items on the Right side are still valued, but are explicitly subordinate to those on the Left.
Further, there is an ongoing movement called Stoos to apply these practices beyond software to the general problem of organizational management. Interestingly, many of the attributes of “Stoosian” organizations matches what we want to see in our churches:
- The workers, not the leaders, “own” the work they do.
- The job of leaders is to articulate the needs and desires of the Customer (in this case, God) in way workers can fulfill.
- The measure of work is not how much we do, but how much value we deliver to the Customer.
- Everybody takes responsibility for improving how we do things, not just what we do.
I believe there is enormous opportunity for the church to radically improve how we “delight our Customer.” Below are some early attempts. I look forward to further dialogue around this issue.
Agile/Scrum in the Church
- Agile Church: Slides and Case Studies « The Blue Room
- Scrum — it’s not just for software anymore « Agile Raven Blog
- Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples
- Scrum in Church: Saving the World One Team at a Time
Excerpt from “Scrum in Church”
The ways we organize ourselves, the structures we create to order our lives, and our work, reflect our deepest theological understandings. How is power understood? Does it flow from on high? Does it emerge from the people? Does it take a completely different configuration? Who benefits? What is most highly valued? What cognitive styles are preferred? What or who is on the margins? What is not seen because it cannot be imagined? Who is not “like us”? How do we treat them?
One of my favorite questions as I enter a congregation is “How does power flow around here?” One answer I’ll never forget is, “Well, it’s sorta like water in a bathtub, it sloshes.” We laugh, perhaps in recognition?
In short, the ways we live, what we do, and how we do them reflect one’s deepest values.
July 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
June 15, 2012 § 1 Comment
Last October, along with many other tributes to the late Apple co-founder, James Allworth claimed that Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator’s Dilemma. His explanation is that Apple avoids the traditional pitfalls that stifle innovation because:
Apple hasn’t optimized its organization to maximize profit. Instead, it has made the creation of value for customers its priority.
To support his thesis, James cites Apple’s unusual attitude towards:
- Profit: “there’s only one person Apple with responsibility for a profit and loss. The CFO.”
- People: “It didn’t matter how great you were, if you couldn’t deliver to that mission — you were out.”
- Products: “Tim Cook, on the iPad disrupting the Mac business: ‘Yes, I think there is some cannibalization… the iPad team works on making their product the best. Same with the Mac team.’ It’s almost unheard of to be able to manage disruption like this.”
While these are clearly key contributors to Apple’s disruptive success, the only show that Apple has so far avoided the Innovator’s Dilemma. Clay Christensen himself, author of the Innovator’s Dilemma and self-appointed “Jewish Mother” to the business world, still publicly worries whether Apple has truly found a sustainable solution to that problem.
So has Apple solved the Innovator’s Dilemma, or not? How could we know?
November 10, 2009 § Leave a Comment
The OpenID community is still wrestling with how to deliver a first-time login experience that is acceptable to mainstream users. Research indicates we need something less open-ended than typing into a blank URL field, but neither is it desirable to push users to choose from a few (or worse, many) pre-selected identity provider logos.
One approach for solving this problem is called (for lack of a better term) the Active Identity Client, or AIC (similar to what I previously called a Chamberlain). An AIC boostraps the identity selection process at a new website (aka Relying Party, or RP) by storing some amount of identity information on the user’s home computer. The AIC uses that identity to access a persistent record of the user’s interaction with multiple sites and identity providers (IdPs) to negotiate and streamline future such interactions. This (in theory) allows the user, rather than the RP, to prioritize which providers to use.
A number of such AICs were demonstrated at last week’s Internet Identity Workshop. Rather than attempting to standardize on a single AIC, a group of us discussed developing a common infrastructure that might enable a broad spectrum of AICs to innovate and compete. Specifically, we attempted to identity conventions, best practices, and extensions to existing standards that would support both “native” and “in-browser” AICs.
This article is my idiosyncratic attempt to synthesize what we discussed into a coherent vision for Active Identity Clients. It may not fully reflect the opinions of any given participant, and certainly does not represent the views of our respective employers. Rather, it is a subjective snapshot of a still-evolving problem space, and is intended to provide a concrete starting point for further discussion, critique, and clarification. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 2, 2009 § 1 Comment
[Disclaimer: The following is a hypothesis I am exploring for the Nov 2009 Internet Identity Workshop. It may not even reflect my current thinking, and certainly doesn't represent any sort of official position of my employer.]
Chamberlain: A User-Serving Model for Identity Management
Most proposals for open identity management on the Internet use the wallet metaphor, where the user is expected to choose from amongst a variety of disjoint identities when accessing a given website. This either requires typing in a complex unique identifier (e.g., a URL) or selecting from one of several provider logos (aka the NASCAR Problem). Worse, this entire ecosystem typically exists in parallel with traditional username/password authentication, increasing the complexity of the choices users are expected to make.
I believe that the best way to solve these problems is to move to an entirely different metaphor. Rather than thinking of identity as something manually managed by the user (like cards in a wallet), I believe the vast majority of users want identity to be something that is managed *for* them — the way a chamberlain in a palace might keep keys to all the rooms, and control who was allowed to go where in accordance with royal policy.
From this perspective, the real challenge is understanding what kind of experience users want when using an identity system, and then building an architecture optimized for enabling that kind of experience. This “chamberlain” approach leads to very different questions and outcomes than the traditional model. Designing such a system will require making hard choices about what sort of security non-technical users truly need and want, as well as about the metadata necessary to support those choices. Moreoever, implementations would require significant client-side support, and create different winners and losers than existing systems — both of which could hinder broad adoption.
That said, the potential payoff is an architecture that would work reasonably well with the web as it is today, and scale cleanly to support more elegant mechanisms in the future. While my initial proposal below is unlikely to achieve all those goals, hopefully it will at least provoke others to come up with something even better.
« Read the rest of this entry »
July 9, 2008 § 1 Comment
Harvard University raised a minor ruckus last year when they revamped their core liberal arts curriculum. Regardless of the merits of their specific plan, they deserve credit for being willing to reexamine, redefine, and reinvent their scholarship to better fulfill their unique mission: training the next generation of “cultural elites” who will guide academia, industry, and government.
In this era of declining computer science enrollments — and ongoing concern over the math and science competency of American students — I believe it is time for technical institutions to undertake similar soul-searching. In particular, we need to rethink the historic divorce of science and engineering from the so-called liberal arts — those nominally intended for “free men.”