Episode 7 - Scope

How do we coalesce towards sharing a purpose together that will shape the way we work together?


Change is actually continuous, but our response to it is not always to do something. Sometimes it confirms us more in the way we are. It can make us more comfortable to hold things that are more predictable - like a marble rolling to the bottom of a basin.

On any given day we can imagine or see more things that we could throw ourselves at and change than can ever be addressed. So even at the very front end there is the question of choice, of prayerful consideration of what you're being called to do.

Crisis is a serious unravelling, and if we've left things until we're desperate, we're probably in that unravelling situation. And I don't think that's uncommon in this phase of history we're in because so many conversations of leadership have been caught flat footed by the pace of change.

Churches in particular are flat footed because of not seeing change as something that ought to be constantly engaged with, constantly processed as part of living. We've tended to see conservatism and static and sameness as desirable states. Perhaps they are for graveyards.

We see threats to stability as bad and to be guarded against. And we need to lead past that as a barrier because that's just going to lead to slow and painful irrelevance. That’s not a vibrant continuation of holding the Gospel story in in the community.

Construction of a burning platform is the lazy leadership because it's not about calling us into a future. It's about saying “I’ll wait ‘til everyone's got hot and then will they follow me into a new future and it will be easy.

It's not about burning platforms. It's about telling the truth about the context that we live in, and telling the truth about the wonders of the gospel and God’s offer into that context, and joining those two together – not artificially creating crises in order to activate people.

You need a lot of voices in this early stage of coming to grips with a need or a situation. You actually got to do a lot of listening, and to hold a space of openness to a variety of voices in order to actually understand what the system is.

In your early conversations try and have the “system in the room” by the people you have in the room. Have a representative from each of those parts of the operation that will be touched; those who will be required to supply; those who will be required to govern it; those will be required to monitor; those who will be impacted by it, who will be looking over your shoulder and perhaps be afraid of what you're doing.

Thomas Kuhn in his work on Scientific Revolutions had a major impact on our thinking about the history of science. And he made it really clear from his historical studies just how much innovation relies on communities of thought, on multiple people. The heroic individual was the exception not the rule.

The heroic individual is another paradigm that the church has bought. But if you want to be an effective agent of change it's one you better get out of your head, because understanding the system requires multiple voices. That brings a challenge not only for the leader in the church context but also the congregation .

Coalescing around a purpose is a very different thing to providing an answer.

There's a definition that came out of the Harvard Business Review article quite a few years ago that says that “the exercise of leadership is about realizing a future that wasn't going to happen anyway”. A future that wasn't going to happen anyway is one where we've actually had to really make some serious choices about difference, where we've really had to confront our assumptions and take new perspectives.


Potential activities during the scope phase:
  • Be curious
  • Take perspectives
  • Surface assumptions
  • Share reflections

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