PREPARATION & Want To Have A Successful Career? You Can Learn A Lot From Surfers

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: As an avid surfer for many decades, I concur with this article that points out only 8% of surfing is riding the waves and the other 92% is preparation. Read this article to learn more leadership lessons from a wonderfully enjoyable hobby.

Want To Have A Successful Career? You Can Learn A Lot From Surfers

by Antonio Neves, Inc. Magazine, 8/17/17.

But something I find particularly fascinating about surfing is that surfers spend only eight percent of their time riding waves. Eight percent!

The way surfers talk about their sport, you’d assume the vast majority of their time is spent shredding waves. And it’s easy to get that impression watching surfing highlight reels.

The reality is that surfers spend most of their time not riding waves. This is by no means the sexy or adrenaline-fueled part of surfing, but it’s oh so necessary.

Before a surfer even comes close to riding a wave, there are a lot of steps that need to happen that most of us are unaware of.

This includes waxing the surfboard; transporting the surfboard to the beach; putting on a wetsuit and getting into sometimes frigid water; paddling often against a strong current, out to where the waves are; then waiting and waiting some more until a wave comes – that is, assuming the weather is even in your favor that day.

When the wave finally comes, sometimes another surfer will beat you to it. That means waiting it out for the next one.

When another wave comes, maybe it’s a too small – so you decide not to take it. You continue to wait.

Yet another wave comes, but this one’s too big and you decide to pass on it. More waiting.

Then a just-right wave arrives and you decide to ride it – only to immediately wipe out and get smashed down hard into the water.

More paddling and waiting.

Finally, another perfect wave arrives, and this time you ride it for all of 5, 6, or 7 seconds. An amazing ride.

Then, you paddle back out and wait all over again.

With surfing, all we tend to see are those elusive amazing rides. Rarely do we hear about everything else it takes to prepare for that moment when it finally arrives.

In many ways, this is a great metaphor for life and business, particularly when we’re struggling or feel stuck…

Read more at …

PLANNING & Growth by Accident, Death by Planning (The Book’s Premise Stated)

“Most of the time young, growing churches make a series of decisions based not upon careful planning and analysis, but rather upon necessity and intuition. Thus these decisions are not planned strategies, but strategies that often occur by accident, owing their genesis to circumstance. These unplanned strategic decisions are driven not by knowledge, but often simply by the church’s environment. When that growth slows, these same churches begin to engage in more careful planning. The problem is that this planning so often ignores the considerations and decisions that led to the church’s growth to begin with. The result is stagnation and eventual decline.”

Premise of the book Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How NOT to Kill a Growing Congregation by Bob Whitesel.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004.

Retrieved from

MEASUREMENT & How to Create a PERT Chart #ChurchPlanning

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/7/15.

I’ve found that many people are unfamiliar with the value of a PERT chart to help leaders visualize steps in church planning.  And regrettably, I have found that most churches are often remiss in not evaluating nor reviewing their plans.

However, a PERT chart (an acronym for Project [or Program] Evaluation and Review Technique) gives you another tool in your leadership arsenal.

Here are a couple ideas to learn about a PERT chart.

First, search online for examples and to understand the basics. 

There are different varieties of PERT charts. I have found that church leaders resonate best with the simple MILESTONE-ACTIVITIES model (where MILESTONES are represented by a “circle” and ACTIVITIES are represented by an “arrow” with a time attached).  Here is an example of a simple PERT chart:

(retrieved from )

Here is an explanation of the above.

MILESTONE 50 is the GOAL. To get there requires four MILESTONES to be accomplished: 10, 20, 30 and 40.

For example, in the above diagram getting from MILESTONE 10 to MILESTONE 20 and MILESTONE 30 requires Activity B and A respectively. The estimated time for activity A is 3 months, and Activity B is 4 months.

Let me explain how the above PERT chart could be used for a need-assessment survey of the unchurched population around your church.

MILESTONE 10 could be “the board agrees to assess needs of community in a five mile radius of the church.”  GOAL 50 is therefore: “to present at an annual leaders’ retreat an assessment of the needs of community in a five mile radius of the church.”

One group of leaders decide they will do secondary research (basically looking into research by others). They will accomplish MILESTONE 30 and 40 on the way to GOAL 50.

MILESTONE 30: the group will meet and divide into two more groups. One sub-group will get demographic information from local leaders such as business people., the chamber of commerce, etc (activity D).  Another sub-group that will look at information that is available online (activity E) and bring it to the retreat (GOAL 50).

Another group of church leaders will do primary research by going out and actually interviewing people in the community (this is called primary research, because they are generating the research themselves and not just summarizing what others have found). Group 2 will accomplish MILESTONE 20 on the way to GOAL 50.

MILESTONE 20: This is a Saturday neighborhood walk-through by a group of church leaders. Each group takes a different neighborhood to cover the 5 communities within a five mile radius.  It takes 4 months to plan this and accomplish it. Then in ACTIVITY C the canvassers get together and pool their responses and create a report.

MILESTONE 40: The group that is going to the local business leaders sees themselves taking an additional step of selecting three business leaders to address the retreat.

MILESTONE 50 (GOAL): In about 7 months the report to the leaders retreat is ready.

Below are my “hints” to some of the PERT fundamentals for church leaders:

  • A PERT chart commonly uses “circles” called MILESTONES (sometimes called EVENTS) numbered sequentially by 10s (10, 20, 30, etc.).  This allows adding more MILESTONES in between and numbering them 11, 12 or 21, 22, etc.
  • A PERT chart also uses “arrows” (representing ACTIVITIES) that must be completed to get to the next MILESTONE.
  • Adjacent to an ACTIVITIES arrow should be a designation of the time you think will be required to complete the activity.  The time is written like this:  t=3 mo.
  • The next EVENT cannot take place until the event before it is completed.
  • A PERT chart helps you manage several tasks at the same time.
  • A PERT chart allows you to see the time needed for each task.
  • A PERT chart is flexible, allowing you to add more sub-ACTIVITIES and sub-MILESTONES later.


Let me give you a caution so that you don’t try to drill down too far in your first PERT chart.  A PERT chart is designed to grow with you as you go through a project.  You will add sub-ACTIVITIES and sub-MILESTONES later as the project unfolds.

However it is best to start with an initial PERT chart, one that you might present to your church your leaders. Thus, do not add too many sub-ACTIVITIES or sub-MILESTONES.  Don’t get too complex with this initial PERT chart.  Remember, sub- MILESTONES (circles) and sub-ACTIVITIES (arrows) can be added as the project unfolds.

It is good to simply begin to grasp the basic goals (i.e. MILESTONES), the ACTIVITIES that link the milestones, and the time needed for each activity.  It is a way for you to evaluate whether your plans are realistic and attainable. And, it will introduce you to a popular and widely used tool with which many of your lay-business people will be familiar.

PLANNING & How Visual Systems Make It Easier to Track Knowledge Work

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  We know the problem all too well at Wesley Seminary: how do we track dozens of courses running concurrently?  Though software provides varied options, this article reminds us that simple, movable visual objects often carry the most weight in tactical planning. My colleagues in the IWU School of Theology & Ministry do this effectively (though on a smaller scale) with cards representing courses and instructors.  Perhaps it’s time to eschew the online planner for the art of planning visibility.

by Daniel Markovitz, Harvard Business Review, 9/24/15.

Walk into any fitness center, health club, or gym in the country and you’ll see yourself. Or rather, reflections of yourself. It doesn’t matter whether the gym is one step up from a cave or a posh Park Avenue fitness emporium — you’ll see mirrors, and lots of them. The mirrors aren’t a manifestation of the customers’ narcissism. They’re actually there for an important purpose: to help people do their exercises properly. The mirrors act as a real-time check on your activity, enabling you to immediately adjust to ensure your safety and the quality of your exercise.

Visual feedback goes further than simply mirrors, of course. Today’s high-tech fitness trackers — Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike FuelBand, and the Apple Watch, not to mention the many sophisticated cycling and running computers — provide quantitative measurements on a stunning array of factors. No matter what your fitness activity, you can get visible, quantifiable feedback on what you’re doing and how well you’re doing it while you’re doing it.

By contrast, consider the typical office environment. What do you see? Mostly, it’s people hunched over their computers, typing furiously. Or people hunched over their iPhones in meetings, typing furiously (but covertly). How can those workers determine whether or not they’re doing their work properly? Equally important, how can you, as a leader, determine whether or not they’re doing their jobs properly? And how can you know whether or not the overarching process — preparing marketing materials, or opening up new accounts, or onboarding a new employee — is functioning as well as it could?

This invisibility creates real problems. At best, it means that tracking the work requires low-value weekly status update meetings. At worst, it means that there’s no way to make improvements until after the monthly or quarterly business results are in. That delay can cause serious damage. To return to the fitness metaphor, there’s no way to make improvements to the process until after you’ve blown out your knee, or overtrained and died at mile 11 in your big marathon. By the time you know that a process isn’t working very well, it’s too late.

Making progress visible
A San Francisco-based boutique patent firm specializing in the medical device, clean technology, and software industries uses a simple — but very clever — visual system to manage the flow of work among their six attorneys. Here’s the corkboard that’s in full view in their open office:

Markovitz 1a

Read more at …

PLANNING & A Better Option Than Just Trial-and-error (A Leadership Exercise)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/8/15.

I created this exercise to help leaders see that strategy planning is often undertaken in the church in a emotional and imprecise manner (and that is something we must change).

And so in previous postings, I explained how to rate various plans with a simple SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Yet some readers and students (especially those with strategic/operational leadership leanings) sometimes find such quantitative analysis a bit tedious. (I did actually when I was in seminary.  But as I progressed through graduate school I came to enjoy research).

Thus for the above two reasons, sometimes those with strategic/tactical gifts and those with tactical/operational attributes will find this exercise helpful.

A Leadership Exercise

Let’s start by recalling that Baumhart asked business people “What does ethical mean to you?” (Church Leaders MBA, p. 29)  The following were the answers he received:

“What does ethical mean to you?”  Answers:
1)  What my feelings tell me is right.  50%
2)  In accordance with my religious beliefs. 25%
3)  Based on the Golden Rule. 18%

Now, let’s see if this also might be true regarding how Christian ministries pick their strategies (and select programming).  Here is an adaption of Baumhart:

How do churches usually decide upon programming?
#1:  What they feel is a good program.
#2:  In accordance with what other Christians and churches think about a program.
#3:  A program based upon a bible passage.

So, pick either #1, #2 or #3 and tell why it isn’t (or is) a good way to choose a strategic ministry tactic.  And, give an example if you know of one.

For example, you might explain why “relying on your feelings” is not a good way to choose a program.  And, you might site a personal example.  Or you might share why basing a strategy on a merely bible passage could be misleading.  Again, you could give an example from your personal history with the church.

Baumhart, R. (1968). An honest profit: What businessmen say about ethics in business. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Wilson.

Smith, Mark and Wright, David. W. (2011). The church leaders’ MBA: What business school instructors wish church leaders knew about management. Circleville, OH: Ohio Christian University.

EVALUATION & How a Vision Statement Can Help You Evaluate Your Plans #CaseStudy

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 6/15/15.

A former student who was a district leader once remarked that they had a very precise vision statement and that “this vision is now used as a template in (evaluating) our budgeting process…”  He went on to say, “this vision is now used as a template in our budgeting process in that every income and expense line item is assigned to columns under the headings of leadership development, church development, church multiplication and administration.”

Such evaluation of activities through a vision statement is also an important tactic within the field of business management.  The vision statement is thus utilized as a grid or lens through which organizations decide if a certain endeavor agrees and supports their vision.

Here is a real-life case study I advised as their consultant.

A non-profit Christian organization sent college-age sport teams to Europe to reach out with the Good News.  Another organization sent out medical personnel to similar countries.  This later organization suggested a merger with the sport organization.  Now on the surface, there would seem like there would be little argument against this.  But, the vision statement helped the sport organization decide that this new direction did not line up with their vision.  You see, if a vision is too broad too much extraneous activities will creep in.

I think we all see that this has been a problem in churches.

Thus ask yourself, are their ministries under your auspices that evaluate their programming ministry through their vision grid?  And if not, perhaps you conjecture what such a recommendation might look like?

STRESS & How to Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout #IncMagazine

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Adam D’Angelo is CEO one of the fastest rising start up companies in recent memory. But, he also points out there were many places along that route where he could’ve been discouraged. Here he shares three of his ways to overcome stress.”

Read about how other startup CEOs handle stress here …