PLANNING & Forget Bucket Lists. The Formula for Satisfaction Is Actually the Opposite, Says Harvard Professor. Social Scientist Arthur Brooks’ theory of reverse bucket lists is a powerful way to remove too many ‘wants’ and enjoy our existing ‘haves.’

by Jeff Steen, Inc. Magazine, 3/23/22.

… Here’s the idea in a nutshell: Bucket lists are filled with wants and dreams. When we get what we want or achieve our dreams, it’s a nice feeling, says Brooks — at least for a while. Then we need something else.

It all comes back to the “satisfaction formula”: Satisfaction = getting what you want. But you never really stop wanting things and so, well, are you ever really satisfied?

Brook has spent a great deal of time parsing this formula and the human behaviors that enable it. What he uncovered was a missing piece. The formula should actually look like this, he says: Satisfaction = what you have / what you want.

While we can, to some extent, increase our haves, our real control lies in our wants. If we whittle down the wants, our satisfaction increases. In others words, if we create reverse bucket lists — lists of wants to do away with — we’ll find ourselves closer to satisfaction in the present.

… What does this look like in business? As with most wants, they can be large or small. Say, for example, you want a bigger office — but the price tag would require you to hold off on the rollout of new employee benefits or raises. Ask yourself: Do I NEED a new office? Or is it merely a want (reverse bucket list)? And if it’s a want, how can I turn it instead into money, supplies, or support for my team (giving list)?

Read more at …

STRATEGY & Every pastor should learn about these cognitive biases to better assess your situation & to be a better planner. www.ChurchLeadership.Consulting

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Having read most likely thousands of student papers, the most reoccurring error may be when people attribute the wrong “cause” to an “effect.”

This tendency, to misdiagnose the reason behind something, has been built into our brains because of our many experiences. Such biases to make wrong conclusions about the cause of something are called mental or “cognitive” biases. For an introduction to the 50 most prevalent see this article about Elon Musk.

Elon Musk Thinks Every Child Should Learn About These 50 Cognitive Biases

Would the world be more rational if we did as Musk recently suggested and taught kids about cognitive biases in school?



  1. Foundational Attribution Error. When someone else is late, it’s because they’re lazy. When you’re late, it was the traffic.
  2. Self-Serving Bias.Attributing all your successes to skill or effect and all your screw ups to bad luck or a bad situation.
  3. In-Group Favoritism. We tend to favor those in our in-group versus those who are more different than us.
  4. Bandwagon Effect. Everyone likes to jump on a trendy bandwagon.
  5. Groupthink. Also just what it sounds like. Going along with the group to avoid conflict. The downfall of many a large organization.
  6. Halo Effect. Assuming a person has other positive traits because you observed they have one. Just because someone is confident or beautiful, doesn’t mean they are also smart or kind, for example.
  7. Moral Luck. Assuming winners are morally superior.
  8. False Consensus. Thinking most people agree with you even when that’s not the case.
  9. Curse of Knowledge. Assuming everyone else knows what you know once you’ve learned something.
  10. Spotlight Effect.Overestimating how much other people are thinking about you.
  11. Availability Heuristic.Why we worry more about rare airplane crashes than objectively much deadlier road accidents. People make judgments based on how easy it is to call an example to mind (and plane crashes are memorable).
  12. Defensive Attribution.Getting more upset at someone who commits a crime we feel we could have fallen victim to ourselves.
  13. Just-World Hypothesis. The tendency to believe the world is just, so any observed injustice was really deserved.
  14. Naive Realism. Thinking we have a better grasp of reality than everyone else.
  15. Naive Cynicism. Thinking everyone else is just selfishly out for themselves.
  16. Forer Effect (aka Barnum Effect). The bias behind the appeal of astrology. We see vague statements as applying specifically to us even when they apply to most everybody.
  17. Dunning Kruger Effect. One of my personal favorites. This principle states that the less competent you are, the more confident you’re likely to be because you’re too incompetent to understand exactly how bad you are. The opposite is also true — those with greater skills are often plagued with doubt.
  18. Anchoring. The way in which the first piece of information we hear tends to influence the terms or framing of an entire discussion.
  19. Automation Bias. Over relying on automated systems like GPS or autocorrect.
  20. Google Effect (aka Digital Amnesia). You’re more likely to forget it if you can just Google it.
  21. Reactance. Doing the opposite of what you’re told when you feel bullied or backed into a corner. Very topical.
  22. Confirmation Bias. We tend to look for and be more easily convinced by information that confirms our existing beliefs. A big one in politics.
  23. Backfire Effect. Repeatedly mentioning a false belief to disprove it sometimes ends up just making people believe it more.
  24. Third-Person Effect. The belief that others are more affected by a common phenomenon than you are.
  25. Belief Bias. Judging an argument not on its own merits but by how plausible we think its conclusion is.
  26. Availability Cascade. The more people believe (and talk about) something the more likely we are to think it’s true.
  27. Declinism. Romanticizing the past and thinking we live in an age of decline.
  28. Status Quo Bias. People tend to like things to stay the same, even if change would be beneficial.
  29. Sunk Cost Fallacy (AKA Escalation of Commitment). Throwing good money (or effort) after bad to avoid facing up to a loss.
  30. Gambler’s Fallacy. Thinking future probabilities are affected by past events. In sports, the hot hand.
  31. Zero-Risk Bias. We prefer to reduce small risks to zero rather than reduce risks by a larger amount that doesn’t get them to zero.
  32. Framing Effect. Drawing different conclusions from the same information depending on how it’s framed.
  33. Stereotyping. Just what it sounds like — having general beliefs about entire groups of people (and applying them to individuals whether you know them or not).
  34. Outgroup Homogeneity Bias. Seeing the diversity within the groups to which you belong but imagining people in groups to which you don’t belong are all alike.
  35. Authority Bias. Putting too much stock in authority figures.
  36. Placebo Effect. This isn’t strictly a cognitive bias according to Musk’s graphic, but still useful to know. If you think something will work, you’re likely to experience a small positive effect whether it really does or not.
  37. Survivorship Bias. We remember the winners and forget about the many, invisible losers. Big in startups.
  38. Tachypsychia. How exhaustion, drugs, or trauma mess with our sense of time.
  39. Law of Triviality (AKA Bike-Shedding). Giving excessive weight to trivial issues while ignoring more important ones.
  40. Zeigarnik Effect. Uncompleted tasks haunt our brains until we finish them.
  41. IKEA Effect. We tend to overvalue things we had a hand in creating. (In my experience not true of Billy bookcases but still…)
  42. Ben Franklin Effect. We tend to think more positively about people once we’ve done a favor for them.
  43. Bystander Effect. Again, not strictly a cognitive bias but important. Describes how people are less likely to take responsibility to act if they’re in a crowd.
  44. Suggestibility. Seen most often in children, this is when we mistake an idea or question someone else said for your own memory.
  45. False Memory. Mistaking something you imagined for a memory.
  46. Cryptomnesia. The opposite of the one above. Thinking a true memory is something you imagined.
  47. Clustering Illusion. The tendency to “see” patterns in random data.
  48. Pessimism Bias. Always seeing the glass as half empty.
  49. Optimism Bias. Always seeing the glass as half full.
  50. Blind Spot Bias. The bias that makes us think we don’t have as many biases as other people. You do.

Read more at …

PLANNING & How to Get People to Accept a Tough Decision. #HarvardBusinessReview

by David Maxfield, HBR, 4/19/18.

Every leader has to make tough decisions that have consequences for their organizations, their reputation, and their career. The first step to making these decisions is understanding what makes them so hard. Alexander George, who studied presidential decision-making, pointed to two features:

  • Uncertainty: Presidents never have the time or resources to fully understand all of the implications their decisions will have.
  • “Value Complexity”: This is George’s term to explain that even the “best” decisions will harm some people and undermine values leaders would prefer to support.

The decisions that senior leaders, middle managers, frontline employees, and parents have to make often have the same features. Uncertainty and value complexity cause us to dither, delay, and defer, when we need to act.

What steps can leaders take to deal with these factors when making decisions?

Overcoming Uncertainty

Our initial reactions to uncertainty often get us deeper into trouble. Watch out for the following four pitfalls.

  • Avoidance. It often feels like problems sneak up on us when, in reality, we’ve failed to recognize the emerging issue. Instead of dealing with problems when they begin to simmer, we avoid them — and even dismiss them — until they are at a full boil. For example, perhaps your plants have been running at near capacity for a while and there have been occasional hiccups in your supply chain. Instead of addressing these issues, you accept them as normal. Then, “suddenly,” you’re unable to fill orders.
  • Fixation. When a problem presents itself, adrenaline floods our body and we often fixate on the immediate threat. In this fight or flight mode, we’re not able to think strategically. But focusing exclusively on the obvious short-term threat often means you miss the broader context and longer-term ramifications.
  • Over-simplification. The fight-or-flight instinct also causes us to oversimplify the situation. We divide the world into “friends” and “foes” and see our options as “win” or “lose” or “option A” or “option B.” Making a successful decision often requires transcending simplifications and discovering new ways to solve the problem.
  • Isolation. At first, we may think that, if we contain the problem, it’ll be easier to solve. For example, it may feel safer to hide the problem from your boss, peers, and customers while you figure out what to do. But as a result, you may wait too long before sounding the alarm. And, by then, you’re in too deep.

To avoid these pitfalls — or to get out of them once you’ve fallen into them — it’s best to take incremental steps forward without committing to a decision too quickly. Below are five things you can do to reduce uncertainty as you evaluate your options.

Read more at …

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 …

TIME MANAGEMENT & 4 Things You Thought Were True About Time Management

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Time management is a misnomer. It is really about productivity. Learn more about recent studies on time management (sic) in this HBR overview of fallacies about managing your time (rather than managing your productivity).”

By Amy Gallo, 7/22/14, Harvard Business Review

Read more at …

VOLUNTEERS & The Key To Their Engagement Has Less To Do With Management Than You’d Think

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:Engagement is creating a passion in your volunteers and employees for the mission of the organization. This article points to several key elements for creating passion. One of the most important elements is to let front-line workers have more input into the processes and methods of the organization. This reminds me of how John Wesley often sought the input of the average society attendee to better design what came to be known as ‘Wesley’s methods’.”

by Mark Lunkens, Fast Company Magazine, 5/20/14

Read more at …

TEAMWORK & Make Your Team Feel Powerful #HarvardBusinessReview

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Researchers at the University of Illinois found that top-down driven organizations make employees less productive. Employees in such scenarios feel that they have little input and new ideas are thrust down on them by management. Find out how researchers say you can prevent this in two easy steps in my books, ‘Staying power’ (2003) and ‘Preparing for change reaction’ (2011).”

Read more at …

CHANGE & Regression

When Your Team Reverts to the Old Strategy
by Amy Gallo, Harvard Business Review

An important overview of John Kotter’s change principles to:

1)  Go slow,
2)  Build consensus
3)  And succeed.

This supports these lessons in my books: “Staying Power: Why people leave the church over change and what you can do about it” (2003) and “Preparing for change reaction: How to introduce change in your church” (2010).

In this very helpful overview by Gallo of Kotter’s work, you will learn how to create teamwork that prevents the team-killing rise of “choosers” and “choiceless doers.”


INNOVATION & 5 Ways To Get it Back

5 Ways to Bring Creativity Back to Your Culture

Here are five changes you can make today to bring creativity back to your culture.

Offer Unlimited Vacation

Most managers think vacation policies sound great, on paper. It lets them keep track of how hard people are working and justify why a seat is empty.

To employees, however, vacation policies do just the opposite. They seem to say you don’t don’t trust them to strike a balance, and like a blaring siren, it serves as a reminder of how little they get to travel. On top of that, most companies cap the number of vacation hours employees can accrue, which doesn’t work to their actual benefit.

Offering unlimited vacation won’t make people skip work every Friday or leave people hanging at deadlines. Instead, it will give them control to choose when they decide to work and when they don’t. Although this may seem trivial, being able to choose means everything in a creative culture.

Let Employees Work Remotely

Let’s face it: Your office is not where everyone does their best work, not even you. And while offices are great for building comaradery, they can also be rather distracting.

Working remotely doesn’t always have to mean being in different cities. As Inc. contributor Jason Fried points out, “Remote just means you’re not in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all day long.” His company, 37 Signals, has built an entire culture around people who work from anywhere. His latest book, Remote, will inspire you to think differently about how your own team does its best work.

Ditch the Meetings

The worst part about meetings is that they’re incredibly easy to add. Even if you make an agenda, the number will only go up as you grow in size. As a result, little creative thinking will get done during the day.

You’ll start to notice people takings their evenings and weekends to do their best work, when they know they can dive in without distractions. The 30 or 60 minutes in between meetings won’t allow them to really get things done, so they’ll end up wasting time playing email ping-pong.

Try to cut meetings down to one daily standup. Even if the entire organization has to dial in, it shouldn’t last more than 20 minutes, if it’s done right. This will keep everyone on track and then free them up to use their day as they want.

Nix Department Goals

Department goals often help managers more than employees. Generally, you’ll end up wasting valuable hours setting new goals and then even more time asking why you didn’t hit them.

Worse still, each department relies on resources they don’t control and departments they’re not a part of to reach their goals. This can result in teams signing up for work they were unaware of, which can lead to arguments about whose goals are more important.

Instead, try focusing the entire company around two or three mega goals and enable them to figure out how they accomplish them. This helps everyone be creative while making it clear what they’re in for.

Give Plenty of Feedback

REST: A TED talk In praise of slowness

In praise of slowness
A TED Talk with Carl Honore, 4/05

Journalist Carl Honore believes the Western world’s emphasis on speed erodes health, productivity and quality of life. But there’s a backlash brewing, as everyday people start putting the brakes on their all-too-modern lives.
pinThis talk was presented at an official TED Conference. TED’s editors featured it among our daily selections on the home page.

GROUP EXIT & Preventing Group Exit During Change

FIGURE Staying Power Process Model p. 177The 6-Stages & 5-Triggers That Prevent Group Exit

by Bob Whitesel, excerpted from Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It (Abingdon Press, 2003).

Stage 1: Church is relatively harmonious

Trigger 1: A new idea is introduced by members who think it will help the church.

Stage 2: The idea spreads through like minded change proponents in the church.

Here the routes diverge toward either group exit (route “A”) or group retention (route “B”) based upon if the leader makes Trigger 2 a negative legitimizing event or a positive one.

Trigger 2 (hint – do the positive one):

  • Negative Legitimizing Event.  The leader says…
    • “good idea” or something similarly innocent,
    • but the change proponents push too fast and don’t dialogue with the status quo.
  • Positive Legitimizing Event. This action will keep the groups intact:
    • Instead the leader slows down the change proponents,
    • Telling them they must go through the proper channels and seek permission from the right committees.
    • The leader then gets the change proponents to talk directly to the people who might be affected by the new idea and get their input before the change begins.  We will call them the “status quo.”
    • This helps the status quo feel they are part of the process and their concerns have been heard.

PreparingChange_Reaction_MdStage-3 Change to Stage-4 Resistance still occur, but group exit is avoided when the leader handles correctly one more trigger:

  • Trigger-4, Harmonizing Event: Though the inevitable Alarm Event occurs, the leader on route “B” towards harmony creates a “Harmonizing Event.”
    • This is an event where the leader gives everyone in the church a sense that they can do more together, than apart.
    • The church is seen as a “partnership of groups” where different groups partner for the good of the whole.
    • The overall church’s identity is emphasized and the sub-groups are downplayed.

For more see these books and articles:

This research is based on the work of management scholars Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, who, as laymen themselves, investigated how churches polarize over change. Their groundbreaking research uncovered  six stages and five triggers of church change. See Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, “The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model,” Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792–822.

In addition, I have written a book that illustrates the six stages and five triggers of Dyck and Starke with accounts of actual churches: Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon, 2003).

(The two last paragraphs are footnotes from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change to Your Church, by Bob Whitesel 2010.  And the figure above is from Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It, Abingdon Press, 2003, p. 177).

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