I have spent many years of my life teaching leadership dynamics and organizational behavior to teams of all kinds. I have worked with groups involved in designing and building morphine pumps for patients in chronic back pain, stents for the repair of brain aneurysms, the latest and greatest scalpels for advanced surgical techniques, instruments to reduce the post-op problems associated with bowel resections and a host of other products that are on the cutting edge of the biosciences.
In a totally different realm, I have worked with sales teams, research teams for the digital tech industry, marketing and branding, hospitality, emergency air evacuation and a number of other teams engaged in various and sundry products and/or services to enhance life experiences for their customers. Throughout all the groups I have worked with, I have discovered a number of similarities that they all share, regardless of the product or service that they offer.
And that has to do with the way that they manage their projects. In the “old” days, most companies were comprised of teams that stayed together throughout their careers. You know, the typical gold watch gift for many years of service – back in the days when job hopping was something that just didn’t happen, and when you got a job, chances are that you had it for life.
But today, we live in a much more “projectized” world. Groups of people come together for a pre-determined length of time to complete a certain goal and then enter what is called adjournment phase – that point at the completion of the project when the group disbands and the members go their separate ways until another project group forms. Many times the new group has different members than the first group had. So it is necessary to develop a type of language that is common to all project oriented people so they can communicate with each other regardless of their experience or past assignments.
That’s where tonight’s lesson comes in. Initially, when groups form, they start out in what is called “design phase.” They plan a strategy, brainstorm, decide on a direction and when everything has been decided, they enter what is called “design freeze.” That’s the time when the first part of the project is completed and the team knows in what direction they are headed. While it is possible teams can be stressed during design phase chores, most teams eventually come to agreement on a plan of attack and design freeze is not usually far behind.
That’s when the team enters what is called “execution phase.” In other words, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road and all the things that have been decided are now placed on a critical path diagram or gant chart and progress is measured on a weekly basis. In my experience, this is where the problems start. Oh sure, teams build a little extra time in the schedule to allow for overruns, or delays, or unexpected problems, or personnel changes, but timelines tend to creep and deadlines get pushed back. What seemed so realistic back in design phase now seems unattainable in execution phase.
Of course, managers have little tolerance for these delays, as they are usually expensive. Many times, competitive advantages are lost as products don’t get to market on time – or costs skyrocket, people get cut to save money, or other serious repercussions impact the team.
In summary, teams seem to be better at dreaming stuff up than they are at following budgets and timelines to arrive at the agreed upon goal at the agreed upon time at the agreed upon budget. And you know what? Many times our faith lives are the same way…
We take time to plan and think about what we are going to do to improve our faith lives. Bible studies, commitments to church or small group activities, and all kinds of other things that we design into our lives with the best of intentions. In other words, most of us do a pretty good job during “design phase.” But when it comes to executing our plan, sometimes, things don’t go so well. It’s much harder to “do” than it is to “plan.”
Part of that is because it is difficult to apply metrics to the planning stage, but we will know right away if we are falling short of the goal once we have started to implement our plans. And, at least in God jargon, we are expected to produce “fruit” as a result of our labors. If we just look good, without any fruit, the effort doesn’t advance the kingdom.
The verse for tonight is from John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” Notice that God doesn’t tell us how we are to bear fruit – in other words, we are able to create our own “design phase.” And then we are free to execute what we have decided to do, but God expects results – bear fruit…
My encouragement tonight is to let you know that God has given us the freedom to decide how each of us wants to serve Him. My prayer is that you won’t waste any time putting your plan into action – because many of us talk a good game, but when it comes to putting the rubber to the road, sometimes we need someone to help hold us accountable. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…