Wake Up… Shift Happens!

If you are an insurance company or a personal injury lawyer, listen up. Your world is about to change. Your best bet over the next 10 years is to learn from the typewriter because your industries are about to fall even harder unless you make an intentional shift. Yesterday!

What are the ramifications of the next decade you ask? No more small lizard-like creatures telling us how to transform our financial status in fifteen minutes or less. No more phone numbers of all sevens or nines on billboards across America. No more free maps at AAA, and ouch… No more Flo. How shall we live without Flo?

Why?

Because the key to future success is forecasting market shifts well in advance and the automobile industry is about to radically change. Autonomous cars will change everything and the closer an industry is to the auto industry the more urgent the need for introspection. Automakers that fail to have an autonomous vehicle will disappear overnight or be relegated solely to niche markets. And while there is no excuse for an automaker caught unaware, there will be several other industries that will be saying; “I didn’t see that coming!?” Chief among them will be the three I mentioned; insurance, driver support, and legal.

That’s the great thing about entrepreneurship, it makes life better. With the imminent perfection of autonomous vehicles, personal auto insurance will fade away. Accidents will be so uniquely rare that insurances will be bundled with the vehicle akin to today’s extended service plan, that is if they exist at all. Law firms that guarantee customers huge payouts for vehicle injury will slowly fade away and in a third degree of economic impact affect the billboard advertising market outside of Las Vegas Nevada and every other big city littered signs of intense looking lawyers with easy to remember phone numbers. The world is going to change.

What’s the point? Your sector is going to change also. Will you be reactionary or proactive? When was the last time you gathered the team and asked these important questions?

What don’t we know that we need to know?

What trends are in our industry right now that could develop into trouble for us?

What trends in a related industry could adversely affect ours?

What does our organization look like in 5, 10, 20 years? Does it exist at all?

Who are the industry leaders and what are their strategies?

What steps must we immediately take to mitigate the damage?

You need to think about the transformation of the service or product that you provide. Once you forecast what developments and dangers the future has in store, go back and think some more. In our example of the automotive industry we can easily see how the changes mean a radical new reality for related industries. But, what if we take it deeper? What happens after cars are completely autonomous? I think I know. I believe we will probably, eventually, see the end to personal vehicle ownership. You will be able to take any car, to any place, at any time and conduct life along the way. Now, think about the industries will that affect.

The Davenport

The Historic Davenport Hotel was one of the most opulent, incredible hotels in the world. When it opened in 1914 it hosted and entertained presidents, Hollywood A-listers and the business elite. But in 1985 it had fallen into disrepair and the last guess left and the doors were closed. The grand Davenport went dark.

Losing relevance is the death of any organization, especially the Church. One day the demographics shift, the Gospel wanes, or the leaders fail to pursue the spiritual needs of their people. Or worse yet, the leaders fail to realize that everything has changed around them… and soon, the doors close.

But all is not lost.

In 2000 a great restoration of this Historic Davenport Hotel began. The heart and soul of the building, the plumbing, electrical, and all the inner workings needed to be ripped out and replaced, but, the beauty that was found there, like the ornate hand gilded beams, the statuary, the furniture and ceilings had to be painstakingly and tenderly, restored.

Knowing what to rip out and what to painstakingly restore is the key to organizational restoration and it’s sometimes an art, not a science.

What a huge lesson for the Replanting Church Planter to learn. To rebirth a church, you literally may have to rip out and replace the antiquated systems that allowed it to die, Opening it up and examining the inner structures is just the first step. As the leader, you must do so without harming the beauty of what was once there. Remember, there was once excellence in her DNA. Find it. Then, painstakingly restore the hidden greatness of what the organization once was.

If you can restore the beauty of what once was, and modernize the systems without changing the gospel message, your Replant can once again be grand and more importantly God Pleasing.

Here’s a quick video I shot in the second-floor showcase of the Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane Washington.

THE VIDEO

An Avoidable Tragedy

Fail Fast

I cannot remember the location, but I remember the story like it was yesterday. A man and his son facing that moment where the son’s right of passage meant an extreme hiking trip with his father. Big hopes and excitement confronted them both. At one point, during the hike, the son strayed from the path and began to stumble down an incline littered with shale. Trying to right himself, the boy began to run faster and faster downhill until he was out of control. His father, knowing that at the bottom of that shale was a drop-off of over one hundred feet, began to give instruction. The boy could not see it nor was he aware of the danger. The father began to scream at the top of his lungs, “Fall Down!” He even extended his arms and legs to instruct the boy in a futile attempt to force the child’s action. “Fall Down! Spread your legs out and fall! NOW! Do it!” Doubtless, all the boy was thinking about is how much pain it meant to fall, and he continued to try to gain his balance. To the father’s horror, the son plummeted to his death.

I remember telling my children that story to reinforce a truth that I wanted them to learn. That is, that they must trust my word and do as I say immediately. There will be times when I know better, even if it hurts.

What a fabulous lesson for us as leaders. Failure is never what we intend. However, if we are going to fail, we really need to fail fast. Prolonging your fall can lead to death. By failing fast, you may be battered and bruised when it is all said and done, but at least you are alive to rebuild.

Reality Check

These lessons go to hundreds of people each week. That means one thing. Some of you are failing! Are you that leader? If it is, you have choices. Call a colleague, a mentor, a coach, or another leader whom you trust. There are many of us who care. We want to help.

Final Note

Every organizational leader desires to lead transformational change. If that’s you, you will fail in some of your many endeavors. Fail fast. Seek the guidance, pick yourself up, and pour your energies into the idea that seems to be gaining ground. Remember to always measure and assess your failures. If you can, failing fast will make you stronger.

Harmony in the Universe and Bob the Destroyer

Until a recent remodel at Los Angeles International Airport, adjacent to American Airlines Terminal 44 was a Burger King. Sequestered in the corner of that restaurant was a small stainless steel shelf with an even less obvious label affixed upon it. It read Coffee Lids. I wrote this one morning as I was seated no more than 100 feet from that very label – and I was thinking about the strategic implementation of processes.

What follows were my observations on that morning.

If you are reading this you are a member of the small percentage of people who care, people who are driven to refine the less than efficient processes in their lives. You are a leader. Most, however, are not. Most do as they are told and in fact, are somewhat content to exist and live in the status quo.

You are not.

You want to make a difference. You understand that things can be improved. You abide by principles of excellence and streamlining of the process.

Let me tell you about Bob. The first fact you need to know about Bob is that Bob is not his real name. I am watching Bob right now. Early 50’s, probably a great father, a hard worker and dedicated to the task that provides for his family. Bob works right there, next to Terminal 44 at the Burger King. I know he is a hard working man because I am observing him as I write. Besides, it’s just after five in the morning and only Bob knows what time he had to get up this morning to be here on time. Though I only just rubbed shoulders with him ten minutes ago, I like Bob… Now back to you.

You understand that the tasks of the day can be draining. You engage in the tactical events of the day without complaint because your eyes are on the process and you are always looking for strategic opportunities to better the system. You realized that the tactical responses yesterday have a common thread with ones that you performed last week and that those correspond to what you will be doing this afternoon. Deep in your mind, you are already thinking about the commonalities of the tasks and how they can be combined into a streamlined effort to produce a better, simplified, process. You see, that’s what you do! You streamline systems by finding simple solutions to common problems. You identify a bottleneck or repetitive tasks and you streamline them by revising the process. And it works.

So, let me tell you how I rubbed shoulders with Bob. To properly convey this, I need to give you the layout of our infamous Burger King, its drink station and the little tiny label marked Coffee Lids. You see, there are actually two drink stations about 10 feet apart there at Terminal 44. Both stations serve customers with a soda machine and a coffee dispenser. Both have both! However, the soda cup lids are on the stainless steel shelf over the leftmost drink station, and the coffee lids are over the right. So, regardless of which station you get coffee at, you have to force your way into a crowded corner of the restaurant to get your lid. The process is broken. While I am trying to get to my lids, I am swimming upstream against the flow of people who just filled their sodas and are coming my way to get their soda lids. I ask myself, how many years has this bottleneck been here and why can I see it so quickly and no one in all these years, not even management, has noticed? Then I realized, it’s the label: “Coffee Lids.” This mayhem has been created by a misaligned attempt at organization.

I still have not met Bob.

So here you sit. Surrounded by process. Have you asked yourself what bottlenecks you live in? Just look for the confusion. You’ll see it. Then look deeper, into the bottleneck. If you cannot see it, ask someone in your organization. Ask them about those things that, to them, do not make sense. Bring in an outside observer to see what you don’t see. Unlike Bob and his managers, there are those who are gifted to see logistical problems and less than ideal systems. Strive to be such a person. Identify and remove the misaligned attempts at organization. Remove the labels.

Ok, so I just met Bob. I pushed and shoved my way to the coffee lids. I grabbed one of the lids and placed it on my cup, but before leaving, I grabbed a handful and carried them to the stainless steel shelf above the leftmost drink station, the one without the label. FINALLY, for one (and only one) millisecond, the multi-year dysfunctional process of cup lid gathering at Terminal 44 was solved. The masses, as if they were a school of fish, naturally flowed under my power in directions that for the first time in perhaps years made sense. The sky opened, rose petals fell at my feet and a choir of angels sang the hallelujah chorus (though I was the only one who could hear it). I smiled. I had changed my world. I was responsible for happier people, less missed flights, pleasant flight attendants and passengers. In that moment, I was the center of the universe! Then, over my bumped shoulder (this is where Bob and I are acquainted), I see Bob pick up my stack of coffee lids and return them to the place of origin. Back to where they were supposed to be. Back above the label! Good Ol’ Bob was doing what he knew to do, and in his hard-working diligence destroyed the peace and harmony of my new universe. Back to square one.

The point? Look past the label! See beyond the way things are “supposed” to be…

Great!!! I got so inspired by this whole thing that my coffee is now cold. Here I go, back into the mayhem that Bob has unknowingly recreated…

Innovate or Die

Innovation continues and that is a very good thing. I love innovation. The only thing I love more is innovation that is Entrepreneurially Disruptive! (think how Uber disrupts the Taxi monopoly). Each and every one of us looks forward to new advances. However, we hate change. This makes little or no sense.

Could it be that we trumpet change as “innovation” when it is change that we like, but strip the word from our vocabulary when it is change that we don’t?

I think so.

Leadership.

You need to ruminate on this fact. As a leader, your direct reports will herald change as innovation as long as it means their routine does not need to change, their comfort isn’t threatened, or their skillsets are not put to the test. As a leader, you will need to mitigate that with full disclosure and instruction, training sufficient to ease the worries, and the full revelation as to why this new change will make things better—not only for you—but for them as well.

I laugh sometimes at the pushback we get as we implement new system changes. Knowing that there are rough waters ahead, but new productivity and efficiency await past the rapids. Change eventually makes everyone’s life more efficient, but there will always be those who chose to stay with the old ways and suffer hours of frustration because they refuse to take the hour or two to learn.

I love the picture above. Many of our direct reports chose to lay in the path of danger to use the current systems… I’ll take the GoPro.

One Guy Theory – Revisited

I want to share with some thoughts that I feel draw some important points for us as we consider the effectiveness of ministry in our churches. The thoughts come after reading February’s Business Week and is called “The One-Guy Theory.”

While we cannot run our churches as we would a Fortune 500, the ideas from the article that I want you to consider are: The effectiveness of streamlining the decision making process, Empowering leaders to make decisions, and, Supporting (publicly) the decisions they make (even if they are askew).

Here are my thoughts….

First. As a church (or other organization), how long does it take to move on a need? Does it require a group (committee) to meet, debate, and eventually rule on the need? Or, is there a person who is empowered to make a decision? I believe this to be a paramount issue in today’s church. In fact, our lack of ability to take definitive action is greatly responsible for where we are today with so many plateaued and declining churches. We need to respond to the shifts in our cultural surroundings, and empower our leaders with the ability to make those shifts.

Second. I know this is hard. But, we must give ownership to people we trust. Ownership to make decisions! I used to have a very frank conversation with each of my leaders when I was a Pastor. See, I believe that disunity in the public eye is detrimental to church harmony. The conversation went something like this:

“This is your baby! I will trust you to make the decisions necessary to make this thing happen. I want you to know however, that I am here for you, as an advisor, but you have the ownership to make it happen. I want you to know that if you make a less-than-ideal decision, I will support you publicly. However, we are going to talk about it behind closed doors. You are a trusted leader so I will never undermine that trust publicly. Therefore, I expect the same in return. If you feel I have made a bad decision in the running of this church, come talk to me about it. My door is always open. For the sake of unity, let’s commit to open conversation and trust in each other’s public support.”

A leader who knows that you will support them will be both cautious in their decisions and will give you the benefit of the doubt in yours.

Finally, this One-Guy Theory requires for the Christian that even in our ownership to make CEO type decisions, it is really a Two-Guy Theory. If Father is not involved in your decision making process, than PERHAPS you should not be making any decisions at all.

Ya’ know what, forget the word perhaps…