Jesus recognized the role good planning plays in life and ministry. He said, Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? (Luke 14.28) Unfortunately, lack of planning often torpedoes otherwise good ministry ideas. Scientist Gary Klein, author of The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work, offers a great idea he calls a pre-mortem. In this post I unpack 7 benefits a pre-mortem offers in planning.
Dr. Klein says that a pre-mortem can increase the chances that our plan will succeed. In contrast to a post-mortem that we often perform after a plan fails, a pre-mortem is an exercise that teams do before they implement a plan.
By imagining that an event is over and that it failed, a pre-mortem can often surface potential problems that you can address and prepare for before you invest time and resources in an event or a plan.
In my next post I’ll give crucial questions to ask to make a pre-mortem successful.
But first, I’ve listed several benefits of a pre-mortem.
- A pre-mortem helps you fail on paper rather than in practice. A pre-mortem considers what might go wrong so you can plan to avoid those mistakes
- You can surface potential pitfalls in a safe environment. Before others get overinvested in the plan, considering the pitfalls beforehand makes it less threatening for a team member to voice a concern.
- A pre-mortem helps you value your team members by soliciting their ideas and thoughts. We all like others to feel that our voice matters. A pre-mortem reinforces that experience.
- You can help team members become more sensitive to potential problems as you roll out the plan. By discussing potential issues beforehand, your team is more likey to see potential issues when you do roll it out.
- You can increase the chances that you will avoid a painful post-mortem autopsy prompted by a failure. We’d all rather avoid autopsies.
- You can surface potential problems you might have otherwise missed. Pretended your plan has failed makes you think outside the box.
- ___________ (what would add as a seventh benefit?)
So, the next time you plan a big initiative, try a pre-mortem.
“I just learned 5 good reasons to conduct a ministry plan pre-mortem to avoid failure.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)
Casting vision is a key role every pastor must fill. Yet sometimes corporate attitudes and unhealthy cultures can get in the way. I’ve discovered five attitudes that will stifle even the best cast vision. See if you agree.
- Consumer Christianity reflected in the attitude, What’s in it for me?
- Healthy churches realize they can’t consume their way into discipleship. Following Jesus is not all about us. Great churches rally around a unified cause centered in Jesus and move forward for the good of the whole and the glory of God even it means some people won’t get their preferred way. Good leaders will teach that flexibility and a deferential spirit are crucial ingredients for prevailing churches.
- Losing sight that the church gathers on Sundays to scatter the rest of the week.
- Leaders and churches must not lose sight that we live in a troubled world desperately in need of the Gospel. Attending church was never meant to be an end in itself.
Rather we should gather to be transformed, taught, challenged, discipled, and inspired so that we then can scatter into our respective worlds as salt and light for the Gospel.
- Risk aversion.
- Minimizing risk and maximizing safety can becomes a trait for risk averse leaders. J Oswald Chambers who authored the devotional My Utmost for His Highest wrote, “The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.” Great churches can’t play it safe, huddle and cuddle, strive for safety and security, nor guarantee comfort and convenience. While not throwing caution to the wind, great leaders and churches must take bold steps of faith
- Programs and processes that trump passion and people.
- It’s easy to assume that great plans and strategies will automatically and easily reach people. They are important, but without a driving passion for God and a love for people, they are, well, only plans.
- The barrenness of busyness.
- Busy pastors often struggle with this one. I know I do with what seems to be a limitless to-do list. However, busyness can make us miss God. And it does not always translate into productivity. As Bill Hybels has famously said,”Doing the work of Christ was killing the work of Christ in me.” When that happens, our hearts become calloused and cold, we lose our leadership edge, and vision gets stifled.
What have you experienced that can stifle a God-directed vision?
As I’m beginning my first month at my new church as Lead Pastor, West Park Church in London, Ontario, I’m in a big learning curve. I not only need to understand a new church culture, but a new country culture as well. So, I’m developing what I’m calling my six month on-boarding plan to best discern what needs to be done.
A book that’s really helped me create my plan and one that I recommend for pastors transitioning to a new church is, The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins. He also has an iPhone app as well. The book is a must read. He suggests that before you implement a change, you must make sure you have these five supporting planks in place.
- Awareness. A critical mass of people is aware of the need for change.
- Diagnosis. You know what needs to be changed and why.
- Vision. You have a compelling vision and a solid strategy.
- Plan. You have the expertise to put together a detailed plan.
- Support. You have sufficiently powerful alliances to support implementation.
So the next time you plan a new ministry initiate, consider these pillars.
What other pillars would you add?
Reference: Watkins, Michael D. (2013-04-23). The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter (Kindle Locations 1711-1715). Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition
Strategic planning can sometimes be difficult to explain. This diagram I developed has helped me easily explain the process I call strategic planning for dummies.
Strategic planning for dummies
The outside circle represents the process of strategic planning.
- Train and communicate to those who will carry out the plan
- Review/evaluate what you accomplished
The three questions to evaluate how well you are doing are these (the triangle):
- What? (do you have a clear target, goals, mission?)
- How? (do you have simple and effective systems in place to accomplish your goals?)
- Who? (are you using unified teams of people to accomplish your goals?)
Here’s the diagram.
Related posts. Strategic Planning for Dummies, part 2.
My undergrad degree is industrial engineering. So, planning is second nature for me. As a busy pastor, I’ve found that I can never get adequate long-term planning done unless I carve out regular extended times away, by myself, away from the office. Here are a few tips I suggest.
- Schedule 3-4 personal planning times each year, preferable overnight in a place with no TV. I go to a local Christian encampment and I’m usually the only one there.Schedule those times well in advance of ministry seasons (ie Aug/Sept for the coming year plans)
- Keep a list of items you want to think about on your retreats. I have a list app on my iphone where I jot down ideas and thoughts I want to pursue later but don’t have time at the moment to think about.
- On the retreat, prioritize what you want to plan, starting with the most important. I’ve discovered I never get to everything, but I do get to the priorities.
- The first thing I do when I arrive (after prayer) is schedule my next retreat 3 months later. That way I know I have a block of time to work on the items I don’t get to in this one.
- Go expecting that God will guide this process.