Early in my consulting career, I would try to consolidate the analysis of a complex situation into a set of recommendations that were clear, concise and action worthy. It would never fail that people would ask me about doing more than the prescribed activities in an effort to move more quickly. Whether addressing change, transition, strategic planning or evaluation metrics, my clients would ask about moving more quickly. I would consistently share the importance of being intentional with small steps, and cautioned against aiming for perfection vs. progress. Two decades later, the same methodology still applies.
I have learned to be a student of change. As I read authors on the topic, the one that resonates most belongs to Dr. Kotter, an 8-Step Process for Leading Change. It was the clearest ah-ha moment when examining my day job and my consulting world, when my previous boss introduced me to his work. Kotter examines the importance of Urgency, a Guiding Coalition and a Change Vision as the 3 anchor steps for change. In my work, often I can tell within the first few meetings whether a group is truly poised for change. Strategic planning only works where there is a collective energy around working collaboratively to achieve a bigger dream. Couple the need for consensus around the most urgent issues, and the role of leadership, and you have a powerful alliance that can either make or break a process for strategic change. The analysis of core consensus, leadership, urgency and the guiding coalition (board/leadership/influencers - in action, title and investment) can forecast what the future will look like - in religious fundraising, capacity building for non-profit institutions, and just about everything in between.
The framework that I have introduced to dozens of clients has been IPOP - Intentional Progress Over Perfection. The idea is simple, creating small wins starts with making progress from where you are, with intentional movement toward where you aspire to be. A score card in strategic planning offers a simple tool for transparency and accountability. Avoid a glossy notebook with colored tabs and mounds of material few will read. Replace it with strategic directives that answer basic questions:
- What are our core values and beliefs?
- What are the 3 - 5 goals that will guide the next 12 - 18 months?
- Who are the people responsible for leading change?
- What are the strategies and timelines for achieving the goals set forth?
- How will we know that progress has been made?
It is a privilege to be the guest facilitator for organizations, religious institutions and non-profit entities. As part of our collaborative work, I invite participants to understand IPOP and make it a part of life. Serving as Associate Director for Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, we often ask the question, "What does your tomorrow look like? or How do you define success?" I believe it is as important for organizational cultures as it is for individuals. Today's post came out of a reflection about my own life, as much as my consulting practice. Vacation has a way of magnifying experiences in a way that the busy nature of life does not allow. Strategic planning often asks busy organizations to step back and take a balcony view, a process that I teach in my day job as we examine Adaptive Leadership. When you take a balcony view you see things in a new light and with a different perspective than traditional schedules allow. I'm reminded about Gordon MacDonald's Ordering Your Private World, my annual reminder about time, perspective and priorities.
We all get the same amount of time in any given day. How are you spending your 1,440? Our quest, live simply, making progress to the vision that drives each of us. As a woman of faith, that vision is anchored in what God is calling me to do, beyond what I can see for myself. As a wife and mother, that vision is anchored in the lives of 5 people, not just the face I see when I look into the mirror. As a consultant, strategist and professional in the field of faith & philanthropy, that quest is to make a difference in the lives of organizations, by helping to manage change and transition, anchored in vision. Intentional progress requires a honest analysis of where you are, and a hopeful working spirit, dedicated to where you aspire to be. There are a variety of clients, partners, congregations and thought-leaders who have re-anchored my commitment to this process. STEM education has meant that my orientation to systems and process are as methodically as my peers who have embraced quality control, systems analysis or the diverse engineering or technology paths.
More importantly, God has reminded me, like my conversation partners, I am a beautiful work in progress. I'm celebrating progress, over perfection, and working hard to measure my actions so that the strategic steps are anchored in what I have learned over the years - and all that I still have to learn. IPOP isn't a catch phrase, it is a lifestyle and a way of being. My clients understand that together we are working toward the next step, not a perfect ideal. One step at a time. My progress, and your progress, is both full of impact and beautiful. A day in Union Grove, North Carolina has reminded me - when you can't see the forest for the trees - look first, at the tree. Progress starts with a step.