Book Review

Book Notes – Death by Meetings

Death by Meeting
Death by Meetings: A Leadership Fable
by Patrick Lencioni

Bad meetings almost always lead to bad decisions, which is the best recipe for mediocrity.

A company’s culture can mirror its meetings.

Meetings should have passion and urgency.

Bad meetings can be the birthplace of morale problems.

The length of a meeting doesn’t necessarily affect its effectiveness.

Movies are exciting but irrelevant to our lives. Meetings are boring but relevant. The reason they are so boring is a lack of conflict.

Conflict is nothing more than an anxious situation that needs to be resolved.

There must be something ultimately at stake for a meeting to be good.

If everyone is engaged, they’ll make better decisions and they are more likely to share their opinions and get their ideas out on the table.

As good movies have a hook early on, good meetings need to hook people and engaged them quickly. They need a reason to care.

Once people are interested, do some mining for conflict. Constantly mine for buried conflict.

Consensus is a horrible thing. It is not usually achievable.

Having too few meetings is likely more of a problem than having too many.

There are many kinds of television programming. They all offer different kinds and amounts of content.

4 Kinds of Television Programming
1. Daily Headline News – Daily Check in – 5 min
2. Weekly Sitcom/Crime Drama – Weekly Tactical – 1 hour
3. Movie – Monthly Strategic – 2 hours
4. Mini-series – Quarterly Off-site Review – 6 hours or more

Trying to accomplish too many things at once can derail the effectiveness of a meeting.

The context of a television program affects our expectations greatly.

The Daily Standup
The key is keeping it to 5 minutes or less. Everyone reports on what they are working on that day.

The Weekly Tactical
Focus exclusively on tactical issues. It should run like clockwork. There is no agenda. Everyone gets 60 seconds each in the opening lightening round to report on their 3 primary activities for the week. After the lightening round the team puts together an agenda now that everyone knows what is actually going on in the organization. Be aware of the scorecard – 4-6 key metrics to see how things are going. Keep the discussion to 45 minutes by focusing only on topics that have an immediate impact on tactical issues and growth. This forces attendees to focus on solving problems.

The Monthly Strategic
The President wouldn’t have a meeting to discuss the White House Christmas Tree lighting ceremony as well as strategy to combat terrorism. Likewise, a tactical meeting is a bad place to discuss strategic issues. If strategic issues come up in a Tactical meeting, table them. If they are too urgent, schedule an Ad Hoc meeting. Only one or two strategic issues should be addressed during these Monthly Strategic meetings. Agendas are critical because you might need to prepare for them by doing a little research. This will greatly improve the quality of the meetings. Where the Daily and Weekly meetings need to be strictly scheduled and timed, Monthly meetings don’t need to be so strict. Carve out 4 hours and use what time you need. Time will become less important in these meetings. The best place to find topics will be the Weekly Tactical. Create a parking lot list for future Monthly Strategic topics. These should be scheduled every month even if it doesn’t seem like they are always needed because they will often be overdue by the time they are scheduled for a felt need. Regular intervals keep them from falling by the wayside. The challenge is not putting too many items on the agenda.

Leaders of meetings need to think of themselves as directors.

Quarterly Off-site Review
This is a time to review strategy, competitive landscape, morale, dynamics of the executive team, top performers, bottom performers, customer satisfaction. Pretty much anything that has a long term impact on the organization. Anything you can’t cover in a Monthly Strategic meeting. These can take up to 2 days. Annual or semi-annual meetings usually aren’t frequent enough. Don’t bring in outsiders – rather, focus on team-building. Keep them easy to attend and don’t overburden the schedule.

Bad meetings at the executive level usually indicate a huge gap between performance and potential.

Meetings are a puzzling paradox. They are both critical and painful. But there is nothing inherently bad about meetings. We must fundamentally rethink much of the way we perceive and manage meetings.

Stop looking for technology that bypasses meetings and stop worrying as much about agendas and minutes.

Bad meetings start with the attitudes and approaches of the people who lead and take part in them.

The 2 biggest problems with meetings
1. They are boring – because they lack conflict
2. They are ineffective – because they lack contextual structure

The truth is, the only thing more painful than confronting an uncomfortable topic is pretending it doesn’t exist.

Leaders of meetings must have disciplined spontaneity – they must avoid the urge to prepare an agenda ahead of time and allow the meeting to take shape as it is happening.

Book Review

Book Notes – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

5 dysfunctions
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
by Patrick Lencioni

It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.

If you could get everyone in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.

Teams, because they are made up of imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.

Building a strong team is both possible and remarkable simple. But it is painfully difficult.

Teamwork comes down to mastering behaviors that are theoretically uncomplicated but extremely difficult to practice day to day.

Consider the implications of calling your co-workers “staff” versus “team.”

Better to be productive in a meeting than efficient.

A fractured team is just like a broken arm or led; fixing it is always painful, and sometimes you need to rebreak it to make it heal correctly. And the rebreak hurts a lot more than the initial break, because you have to do it on purpose.

5 Reasons Why Teams are Dysfunctional
1. Absence of trust (invulnerability)
2. Fear of conflict (artificial harmony)
3. Lack of commitment (ambiguity)
4. Avoidance of accountability (low standards)
5. Inattention to results (status and ego)

Trust is the foundation of teamwork.

Understanding and opening up to one another is the most critical in team-building.

Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.

Lack of debate in team meetings and other interactions can point to a trust problem.

2 Rules for Meetings
1. Be present
2. Participate

Focusing on collective results as a team kills personal egos and makes the whole team better.

Focusing on collective results means that all members of a team should adopt a set of common goals and measurements and then actually using them to make collective decisions on a daily basis.

A team that doesn’t work collectively isn’t a team – it is a collection of individuals.

Everyone is responsible for all metrics.

Politics result from being too ambiguous about what you’re working on which makes it easy to focus on individual success.

Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think.

Harmony itself is good if it comes as a result of working through issues constantly and cycling through conflict. But if it comes only as a result of people holding back their opinions and honest concerns, then it’s a bad thing.

When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board.

Consensus is horrible. It becomes an attempt to please everyone, which usually turns into displeasing everyone equally.

People need to weigh in before before they can really buy in.

If we cannot learn to engage in productive, ideological conflict during meetings, we are through. Our ability to engage in passionate, unfiltered debate about what we need to do to succeed will determine our future as much as anything else.

Meetings and movies have a lot in common. They have similar runtime, but meetings are interactive and should be better than movies. But they usually aren’t because of a lack of conflict. Every great movie has conflict. Few meetings have conflict. If there is nothing worth debating, we shouldn’t have a meeting.

It is important to have one overarching goal. If everything is important, then nothing is. What is the ultimate measure of our success?

Building a team is hard.

Trust is know that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about you.

5 Attributes of a Cohesive Team
1. They trust one another
2. They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas
3. They commit to decisions and place of action
4. They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans
5. They focus on the achievement of collective results

A strong team spends considerable time together. Doing so, they save time by eliminating confusion and minimizing redundant effort and communication.

The ultimate test of a great team is results.

Book Review

Book Notes – Apostolic Church Planting

Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches from New Believers
by J.D. Payne

The following is quoted or paraphrased from the book highlighting key ideas. Other great points are made or elaborated on, so go buy the book and enjoy it!

Church planting is evangelism that results in new churches.

When the church is shocked at a biblical model, it reveals just how far away from the scriptures we have moved in our missionary practices.
Apostolic church planting has been with the church for two thousand years. It is my desire that churches, networks, denominations, and mission agencies recognize this matter and respond appropriately. Many western evangelical structures, organizations, training paradigms and support systems will have to change significantly in order to embrace an apostolic approach to church planting.

Apostolic church planting provides a path to the nations.

Scripture (1 Thess. 1:4-6) reveals that 4 things are needed for a church to be birthed. Sowers. Seed. Spirit. Soil.

We are often guilty of making church planting ministry much more complex than we find it in the bible. Church planting in about making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded – in covenant community with other kingdom citizens.

How your team defines church (local and universal) will affect everything (end product / strategy / resources / methods / pastors) you do in church planting. Ecclesiology shapes everything.

It is impossible to carry out total obedience to Jesus without a commitment to a local expression of his body.

Hasty expectations hinder the birth and multiplication of churches.

Planting churches with longtime believers ought to be the exception to the rule. Churches should be birthed from the harvest field.

Church planters should work with non-believers from the start.

Once a group is baptized and self-identify as a church, it is the local church.

Church planters must not only be good missiologists but also good theologians. To be one without the other is to hinder church planting.

Ministry has always been a team sport. The model of people collaborating takes priority.

In God’s economy, the missionary team is vital to the propagation of the gospel and the multiplication of disciples, leaders and churches.

Barnabas Factors: Eight Essential Characteristics of CP Team Members
1. Walks with the Lord
2. Maintains an outstanding character
3. Serves the local church
4. Remains faithful to the call
5. Shares the gospel regularly
6. Raises up leaders
7. Encourages with speech and actions
8. Responds appropriately to conflict

The Barnabas Factors remind us that there is much more to being a good CP team member than knowing the answers to theological or missiological questions.

I hear many planters refer to Paul as the “greatest church planter,” yet few are willing to learn from him.

Churches come first and then the pastors.

Six Stages of CP
1. Pre-entry
2. Entry
3. Gospel
4. Discipleship
5. Church formation
6. Leadership

Threefold Approach with Unreached People Groups
1. Identify as Jesus-follower asap
2. Ask to pray for God’s blessing for them
3. Ask if they would be interested in studying the Bible in their homes

House of Peace
Belongs to unbelievers who are open to having Bible studies in their home with other unbelievers of their acquaintance.

Evangelism is just the tip of the Great Commission iceberg.

5 Questions to Answer for Church Formation
1. Who is the church?
2. When do we meet?
3. Where do we meet?
4. Why do we meet?
5. What do we do?

A CP team must begin with the end in mind; eventually removing itself.

A CP team is like scaffolding – critical to the building process but temporary.

6 Phases for CP Team
1. Learner
2. Explorer
3. Evangelist
4. Teacher
5. Developer
6. Mentor/Partner

Being an explorer may mean discarding your normal routine.

One of the common characteristics among CP movements is that the origins can be traced to a widespread dissemination of the good news. CP team members should expect to spend a great deal of time doing evangelism.

A church can be as much a New Testament church with five people as it can be with five thousand. A church is not defined by its size.

The plant-and-pastor model should be the exception and not the expectation when it comes to CP. If your desire is to plant and pastor, it is likely that your calling is to the pastorate and not to missionary service.

The Mentor/Partner is likely to last indefinitely.

While there is an urgency to take the gospel to all people, evangelism should never happen at the expense of discipleship and church health.

CP teams with a heart for the nations will not be satisfied with the birth of one church.

Methods used by a CP team serve as a model to the people group. People reproduce what they know, and they know what is modeled for them.

7 Abilities a Planted Church Should Manifest

1. Self-identifying
2. Self-supporting
3. Self-governing
4. Self-propagating
5. Self-expressing
6. Self-teaching
7. Self-theologizing

A CP team shouldn’t try to attract Christians. They should evangelize a people, make disciples, start a small group, lead the group to self-identify as a church and then appoint pastors with that church.

All disciple-making and CP activities involve crossing cultures to some degree.

3 Guidelines
1. Assume the Great Commission
2. There is a specific calling to hard soil
3. Consider need and receptivity

A spectrum of receptivity exists among all people groups, including those who are the least receptive.

The apostolic nature of CP teams requires that they think and function as missionaries.

Manifesting a missionary faith may be one of the most difficult things your team will be required to do after a church is planted. In order for the Spirit to be in control, your team will have to relinquish control.

Make sure your training is obedience-oriented.

Provide leaders with on-the-job training. Don’t create a system that takes them out of the culture while they are trained. Leave them where they are and meet them there. Adjust to their schedules.

You’ve got to be faithful to the Lord. When we get to the field, we’ll just be faithful and the Lord will plant his church. This is an extremely important statement for any missionary team.

To enter the field without a strategy is to plan for failure. Where there is no plan, there is no accountability. Faithfulness without a strategy is foolishness. Developing a CP strategy is a matter of kingdom stewardship.

What is developed in the boardroom will not stay the same in the field. Wise teams go with a plan but constantly re-evaluate and adjust as they go.

Book Review Decentralization

The Starfish and the Spider – Quotes, Principles, Distinctions

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations

by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom

Key Quotes

  • “This book is about what happens when there’s no one in charge. It’s about what happens when there is no hierarchy. You’d think there would be disorder, even chaos. But in many arenas, a lack of traditional leadership is giving rise to powerful groups that are turning industry and society upside down.”
  • “The absence of structure, leadership, and formal organization once considered a weakness, has become a major asset.”
  • “In a decentralized organization, there’s no clear leader, no hierarchy, and no headquarters. If and when a leader does emerge, that person has little power over others. The best that person can do is to lead by example.”
  • “Starfish have an incredible quality to them. If you cut an arm off, most of these animals grow a new arm. And with some varieties, such as the Linckia, or long-armed starfish, the animal can replicate this magical regeneration because in reality, a starfish is a neural network – basically a network of cells. Instead of having a head like a spider, the starfish functions as a decentralized network…”

Major Principles of Decentralization

  1. When attacked, a decentralized organization tends to become even more open and decentralized.
  2. It’s easy to mistake starfish for a spiders.
  3. An open system doesn’t have central intelligence; the intelligence is spread throughout the system.
  4. Open systems can easily mutate.
  5. The decentralized system sneaks up on you.
  6. As industries become decentralized, overall profits decrease.

Distinguishing Between a Starfish and a Spider Organization

  • Is there a person in charge?
  • Are there headquarters?
  • If you thump it on the head, will it die?
  • Is there a clear division of roles?
  • If you take out a unit, is the organization harmed?
  • Are knowledge and power concentrated or distributed?
  • Is the organization flexible or rigid?
  • Can you count the employees or participants?
  • Are working groups funded by the organization, or are they self-funding?
  • Do working groups communicate directly or through intermediaries?

Implications for Collegiate Ministry

The implications for collegiate ministry are many; too many to elaborate on presently. I will be delving into these in some depth in the future. Every step of the way there is something to be learned, considered, and implemented from this book for those of us who serve on one or more campuses. There is an invitation implied in this concept; there is also a great challenge involved. The invitation is to spread whatever it is you do (for us, the gospel) more effectively and more widely. The challenge looks squarely at our most tightly held systems and the assumptions behind them offering another path.