Thursday, May 01, 2008

Strategic Mapping - part 2

This finishes off the article about strategic mapping. I prefer this style simply because it fits with my personality and style. As a visionary, it is difficult for me to follow a set path that someone else sets up. It is the blessing and curse. I cause other people to look at life differently, and I frustrate them because I just don't follow the plan. I've learned nothing is ever set in stone, that is not life, it may be how we would prefer life to be, but that only works when we want it to work, e.g., if someone is dying we want to change the rules, and at other times we want to keep the rules. It is like the waves in the ocean, there is a constant change in the waves and what they carry.

Anyway here is the conclusion ~

Another way to look at strategic mapping is to compare it to jazz. A jazz piece has a basic theme that musicians play all around, improvising as it feels natural to them. The more that strategic mappers chart new courses through unfamiliar territory (starting new ministries), the more natural it feels to play around with the map, trying new paths and scouting out new ministries. Some paths will begin to feel more right than others. Over time, strategic mappers begin to smell dead ends (ministries that won’t reach people) before taking the wrong route. Sure, an enormous amount of thought and planning goes into playing jazz, as well as endless practice. But in the end the great jazz musicians have the ability to instantly and unthinkingly sacrifice the best musical score simply because some flash of intuition has suggested a better sound. They have learned how to improvise as they go.

In the beginning strategic mappers may not have any more than a starting point and a desired destination in mind before setting out on the journey. If the journey is one that has been taken before, then some parts of the map may be drawn in already, but not in detail. If the journey is one that has never before been taken, as is the case with so many effective ministries today, the map is mostly blank between the point of departure and the destination. As the explorers become acquainted with the landscape and the wildlife, they make notes about which paths to take so others can follow. The more people who take the journey, the better the map is drawn. As better equipment is invented, the more detailed the map becomes. Over time a full-blown map to the future emerges for less adventurous leaders to follow.

So the most effective strategic mappers are often forged out of years of exploration. Study after study has been done in the corporate world to discover the ingredients in the making of a leader. These studies have resulted in very little usable data. But one piece of data has emerged: Very few, if any, senior executive types emerge fully formed. Most studies show that it takes ten to twenty years to grow an excellent manager (John Kotter, General Managers). Do you see any comparison here with how Jesus prepared for his ministry? Ever wonder why he was already an old man of thirty (old for that era) before he started to mentor others? We know from Scripture that he began preparing for his role very early in his life, but even he wasn’t ready for many years.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to take a journey where very few people have been, I want a seasoned guide who has at least made the journey before. I want that person to at least have some semblance of a map in hand. I don’t mind if the person adds details to the map as we go, but I sure don’t want that person to start with only a blank page to draw the map on.

Like explorers, most strategic mappers learn best on the job. The challenges that confront them and the ways they handle those situations become their primary learning lab. They may be well educated and terribly smart, but if they are not capable of “adaptive-on-the-journey learning,” they will wind up spinning their wheels in some dead-end ministry or worse yet, being eaten alive by some well-meaning church member who knows how to work the system so that nothing new ever transpires.

Strategic mappers are constantly on the lookout for newer, faster, and better ways to do indigenous ministry in a rapidly changing world. They can change course on a dime when they see the path they are on isn’t going anywhere. When mapping a trail through the wilderness, you don’t stop to consider if this is the way it’s always been done or if you are following procedure. You just make a decision: This trail or that path . . . anywhere beats being lost.

That’s where adaptive-on-the-journey learning comes in. If I want to be one of the people to help my congregation navigate through what I call a “wormhole in history,” then I better be a lifetime learner. Better yet, I must see my number-one role in life to be that of developing my spiritual leadership. Here, then, is the number-one reason most church leaders can’t lead: They don’t see life as one big learning experience and they don’t develop their skills as a spiritual guide.

So chew on these tidbits:

· Just about everything I learned in seminary or college is out-of-date already.
· The book I read last year is already debunked by someone.
· Just about the time I think I’m getting it, “it” is no longer relevant.
· If it worked today, the odds are it won’t work tomorrow.
· If I take a look at your library, how many books will I find that were written this year or
in the second or third century?
· If you haven’t read at least a dozen books this year, there is no way you can keep.
ahead of the wild beasts.
· The last thing I learned made so much sense that I instinctively knew it wouldn’t work, so I threw it out.

I’m getting a headache so I’ll stop there, but you get the picture.

What’s a leader to do? Learn from every experience that comes your way and ask, “What’s God trying to tell me, and how do I journal it for the next people to come along behind me?” That’s the ministry of strategic mappers. Nike would love them.


A strategic map gets drawn as the journey is underway.

The destination is more important than the plan!

Strategic mapping, unlike strategic planning, is based more on hands-on experience than on information.

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