Friday, September 11, 2009

Planning on uncertainty

"Leadership through command and control is doomed to fail. No one can create sufficient stability and equilibrium for people to feel secure and safe. Instead, as leaders we must help people move into a relationship with uncertainty and chaos. Spiritual teachers have been doing this for millennia. Therefore, I believe that the times have led leaders to a spiritual threshold. We must enter the domain of spiritual traditions if we are to succeed as good leaders in these difficult times."
Margaret Wheatley, Finding Our Way

I was recently at Faith Mennonite Church when a protester burst into the sanctuary as a woman was preaching and said, "This is an abomination!" The protester believed that women should not be ministers. He aggressively came into the sanctuary two different times, seeking to make his voice heard and to disrupt the service. Both times he came in, a group of people in the sanctuary gently but firmly surrounded him, making sure no one was hurt and that the service could continue. Some people in the congregation moved close to him and prayed. Others talked with this man before, during, and after the service. From an outside perspective, it looked like the congregation had done planning and training in how to handle disruptions during a worship service, so that the response was both firm and nonviolent.

But this congregation had not anticipated or planned for disruptions like this. The response from the congregation grew out of shared values and trusting relationships among the congregation, but not a pre-meditated plan. The congregation strongly values nonviolence, relationship-building, and listening. During this tense situation, a natural expression of these values happened. I believe that the congregation was prepared for this type of response because of the rituals, community building, and mentoring they did with each other before that day.

In the past year, I have facilitated strategic planning with several organizations. In doing this planning, I want to both be precise in the plans we make, and also recognize that the best expressions of the organizations might arise spontaneously and be impossible to plan for. And many times, committing to intellectual plans and strategies are not enough to make things happen. A recent study showed that when doctors tell heart patients they will die if they don't change their habits, only one in seven will be able to follow through successfully. (From the book, Immunity to Change)

At a strategic planning retreat I facilitated this summer, one of the participants said that the mission and goals of the group seemed to "organically arise" out of the experiences and input from several groups. I think that much of the best planning does naturally arise out of our experience--and sometimes the planning for something comes just as we are doing it, and not before. But before the crisis or opportunity arises, we can build the common purpose and values of groups we are a part of--and we can be open to the opportunities and relationships that arise.

I started this post with a quote from Margaret Wheatley. I think that she is right--both about the need to make friends with uncertainty and also about the resources we can draw from spiritual traditions as we learn to do that. I know that it is true for me. I often want to cling to predictability and control, and I need spiritual practices to help me relax and listen to what is arising. I recently heard a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke (on a friend's outgoing voice-mail). I think the Rilke quote also points toward the essence of this trusting:

"May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What have I learned in the past year?

As I'm preparing for my open house and "report back" on Sept. 30th, I'm reviewing the interviews and writing that I've done in the past year. I've been on a quest to discover how to engage the spiritual dimensions of organizational leadership and change. I pulled out 12 themes from what I've been learning. Under each theme, I put links to writing and video clips that relate to that idea.

Thinking humbly, boldly, and long-term about shifts in organizations
Kay Pranis: This shift is so big... in all of our institutions
Greg Boyd: What is our role in taking on the Powers? Don't get too cocky.
Charles Simmons: Just remember that God is ultimately in control of everything.
The Great Turning and the Evolution of Organizations
Roland Sullivan: A challenge to YOU to stay in step with the pace of change in the world

Seeing organizations as living systems
Monica Manning: We don't think about institutions; we think about ourselves as individuals
Monica Manning: It is easy to feel the institutions aren't that important, even though we take advantage of them all the time
Greg Boyd: The science of the whole, soul of a group, and prayer as social action

Recognizing the invisible dimensions of organizations
Sondra Samuels: The battle we are fighting is not one the eyes can see
Greg Boyd: Layers of spiritual warfare and authorities described in the Bible
Al Quie: The realities of the invisible and learning the language of the invisible

Discernment of the current reality and of the future that is seeking to emerge
Drawing on Quaker practices and testimonies within secular organizations
Lissa Jones: Do I really make the just and right decision, or do I do what the world calls me to do that might cover myself better?
Roland Sullivan: Spirit is truth / I try to get organizations to find their truth in a safe way
Al Quie: Listening to God is like deciphering a bad accent
Planning on the uncertainty

Ways of opening to the sacred
Language for bringing our deepest inspiration to work
Seven doors into the spiritual development of organizations
Marnita Schroedl: The deeply personal is sacred space
Sondra Samuels: Everyone wants meaning; tapping into the God in people

Working with power in ways that let the sacred emerge
Greg Boyd: Power over and power under / Always understand that 'the Powers' are trying to play you.
Kay Pranis: Things you achieve through authority are not sustainable.
Al Quie: Moving towards those who don't have power. God wants us to pay attention to those we neglect.

Working with the shadows and underbellies of organizations
Living with joy and challenge within unhealthy institutions
In praise of organizational dissatisfaction
Does "Evil in the Workplace" Exist?
Lissa Jones: A searching and fearless inventory
Monica Manning: If people can find what is good in the organization, they are better able to enter into exploring its darkness
Greg Boyd: Living faithfully in corrupt organizations. The Kingdom of God is impractical.
Al Quie: Most organizations are fearful of sharing what went wrong

Personal and collective demons that we must face
Jin Kim: Anxiety is Empire
Lissa Jones: "The greatest weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed"
Marnita Schroedl: Almost everyone feels like they have their face up to the glass and aren't having an authentic experience

Personal spiritual grounding in the workplace
Lissa Jones: Avoiding despondency and burnout
Roland Sullivan: The value of self-transformation
Sondra Samuels: Things that a human would run away from, God says run towards
Roland Sullivan: Competencies of a change agent: Being, Skill, Knowledge
Sondra Samuels: If I hold onto the need to be right, nothing can work
Kay Pranis: A responsibility to be hopeful
Kay Pranis: Values that guide me

Cultivating and transforming the spirit of an organization
15 ways to cultivate spiritual grounding in work with organizations
Lissa Jones: Cultivating the spirit of an organizations / Welcome to the first day of your liberation
Marnita Schroedl: People have a high need to come together in celebration and ceremony
Monica Manning: What is institutional formation? What is the institution being called by the world to be?
Al Quie: Leaders set the tone for organizations
Roland Sullivan: How I transform an organization
Sondra Samuels: Focused on the solution, not the problem

Prayer in and for organizations
Prayer is... (fill in the blank)
Returning to praying for the healing of organizations
Al Quie: Praying with Congressmen and the President

Assessing the spiritual formation of organizations
A Quiz: What is the Spiritual Character of Your Organization?
Marnita Schroedl: If we try to measure it, it changes the outcome
Monica Manning: "You can measure the worth of an organization by the number of lies you have to tell to belong to it."

In summary...
A mind map of how I approach spirituality and institutions
A video summary of what I'm learning
I'm not alone: Other groups integrating spirituality and organizations