It's been 12 days since my MinistryCOM general session (inspired by this post). You can almost re-live it...thanks to notetakers who have blogs. I've had requests for links to the medias I used. Here they are, with a little "context" thrown in there...free of charge. Audio files of all the sessions will be available on WiredChurches.com within the next few weeks.
What was your first impression of the communications department? Fun fact: when I started, there was no "communications department". This raw and candid feedback is from one of our weekly staff meetings earlier this month. My co-worker's first impression of "the department" was their first impression about "me". Sad. But, true. And, justly deserved. BTW...I make a cameo appearance at the end of this media to try to tip the scales back in my favor. Do you think I'm obvious?
Office Safari. If you compared your office demeanor to an animal, what species would reflect your style? What interactions at work tend to bring out the “animal” in you? What do you do when you recognize that tendency in yourself?
Deb's Story. Are you taking yourself too seriously? Really. Is it all about you and your “control” over things? Or… are you looking for ways to help provide relief to others? Is your frame of reference about ways to help people do what they want to do or how to get them to do things your way? Deb’s story is an example of what we all work for and hope to see; a heart softened and a life changed in Christ. But, the lesson in there for us is modeled in the story behind the story; the traffic team. They didn’t prioritize their policy and position over people. They checked their ego.
What's your impression of the Communications Department NOW? I had brought a lot of tools and experience from the corporate world when I showed up on the scene. I was pretty confident in my skillz. But, with all that was on my side, I was ineffective. All the talent, technique, tools and tricks you may have on your side in graphics, creativity, copywriting… won’t get you anywhere if the people on your team think you’re an idiot. I’m not saying you ARE an idiot… but people might think you are one. Or, a bully. Or, controlling? All of us are under pressure to demonstrate results quickly and have the tendency to skip the crucial “soft skills” of our job required for teamwork and flow. We underestimate the difficulty and the importance of "communication" in "communication". For the past couple of years me and my team have intentionally focused on relationships and how our actions make people feel instead of how we get them to do what we want them to do. The result is breakthrough thinking and new insights…from EVERYONE on the same page. It all boils down to your perspective.
The Truth. I ended the talk with this media and slipped off stage while the audience absorbed the art. It was good for them and for me...eliminating the awkward "I'm done now. Everybody clap because you're supposed to" ending.
A year ago, I linked to an article that's still a great, relevant read today. In essence, it defines web sites being about communication served by IT. It's still a great read. Here's how it plays out in our environment.
Less clutter. Less noise. More clarity. That sums up our communication strategy. In this era of information overload – and life at light-speed – we strive to provide an escape hatch. As an extension of our communication strategy, we've designed our site simply to answer two questions:
1. Is this a fit for me?
2. If so, what is my next step?
What you won’t find on the site is the snack menu for the toddler room. Because people just need to know when that room is staffed and ready for their child. And, they don’t need a page on the philosophy of our men's ministry. But, a story of life-change from other men who attend GCC.
What you will find:
• This Week – what’s happening in our 6 main venues (weekend, mid-week, children, middle school, high school and college)
• Events – what’s coming up for everyone (you can sort by men, women, students, families or adults only)
• Volunteer – the places you can roll up your sleeves and get involved.
• Groups – gatherings that create environments to meet others at GCC.
And, once you’re online…we place a high importance on flow; allowing people to get to what they want when they want it with minimal road blocks. That’s why we try to keep things no more than two clicks away and minimize scrolling. People don’t need more information, they need clear paths to the facts so they can make a decision. And, they need a channel to connections with resources or each other without waiting for a middle man. We don’t like to wait, neither do you and neither do our site surfers.
What about when the facts just aren’t enough and you need something more? Well, we’ve thought of that, too. We recognize no amount of cleverly crafted words or still photographs can do an experience justice, but media is as close as you can get without actually being there. The biggest investment we’ve made and continue to make in our web site is our media player. Not only is it a multi-dimensional way to get a slice of an experience, it has become the most effective tool people in our church use to invite their friends and help share stories of life change. We get that.
Speaking of flow… There is no one size fits all approach to a person’s journey…online or off…and, we get that, too. We provide multiple entry points to the same information and let people choose which way they want to get there. Think of how people experience and navigate in a department store...it’s much like that on the Web. We structure our online information using the same approach. I don’t drive down Grape Road looking for signs that say “Size 8 Adidas Workout Pants”. I see the sign for Kohl’s, go in and look for the women’s department, look for the athletic wear, see the Adidas sign and then I go to the rack and look for my size. Then, I might try it on, depending on my previous experiences. The next time I come to that store, I might be looking for size 1 boys tennis shoes and my search path will look different, but the department chunks and isles are the same. I know the direction to head. And, if I stop to ask someone in the housewares’s section about kids’ shoes, they know where to point me even if they don’t know the inventory of that department. That’s how GCC’s web site works.
Internally, individual ministries aren’t trying to figure out how to promote their ministries and they aren’t competing with each other in a carnival communication style trying to out-yell or out-explain. We don’t have to know all the answers and everything that’s going on at the church outside our own ministry, but we all know where to go and look. We are unified by a by bigger steps that transcends of specific or departments. You can find everything you need to find in one of four places (home page, events, volunteer or group). We have more time to focus on creating experiences and relationships in our teams and events, not by creating more content.
Externally, guests experience a place where everyone speaks with the same voice and there is a consistent environment across departments and mediums. They are not bombarded or burdened with the chore of searching through a jungle of competing, screaming messages. And, they’re not surprised by conflicting personalities between pages. There are no dead-ends or ramblings to frustrate a surfer…only slices of experiences and clear paths to next steps where the power of drilling down, self-selection and sorting is left to the unique needs of the individual.
Life's a little bit harder; not a little bit easier.
My faith is a little bit bigger; not a little bit smaller.
I think a little more about others; not a little more about me.
Last week at MinistryCOM, I was in an uncomfortable place. Caught between responsibility and fear... between confidence and insecurity...between humility and pride...between anonymity and recognition. Delivering a general session to a few hundred people is outside of my comfort zone. And, so was the overwhelming encouragement I received from people on my team and people I didn't even know.
Brad's in the middle of his general session and is talking to us about being transparent. To illustrate his point, he just made us put our hand on the shoulder of the person next to us and look into their eyes for 30 seconds. I was sitting next to Jason. This was my view.
I was inspired by the strategy and discipline of the game's development team. In particular, I tuned into how they stepped outside their own bubble to see watch people respond to their game ... uncensored ... unbiased ... real time.
Strategy: They watched people play the game and made notes of problem areas they, as the game creators, were too close to see. They watched facial expressions, body language and player results; tracking everything from favored weapons to how and where players most frequently get killed.
Result: They discovered flaws between what the game creators thought people should do and what they actually did. They went back and corrected bugs and graphics that were ineffective.
Ministry Take Away #1: I'm reminded to create space to watch people experience our creations. Watch facial expressions, body language and traffic patterns the first time they encounter a touch point at our church. Last weekend, I sat on the far right of our auditorium and watched people as they read (or didn't read) the bulletin. I observed them at different points in the service for positive (or negative) responses. I watched where people went and listened to what they said as they left the auditorium after service. I was a spy.
Strategy: They analyzed the change in their team dynamic and processes in the face of growth. When they started developing Halo, they could all sit in a single room and communicate by yelling over their shoulders or peer at each other's cool creations onscreen.
Result: They discovered the pressure to deliver Halo 2 nearly destroyed them. Separate teams formed to design each level of the game, but they didn't coordinate their efforts. When they assembled all of their pieces for the first time, they discovered that the story was incomprehensible. They actually had the guts to throw out 80% of their work and start over.
Ministry Take Away #2: I'm reminded to step back and look around at all the activities around the church and take the time to attend events that aren't usually on my radar. I'm evaluating if "our story" as a church is cohesive and comprehensible. Do the environments feel like they're from the same family, or a hodge podge of competing values? Am I finding ways to invest in other ministry leaders to foster trust and collaboration?
Strategy: They watched the stats and looked for positive and negative trends. These trends were one of the probes they used to find trouble.
Result: A report revealed an unusual number of "suicides" among the players piloting the alien Wraith tank in an upper level. They discovered that the firing line of the guns were misaligned and inadvertently killing (and frustrating) the players. They went back and fixed the guns and the suicides stopped.
Ministry Take Away #3: I'm reminded to watch our numbers to find things that are growing and things that are dying (or broke). Recently, our reports revealed that our online discussion guides for each service were only accessed by a handful of people (four). Until we actually saw the numbers, our assumptions and efforts supported an audience that didn't exist. We repurposed the team for other ministry purposes and terminated the online process.
What do church leaders have to learn from game developers?
Every developer aims for the same goal: keep players in a "flow" state--constantly surfing the edges of their abilities without bogging them down. Are we intentional about watching the flow experience for our guests?
Gamemakers devise a system with a few basic rules, goals and equipment for the journey--constructing environments that influence the behavior of the people inside them. In other words, they give people the tools, clear the way and allow people to find their own way of achieving their goals. Do we provide the tools and create the environments for people to find their own way to connect with resources and each other? Or, do we prescribe rules, force paths and do their thinking for them?
Gamemakers eliminated battlefields areas where players were bored, stuck or killed--they were simply baffled about where to go. They were surprised when players were doing things the designers never thought of. They altered worlds in small ways to subtly direct player movement. Do we dismiss people who don't take the path we think they should or are we looking for innovative ways to change our world solve open-ended problems and save lives?
Who said computer games are a waste of time? The developers of Halo 3 have just modeled the way to change lives. We can learn something from them.
He turned 7 today, had his left ear sliced open, had a graft for a new ear drum "harvested" and had his ear glued back on. Really. He could pull it right off if he wanted to right now. And, all of this was possible for him because of a synthetic protein scientists created to help replace the missing factor his blood needs to clot.
Thank you God for the miracles of modern medicine...for the gifted, talented and hard-working healthcare staff and for our family and friends who helped us through this day. Thank you God that we're celebrating Easton's 7th birthday. And...lastly...Thank you God for the free wireless internet at Memorial Hospital to make our stay more comfortable.
Mark's holding down the fort while Easton and I snuggle up here at the hospital tonight with our respective tools of comfort...Lenny, his little stuffed Guinea Pig and my bag of chocolate.
I love this woman's insight. She's one year older than me and that must be why she's so smart... I'm not 40 yet. She is. Anyway...Chris turned me on to her awhile back.
Two of her recent posts you should read... (she's pithy, it won't take long)
Your new is not "news" [excerpt] "You should not communicate what is new in your universe. You should communicate what matters to your constituents. If you have a new logo or brand look-and-feel, that’s nice, but it doesn’t mean a thing to the outside world. What matters to the outside world is how they experience you..."
What to do about that new generation [excerpt] " Think web services, not websites. Make things that plug into other sites. Connect people. Make everything portable. Do not expect anyone to come to you any more. Go to where people are online..."