Posts Tagged ‘Strategic Leadership’

I do chuckle at those that desperately want to harken back to what was. Whether it is politically, socially or religiously. Usually they cloak themselves in the veneer of a religious or political tradition (or both) and in the case of those that try to recapture Christendom or the flailing Christianities, I do ponder if they have read the actual stories they claim to grow their beliefs from. It is a challenge regardless, and may appear as a rude take, but let’s unpack it a bit more.

We are going into the Acts of the Apostles. This is the second book of “orderly history” the Physician Luke was attempting to write down of the history of the early Jesus movement is what tradition tells us. Shortly after it is recorded of Jesus’ Ascension, and Mary (his Mum) playing a key role in choosing a replacement for Judas Iscariot, we move into the day of Pentecost. Before we deep dive however, let’s unpack a few key points so one knows what the heck I am rambling about.

The Christian Holy Bible is two books (possibly 3, but let’s keep it simple). The larger portion is the “Old Testament”, what I refer to as the Hebrew Bible, the scriptures of Judaism. The shorter part, is the New Testament, or the Christian Testament as I refer to it. It is a collection of stories and writings of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but also letters and history of the early movement of his followers which was an anti-thesis to the Roman Empire movement of power, segregation, oppression and control. The early movement shared everything, and men & women were equals, hence the importance of Mary of Nazareth blessing the replacement, and for those who have read the Gospel accounts, it was the women who were witness to the first sighting of Jesus post-death.

Which brings us into the Book of Acts, or known as Acts of the Apostles. It is a collection of stories of the early church, the highs and lows and struggles. Pentecost is the church day of celebration taken for when the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles (Formerly Disciples) so they could speak in tongues. Pause– this is basically a reversal of the ancient myth in the Hebrew Bible Book of Genesis, the Tower of Babel, that was used to explain where languages came from, this piece we are to see in what is to come is more of a universal translator where all could hear and understand (Acts 2:1-23).

The story comes from Acts 2:14-36 (English Standard Version), please note scripture is in italics, reflections are in bold:

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.[a] 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

Third hour of the day is about 9 a.m., I know the argument of drunkenness is plausible but it misses the point, that there was those in the crowd reacting to hearing their own language from those that they did now know. It was an attempt to discredit, Peter, a fisherman, who did alright for himself, he owned his own boat, but had spent the last 3 years travelling with the Rabbi that had so scared the status quo their only way to deal with him was to execute him.

What also was laid out was due to the translation clear communication in an understood language. Common ground was being created. Then Peter, takes the steps to honour the past, no matter how messed up and chaotic it was. He starts with a Prophet.

17¬†‚Äú‚ÄėAnd in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
    before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Peter had learned from the best. Calling out the opiate religious rulers. Those tolerated by the Empire because they kept the masses pacified to be used as nothing more than cattle within the Empire. Here Peter, reminds them of what a Prophet during an ancient occupation and exile had exalted. See prophets were not future seers as we like to use them in this day and age to build coffers in churches. The prophetic voice is one that speaks into the current reality, and calls out the rulers who are causing harm. It is directed at the religious leaders, the declining, neigh, dying Christendom that has existed since Constantine converted to conquer in 325 CE, and is words to be heard today to remind us what our purpose is– Care, Love of Neighbour as we love ourselves (this is how we show love to the Holy Mystery above all else. As Pope Francis reminded us, first you pray-then you act).

The message is about the power that exists within each of us. The pouring out, is the moment of enlightenment, when we resonate with the divinity breathed into us at Creation. Pause, and reflect. How do your actions show love of self and neighbour? It is a resonance with the connection of life- business, politics, family and church.


22¬†‚ÄúMen of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth,¬†a man attested to you by God¬†with¬†mighty works and wonders and signs that¬†God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know‚ÄĒ¬†23¬†this Jesus,[b]delivered up according to¬†the definite plan and¬†foreknowledge of God,¬†you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.¬†24¬†God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because¬†it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Peter then built upon the teachings of the past, and pointed to the now. The Empire could not kill the love gospel. What does that mean for us now? To often we hold to the past and yearn for it to return that we are unwilling to learn and grow from the lessons there. We are unwilling due to fear, anxiety, and quest to maintain the power and control we have to step into the unknown of the new light.

But what happens if we step into the new light?

25 For David says concerning him,

‚Äú‚ÄėI saw the Lord always before me,
    for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
    my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
    or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

David is a highly beloved historic figure. After exile, the nation had re-set his story from 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings, in the highly sanitized 1-2 Chronicles. By sanitized, remember when Wal-Mart took R rated movies, and edited them to be family fair? Or the editing Turner Classic Movies does. All the excess violence, rape, murder plots, were removed, and David was presented as this holy warrior. What is lost when one takes away the evil? That which is meant to be overcome? Simple, we get a picture of life where you must always be good. No I am not condoning rape and murder, though in the time David was functioning as a monarch was allowed to. What I am saying, is we need to honour the whole person, but also understand restoration. Whether it is in our communities or justice systems. It is not simply about constant vilification, and revenge. 

If the soul is willing to change and heal for the betterment of themselves and others, then it is our calling within the Holy Spirit to create space for that as well. For would we not wish the same quarter given us?

The firm flipside of that however, is that we must also hold space, and carry through with restoration, healing and reconciliation with the victim so they too can be truly whole once more. It is the debate and growth that is lost when we sanitize our past and cannot use it is a foundation for healthy growth forward.


29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 

That is firm to remember. If we hold in the past without the healing that is possible. No, I am not pointing only to the spiritual. That is a piece of it, but within the blessings we are also given medicine, scientists, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. True healing with the power of the Holy Spirit from the traumas of the past and present…is trusting the Holy Spirit in the other. It is the path of healing laid out, and by entering into it, like one in faith would enter into a prayer meeting with that level of faith and trust… well… new life is just around the corner.

34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

‚Äú‚ÄėThe Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†until I make your enemies your footstool.‚ÄĚ‚Äô

36¬†Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that¬†God has made him¬†both Lord and Christ, this Jesus¬†whom you crucified.‚ÄĚ

The cross is messy and nasty. We have attempted to individualize it, and bring it down t a simple prayer of contrition at an altar call post after filling coffers. Crap on a stick people we have missed the point. It is about the person, the neighbour, the whole of creation. The past being pointed out as buried points to the cycle of life. Dust to dust. Or as one state recently passed, corpses as compost. We are interconnected. We choose love, we choose life it means we choose a path of reconciliation, healing and belonging.

Honour the foundation that you have built your life on. Know good or bad, the past is in the past. Deal with the pain, trauma and loss. It does not do our body or communities well to suppress and hide it. It is a hard path, but well worth the release of what is next. Thank your system for the internal gremlins that though may have held you back- kept you safe and going forward. Then do the work to release and eliminate.

A new day is here. One day at a time.

Will you build upon the past and let your new life fully bloom?

What does growing reconciled with your past mean for your present and future?


Check out the YouTube Channel- Ty Ragan


coverSeeking to understand…building on the past, preparing for healing and reconciliation to move forward:

A stone skipping across a pond leaves ripples with each impact.

The joys and life of traumas are the like the skipping stone through the generations.

Soul Ripples

What happens when the helper needs help?

For over 20 years Ty Ragan served his neighbour from the rough camps to the shelters to home and every where’s in-between. The simple life lesson of Jesus of Nazareth to love your neighbour as yourself was the centre question to be answered in his life. In May 2016 his life would begin to change drastically through unknown seizures and strokes.

Enter into the ripples that brought him to 2016, the transformational power of love of family and friends as he seeks new ripples in hope for his soul.


Closing time on this series. One more text book to read before my sit in on the strategic leadership course at Alberta Bible College. Oh, and there is a few scriptures in the syllabus I am contemplating a typed up sermon, or actually finally playing with the family tablet and perhaps video talks. But I digress, what has led me down this rabbit hole of Strategic Leadership.

It is quite simple, it is a buzzword in industry that makes people cringe. Usually because when the gauntlet is thrown down it guts the humanity from organizations and becomes profit driven. It uses quantitative data in a vacuum, and assumes that all must be the same. In the non-profit sector it is that all in this said sector must be doing exactly the same things, not allowing for localized core values and core principles to form the strategy, rather, it must suit the funders. In churches it becomes the plug and play models that are viewed as “success” or what the “denomination will fund” rather than what the organization is accomplishing or those core stake holders they are helping and serving.

It was a coffee talk that led me to state that strategic leadership can happen with core morals. I had the qualitative stories to share from my decades in the breech, the challenge was what academics and research to stand on. For, I have the Sisko or Kirk effect, where I tend to trust my gut more from immersing in a community than what “experts” or “quantitative data” will tell me. I guess that is the role of the mystic-monastic for vision casting. Sometimes it works wonderfully, other times the saboteurs took it down. Either way, at the end of the day I could hold my head high knowing I had not compromised my core self.

This is the rabbit trail, hope you have enjoyed it.


coverA stone skipping across a pond leaves ripples with each impact.

The joys and life of traumas are the like the skipping stone through the generations.

Soul Ripples

What happens when the helper needs help?

For over 20 years Ty Ragan served his neighbour from the rough camps to the shelters to home and every where’s in-between. The simple life lesson of Jesus of Nazareth to love your neighbour as yourself was the centre question to be answered in his life. In May 2016 his life would begin to change drastically through unknown seizures and strokes.

Enter into the ripples that brought him to 2016, the transformational power of love of family and friends as he seeks new ripples in hope for his soul.

Buy your copy at today.

A series of reflections on the Harvard Business Review’s (2011) 10 Must Reads on Strategy…

Balance. A simple word, hard to achieve in one’s life, but what about an organization? Especially one driven by money. Now for those in the non-profit or religious world you may say this does not apply– I get the stewardship and fundraising mail, it does.

Kaplan & Norton (1996) “Using the Balance Score Card as a Strategic Management System” take us off the known trail of financial focus and into the holistic.¬† The Balance Score Card “enabled companies to track financial results while simultaneously monitoring progress in building the capabilities and acquiring the intangible assets they would need for future growth.” (p.167) It is a tool that shifts the conversation from the short term monetary (though that is included) to the long term. It looks at the organization as a whole, to see what groundwork is being laid for the future, so this quarter or year may be sluggish, but we are growing these assets, people, etc. over here which means growth here, here and here in the next few years.

How does this happen? (from p.168-169)

  1. Translating the vision- leaders build a consensus around the organization’s vision and strategy.
  2. Communicating and linking- Managers can communicate the vision up and down the organization, and link it to specific pieces to specific areas and individuals.
  3. Business planning- allows organizations to integrate their business and financial plans.
  4. Feedback and learning- gives companies the capacity to strategically learn.

Appears simple, until human ego gets involved. There needs to be a willingness from leadership, to well, be actual leaders. That is to engage in activities we have discussed in the A Failure of Nerve article and the previous 6 parts to this series. The next layer added is that the concept of how your organization functions is no longer buzz words or policy on paper, but has to become living and breathing by those that make it up.

Take this to a non-profit that every 3-6 months is changing the way they operate. They are latching on to the next “big thing”, believing that the new vision cast or new procedure is the way to ingratiate staff and volunteers to commit. It is true, when something new is cast there is the preliminary excitement, but there is also fatigue that sets in with constant change. It becomes a myriad of soul fog as to what you actually decided to join or support.

This is where a Balance Score Card approach allows for interjection from all levels before insanity ensues. It allows for the true vision (based on all those core values and principles we have discussed earlier) to be clarified and applied, communication is clear and transparent with which groups and persons are responsible for which; and the financial is tied to the business practice. It is a wrap around investment and growth plan. This allows for the conversation to grow off of the score card questions for the organization’s leaders to learn strategically and make shrewd adjustments to the course.

Like any good tool it may or may not work. The crux of the focus appears to be clear communication, ensuring the vision aligns with the core, oh and that all members of the organization are reflective and engaged in what they are doing.

A series of reflections on the Harvard Business Review’s (2011) 10 Must Reads on Strategy…

Vision, and no it is not the Avenger with the infinity gem in their head. It is another buzzword from industries, that should be unpacked. For many treat it as a catch phrase, or create one that does not fit who their organization is. Collins & Porras (1996) “Building your Company’s Vision” attempt to unpack what is a vision. The simplest definition comes from the opening line, “Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values a core purpose that remain fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world.” (p.77). This is the building block of the vision. It gives life to the core ideology- the character of an organization (p. 78).

What feeds the core ideology is the core values (the handful of principles that guide the company, p. 79) and the core purpose (organization’s fundamental reason for being, p. 79). These two pieces, then are what the building block is for the¬†Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal– what is the 10 to 30 year plan for the organization- a huge, daunting challenge that gets people excited and committed. Then you cast the vivid description.

The challenge this text lays down, is that you have to discover your core ideology. One cannot simply say it is blah, based on the core values and core purpose because “I” state them. It is a journey of discovery. For if the core is off kiltered or rotten the entire B.H.A.G. collapses, like a house built on the sand at high tide. Think of this for yourself, what are the non-negotiable in your work life, and really life? What are the 2-3 core values that you use to guide yourself to know if the work and private life relationships are in sync with you? What is your vision of the good life?

If I was to be discussing this with a church or denomination at this point in time in history I would challenge the negative PR they have put out or let others put out about themselves. I would challenge the many structures that confine growth. What truly is the 2-3 core values out of the Gospel you want to live as in-reach and out-reach? What do these core values? Then what is the core purpose of this church for existence? And if we were to come back in 10 to 30 years what is the B.H.A.G.? If it is still here, and even if you are no longer here, what would you be remembered for? Then start working out in the spiritual formation, discipleship and programming of the church what that is in the here and now.

What is at your core?


A series of reflections on the Harvard Business Review’s (2011) 10 Must Reads on Strategy…

Michael E. Porter brings us “The Five Competitive Forces that Shape Strategy” as the next article.¬† The opening line clearly understands the role of a strategist, “In essence the job of a strategist is to understand and cope with competition.” (p.39). Porter walks the reader through the barriers of new entries into the market, the challenge of capital, swaying consumers, the benefit of being the incumbent, and the challenge of a substitute for service and how all this impacts and shapes strategy. It is essentially pointing out, if you are able to break in, why should anyone care about your product.

There are many business techniques brought up, that in manufacturing, sales and finance would be relevant. I am sure each of us within our own purview can begin to break down the barriers and the forces that shape our strategy. One of the one’s that may have been lost though is the “yesteryear” vibe. This I am sure is not a church only phenom, it is looking back on what was as the best. Essentially your mind wipes away that which was not functional. Or, not looking authentically at your situation. Many churches do this as well, I touched on the seniors church in part 1, this one I want to look at the church lost within their own “supremacy” mindset. I am sure there’s a nicer word, but it is hard to come up with one that doesn’t cover this.

Essentially, it is not look rationally at your existence. That is not understanding where you exist. The assumption being that everyone who exists in the community, and members families, are prospective members because why wouldn’t they want to come here on Sundays September to June (as no one is around July-August, so nothing happens). So why church? For many it is a place that is hot, the music is slow, the sermons are boring, and is too tied up with a woman’s uterus and what goes on in other’s bedrooms, oh and you better bring your wallet to do anything. Which is the PR nightmare.

Now, use some data that is both qualitative and quantitative to understand a setting. It is a good thing about census’, neighbourhoods are broken down effectively and demographically by cities, towns, and counties. One church was doing okay, but had I had the opportunity of doing an “action research project” (real time) on outreach to the community. The question was simple, what happens if we offer more than Sunday morning in July & August? The other thesis was exploring outreach in a multi-cultural context.

What was found with the action research, that is the old heartset my Nan and Granddad and Mum taught me about church-it is the one place you should go that is free- we actually had new youth, young families, and kids coming out to our free VBS, youth nights and outings, bible studies and, yes, Sundays. Why? The neighbourhood the church was in was diverse socio-economically, and so free fit the budgets of families. The leadership of the church traveled from outside and were unaware of this reality. It changed hearts seeing that the meta-narrative was false, and it was time to realize church was a place to belong.

The second question of reaching out. Simple demographic searches of the area would show the high diversity of religions, socio-economics and ages. It would also show traditional outreach was not viable, as the area was over-served with the highest numbers of Christian churches’ per capita in Canada, and lowest number of Christians in the area. Reality was within 5-10 years there would be a shift in the amount of churches, but as it stood now the focus on growth needed to be on depth, and to find ways to support those of the working class, and working poor.

Each sector has their own challenges on shaping strategy, the greatest challenge is those that decide not to try, or make the attempt without fully understanding the narrative of the area. To make a break through as something new, you do have to offer something that is not already there. To be quite honest, you also have to understand how you are offering. It is not the shady way some denominations plant their religious communities knowing the bad PR their brand brings they use the term “community church” to hide behind, rather it is having the brand out there, but knowing how to do in-reach, and outreach in spiritual formation and discipleship. It is about knowing what of the “brands” beliefs/values the community holds to and those they have released as inconsequential, and that is part of the sharing as well.

What are the barriers you experience in entering into a new community, or existing in yours already?

A series of reflections on the Harvard Business Review’s (2011) 10 Must Reads on Strategy…

I have begun to reflect on strategic leadership lately, it has come out of coffee shop conversations truly. The core is what does it mean. Like when I was involved way back in the day with ASQC/ISO things, there is less substance than some observe. Short hand for the acronyms was truly being able to create manuals of what your company did so anyone could pick them up and do, it was sold as efficiency, but was it?

The same token can be asked about the latest buzzword around “Strategic Leadership” as it has become the new norm. A way for companies it appears to throw away relationships, elders, as the focus becomes hyper fixated upon the greatest quick fix craze (our conversation started here: A Failure of Nerve: A Review). The first article within this text is by Michael E. Porter (1996) “What is Strategy?”. Some would say it is a benchmark question.¬† Porter defines strategy as¬†“creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities.” (p.16)¬†and goes on to point out that for strategy to be effective there is trade-offs (p.17). He arrives at this definition after a meandering through defining what is operational effectiveness, which is the delivery system of what you do as efficiently as possible. There is a barrier of market share you can achieve, and a maximum return on this investment.

This leads the article to outline what strategy isn’t, and then being able to define what it is. The point then being that to achieve the strategy organizations needed to be willing to trade-off. Now, this is where it can get mucky from some perspectives, for before trade-offs can begin, one needs to understand the core values of the organization (that which is non-negotiable) and how this supports and works with the strategy. When one does not achieve these, it goes badly under the guise of strategic leadership, for wisdom is lost, chronic organizational anxiety for the quick fix takes hold, and autocracy takes over. The sad part, is many times the autocrat who has their own echo chamber to listen to (consultants, inner-circle, quantitative data without emotion, etc) will lose that which a good consultant will already point you to: a leader with strong integrity and differentiated from the unhealthy aspects, will not be able to retain those in the organization that will healthily support the strategy in implementation and activation. Let that settle in, we can be so quick fix oriented, that we drive away those that can get the job done, simply because they first appear against because they are the differentiated. They are the ones’ willing to say the Emperor has no clothes, but let’s make a robe.

Some organizations are willing to trade off the older/elder because it helps the profit margin, the salary bottom line to employ the younger less experienced, and creates less ripples. The hard part is that relationships are lost, the art of care and integrity is not passed on, neither is the connectivity to the consumer. Porter uses many business to point out that you cannot be all things to everyone, and need to focus on your core competencies, that support your values, and are hard to replicate. That meandering and mediocrity happen when everyone attempts to be the same, when they assume and function as if trade-offs do not need to happen. Great for business, but how does this relate to the church?

It does quite frequently as we attempt cookie cutter ministry. One example is a church I served in that was a strong seniors church, understood care for their generation in their homes, the church (Sunday Sundaes, Men’s Breakfasts, knitting circles, Hymn Sings, antique shows), and extended care. They did not embrace and live into that saying there would be no growth. How could they attract the youth and young families?

They had missed that by being authentically themselves. Not worrying about an active Children’s ministry or youth (as they had none), what they would attract was the older people in the area, but upon visiting young families that were no longer close to their homes would be able to have elders in their lives. Yet all of it was lost, simply because they could not be content and live into who they truly were, they believed the non-trade-off mentality that they needed A-V to be a viable congregation, yet W-Z that they had would make them a healthy, vibrant, and welcoming community if they only could release their chronic anxiety…and sadly anyone who tried to point that out was abruptly shown the door.

It is quite a few gobbly gook business vernacular to simply say, figure out what you truly are, and offer what others cannot. Then that becomes the strategy moving forward.

At the intrinsic community level that is the question to be asked, who are we? Who am I? If we were to be gone tomorrow would we be missed?

What is strategy? It is being authentic in who you are.