Planning In An Unplannable Season

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How are you supporting congregations as they make COVID-appropriate plans? 

Andy Stanley was recently quoted as saying: 'Wait and see' is no way to lead. It puts the organization at the mercy of circumstances. People (may want) certainty. We cannot provide certainty. Clarity is the next best thing.

Many congregations have been saying “we’ll wait and see” for seven months now, and this may actually be adding to the confusion we’re experiencing. We can’t provide much certainty for our congregations, but here’s a tool that could help provide a way to develop clarity in this time of high unpredictability. It’s a decision making framework, or map, called The Cynefin (ku-nev-in) Framework.  

This decision making map draws a helpful distinction between decisions that happen in a world that’s predictable and decisions that are needed in a time of unpredictability.

  • Clear. These decisions happen in a predictable world. They are obvious and we have best practices already built for them. Almost like a recipe, there are clear instructions. (Ex. running a Sunday School program)

  • Complicated. These decisions also happen in a predictable world, but the cause and effect relationship is fuzzy. We need experienced experts to aid our decisions. Best practices might not be established, but there are some good practices to draw from. (Ex. planting a church) 

  • Complex. These decisions happen in an unpredictable world. These are rule-changers. We haven’t done this before so new approaches and safe-to-fail experiments are required. (Ex.:leading people, culture change)

  • Chaotic. No connection between cause and effect. Here we have to stabilize the system and look for emerging patterns. We can then experiment our way to the Complex domain. As patterns become familiar we can then move to Complicated and maybe, someday, to Clear.

The key is to know which quadrant of the map our decision puts us in. Is it predictable or unpredictable? Have we seen this before? Has anyone seen this before? Are there best or good practices? Is there anyone that has experienced something similar to this before?

In this time of COVID and wait-and-see, many of our decisions are not clear or complicated, but complex and even chaotic. We’ve never been here before, and that can be paralyzing for leaders and organizations. There is so much more to using this framework. Here’s a 5 minute video to get you started: Making Sense of Complexity, and here’s a more in depth video from the developer, David Snowden: The Cynefin Framework.

Feel free to contact Lesli van Milligen for more information (and see the story of Immanuel CRC that describes one congregation using this framework).

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