Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan authors of THE THREE LAWS OF PERFORMANCE argue - all humans typically face and receive the futures that they believe will pass. They argue that this reality illusion has more power of humans than actual facts or reasons.
It is like this, how a situation occurs to you goes hand in hand with your actions. This is amplified by the fact that what we see is all there is, and the world seemingly revolves around us as individuals. David Foster Wallace in his Kenyan College Graduation speech offered this understanding of our self-centeredness. He believed that we are deluded by the lens by which we experience the world – this is part of our problem and it hides the most obvious realities. He wrote, "A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded… [because] everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence... Think about it: There is no experience you've had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real” that it is difficult to hear the other voices. Wallace says, "As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head. In fact some of you are carrying on that conversation right now.”
Daniel Kahneman in his book THINKING FAST AND SLOW calls it "observation bias."
What these authors, economists, and business men are offering is the essential truth that we see the world as it occurs to us and therefore make actions that suit our observations. We make our future - one way or the other.
The question that Bob Johansen, of Institute for the Future, is asking is what insights are you using to make your decisions.
So lets go back and think a bit about our Episcopal Church (or any denomination thinking about how to structure itself, judicatory, or congregation for that matter). This summer our Episcopal Church will meet in convention and ponder how to structure itself for mission. It will ask the same questions it has been asking for two decades, and they are similar to all denominational churches in our time. In particular our church structure has spent enormous amounts of time and energy pondering what the future looks like - TREC. Now that TREC has returned with their version what structure could be the population of general convention is thinking - "no". There are other groups offering similar ideas as TREC. There are groups trying to amplify the work of all these people to convince the general-convention-going deputies that they need to vote positively to restructure the church.
But the deputies have not spent a lot of time on this. They have not spent three years reading and studying things, listening to consultants, dreaming about mission, and then attempting to build consensus in a wildly diverse group of people around common future scenarios of a mission church. This isn't to place a value on the lack of this work, but it is to point out that the deputy will vote based upon how the church occurs to them. And here is the rub.
The future is as it occurs and is already written by the deputies - and it isn't the future TREC or any other group is offering. The reason is that it is the default future. The deputies will vote, as all others have voted, and as of right now the vast majority of efforts towards restructuring will fail. The restructuring offers a means to an end and that end is not how the deputies see the church; it isn't how it occurs to them. That is just the way it is.
70% of all change efforts fall short because those who are actually in charge of the change don't change but vote or act as the church has always occurred to them. 70% fall short despite our good intentions, sophisticated systems, we have put a great group of people in the room, we have a solid management plan, and good leaders who came up with TREC report (I am biased of course having been a member of the committee).
The reason is that what occurs to the vast numbers of deputies may be one of the following: a) all structure proposals fail b) I don't think our system is broken c) to change will remove power from me d) I like how things work e) our predecessors chose this system for a reason. Regardless of context, potential, crisis, problems, expressed concern about the continued loss of membership and money, or any other reason these 5 different ways in which the church occurs to the people will rule the day. The 5 different ways the church occurs to the deputies is not only a voting block to ensure no movement but it is an intimately strong web of occurrences that are not changed by reasonable argument, future forecast, power points, and graphs.
The traditional approach, Zaffron and Logan argue, is for us to make our case. Show our research. Offer a view of what is really happening. Look at the numbers. "See here it is," we might say, "it is clear." Current models for change management hold that people act based upon mental assets of skills, emotions, beliefs, values, attitudes, and knowledge. And the traditional approach is to use incentives, skill training, and motivation to manage the change. Zaffron and Logan point out that this is why the effort fails. None of this deals with how the actual church and future church occurs to the people who actually will be making a vote.
No matter how much money, resources, time we spend throwing at this problem we will fail because we have forgotten (as Simon Sinek points out) The Why.
The reality is that the unanimous vote in both houses to restructure was created by casting a vision of a future church that was involved in mission at all levels of the organization. People believed - even for a moment - that the possible was in fact, well, possible.
Over the last two decades the change efforts have failed at General Convention (not because they were bad ideas) because we never changed how the church occurred to those voting. Consequently, each effort that has failed has reinforced and strengthened the resistance to change. We are so focused on the what and the what has grown stronger and stronger and more resistant to change. Not only that - we benefit from keeping it this way.
We as a church, and General Convention (or any judicatory), have a racket. The first part of our racket is this: we have a complaint about how things work. Everyone is complaining. We heard it clearly at TREC, that everyone has problems with how things work - even if they denied publicly that this was true, we heard it privately over and over again. The second part of the racket is this: we write about it, talk about, speach-ify about it, call for change, we act hopeless and bewildered at how no one will change. The third element Zaffron and Logan offer is harder to see. We all see the above two behaviors of our Episcopal racket. The next behavior is the payoff. The payoff for our particular racket is that we get to be right, the depersonalized system is wrong, avoids the reality that we are part of the system, and we maintain control of our platform or place on the convention floor. The fourth behavior to our racket is the cost. The cost is that we remain hopeless to change anything, we continue to spend money and time with very little to show for it, we disenfranchise people across the church, and we harm the mission of Christ.
We have a default future and it is a racket that costs the mission of the church dearly and hurts the community and mission of Christ. We need to divest from this racket and this way that the church occurs to us. It is not what God intends.
Here is where that old maxim about the sea comes in, attributed to Antoine de Saint Exupery, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
- We need to focus on the hopeful future potential of our church and our church's mission.
- We need to speak about the future (not the current state of affairs, not the problems, not the racket - for that we need to go to confession and seek amendment of life).
- We must paint a compelling and vibrant future together, speaking and listening one another into a conversion that seeks to be the community that Jesus inspired.
It will be those who can cast a vision of this future church who will win the day regarding the future shape of our organization. I believe it will be the bishop who can inspire us to imagine this future church who will be the next Presiding Bishop. We should demand inspiration and vision from our leaders. We should hope together to discover the open sea that is before us.