Remember Titanic? — the supposedly unsinkable is holed below the waterline and denies it; the cap’n carefully checks the lightbulbs, to avoid the uncomfortable truth that the whole ship could be going down. Meanwhile the passengers apply themselves to ballroom dancing, not finding things that float. Major functionaries begin to behave like minor functionaries, obsessing about how to protect the White Star Line’s property, when they ought to be inspiring and resourcing people to find effective means of survival. As the ship’s prow rotates downward, the officers grasp at silver bullet solutions, perhaps even a radical new cap’n. By the end of the night the “unsinkable” lies broken on the ocean floor anyway.
He diagnosed five phases of mighty falling:
- Arrogance / Hubris — “We are just not the kind of outfit that could ever sink without a trace... anyway, our troubles are basically down to other people.”
- Sense of entitlement — “We have a right to carry on in our own way, regardless of what others think... Here’s to us — who’s like us?”
- Denial of risk and peril — “After all, more people go to Church than footie...”
- Game is up — “but with a really big new idea/ initiative/ leader we can still make it...”
- Game Over — “glug, glug, glug, [“I’m an officer!!”] glug, glug, glug [“Hey, that’s White Star Line property!”] glug, glug, glug... glug.
- Careful diagnostics — the facts are your friends, even unpleasant ones
- Count your Blessings — you are blessed by large numbers of good things you didn’t cause, and these will help keep you real and resource you
- Increase (Double?) your leaders’ Questions : Statements ratio
- Recruit fantastic people — and if your organisation can’t recruit or retain them, ask hard why.
- Apply your diagnostics to your teams
- Take inventory of the most brutal facts
- Get a good “Stop Doing” List. get out of stuff that’s draining you for nothing, even venerable habits and sacred cows
- Define results — clicks on the flywheel that indicate progress. This staves off depression.
- Extend your reach to young people — Change your practices, but never your essential values
- Find a Big Hairy Audacious Goal rooted in your purpose and values — not some silly little target setting thing, but something everybody would recognise as real victory
As a bishop of the Church of England who learnt in the playground that “if the cap fits, wear it,” I wondered, “Does he mean us?” And if he does, what does our diocese/ parish do about it?