4 Tips On How To Build For The Long Term

T he 2013 Super Bowl ad season is in the books and it’s time for a little quiz. Name your favorite Super Bowl ad of all time. I’ll give you a few options:

One of my favorite ads was by Fallon for Electronic Data Systems, which in 2006 ran an :60 spot called “Airplane”:

[vimeo 51038789 w=720]

You can read about the spot here. It’s a beautiful metaphor for life in transition. When you’re having a baby, moving to a new town, or starting a new position, life doesn’t offer the opportunity to stop and put things together. You just have to build on the fly.

That’s what I’m doing in my first year on the job as the Creative and Communication Director at Peachtree. I’m hiring my team, installing the workflow, and modeling good service, all while the plane is in the air.

Sometimes I spill a little coffee.

My home is like this, too. We got partially moved in, then school started, and ever since, we’ve been puttering along with the house half put together. Occasionally I get to bolt down a seat in the form of an unpacked box or painted room.

The challenge is that just when I think I’ve made lasting progress, at home or at work, turbulence hits. With the turbulence of the Christmas season, my work team took some damage. We were overworked; our fledging systems were temporarily forgotten; we missed some project deadlines. Afterward, we had to clean up and keep building, all while the plane continued on.

The thing that’s unique about Peachtree is that there’s a lot of turbulence. After Christmas, many churches calm down a while. But we have a series of spring guest speakers, the ongoing work of 25 major ministry areas, and a full-on homemade VBS program intended to rival a packaged publisher campaign. And Easter of course. To keep up with the creative and communication barrage, my team and I are forced to construct and implement a dizzying array of structural improvements while trying to maintain a daily workflow.

All the while I am forming the team, developing process and systems, managing regular events such as worship, and oversee the daily activity of a busy, busy church.

The challenge is this: if I only focus on the projects at hand, we’ll never get the plane built, and we’ll always be hanging on to our pants. If I only focus on building the projects, the engines will fail and the church will tailspin. I have no choice but to do both at once.

My solutions for managing this process are simple:


1. Keep calm.

The key to failure is to spend your precious energy on the whims and urgencies of others. Everyone wants their thing to be the number one thing. Some even write “good Christian emails” to push their project, as if their persistence helps. Although sometimes it’s difficult, my response must be measured. They just want to do their thing. I try to eschew all drama.


2. Identify the most important thing each day.

I have to eliminate the noise, and focus on the things I can control. Every morning I re-evaluate my task list and determine the most important thing for that day. This can mean that some projects get bumped a few times.


3. Know and work a long-term plan, but be flexible to short-term needs.

I built a five year plan, and I refer to it a lot, but I also keep a running tab of major projects by quarter (for example, Q2, 2013 includes HD upgrades for Sanctuary video). Within these macro plans I must make re-adjustments for short-term needs and requests. For example, digital signage was a year two item for me, but the senior pastor wanted it sooner, so I made adjustments.


4. Avoid One-Offs.

I try to never start something that my current systems can’t sustain, though sometimes it’s unavoidable.


These are ways I try to build for the long term. How do you fly the plane while it’s in the air?


About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).