I first encountered the book in the early 1990s. I'd just left church work and was trying to figure out what to do. A lot of the advice was helpful to me. Some not so much, though I could see how it would have been helpful to some.
But one thing I do remember from the book was a story the author told about his encounters with those who claimed his methods didn't work. He would, naturally, ask them an assortment of questions, but he eventually concluded that the vast majority of people who claimed it didn't work had left out one particular piece of the system.
Bolles gives (or at least used to give) very clear instructions on this one point. At the end of every day, you were to send a short note of thanks to anyone who had done anything that day to help you in your search. If someone gave you a lead on a company looking for workers in your desired field, you were to send them a note. If someone gave you an introduction or even just a contact inside a company, you were to send them a note. If someone gave you feedback after an unsuccessful interview so that you could make a better impression the next time, you were to send them a note.
And in virtually every case where someone claimed they system didn't work, the complainer had left out one particular piece of the system - s/he hadn't sent the thank you notes.
I was thinking of coloured parachutes and thank you notes today after reading the latest blogpost from Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost of St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glosgow, Scotland.
Kelvin blogs at the delightfully named What's in Kelvin's Head, and today's post is on things he learned about church growth during his recent sabbatical trip to North America. You should certainly read the whole piece, and I have to say I agree with most of his nine lessons.
But what really got my attention was this comment in the lead up t the nine lessons:
The actual question that I was asked was regarding why people are giving up Mission Action Planning and looking for something else. It is indeed the case that I heard of people giving up doing Mission Action Planning. It is also the case though that lots of people in the States and Canada are still using that as a tool. The people who were giving up on it would say that they were giving up on it because it doesn’t work. The other reasons they might give would be these:
- It can make people feel guilty
- The risk is that it involves asking those who quite demonstrably don’t know what to do, what should be done.
- It can often lull people into thinking that if they just do what they’ve done with a bit more effort then all shall be well when perhaps it won’t.
And I found myself thinking about all those unwritten thank you notes. Because, frankly, if Mission Action Planning has lulled you into thinking you just need to do what you've always done with a bit more effort, then you haven't actually done Mission Action Planning.
The key, I think, is in the first paragraph of the quote. Places that continue to use Mission Action Planning as a tool find it useful. People who think Mission Action Planning is a solution are missing the point entirely.
The nine lessons of Provost Holdsworth's post point to some of the potential missteps that can happen when a Mission Action Plan is being developed or implemented, particularly for the first time. But I don't think (no do I believe that Provost Holdsworth thinks) that any of them are a reason to abandon the concept of planning for mission, although he does make a good point about the downside of talking mission ad nauseum.