Saturday, February 05, 2011

Priorities


Recently I stumbled upon a presentation by the organizational leadership training office of a major entertainment corporation. The point of the presentation was essentially how to get all your employees on board with operational priorities and standards. The priorities of the corporation were presented as:

Safety
Courtesy
Show
Efficiency

The presenters went to great lengths to make it clear that these were not a list of values (there’s nothing here about human life, or integrity, or anything similar), but were a decision making tool. 

These are not just a list of random items, but are given in order so that the higher something is on the list, the more inviolable it is. For instance, courtesy is the second on the list and the corporation always wants to be courteous to its customers – unless safety is involved. If someone is in danger of being hurt, it is acceptable to be reasonably discourteous to a customer. Otherwise, courtesy is more important than efficiency in doing one’s job. It is OK, and expected, to take a bit more time with a customer than is otherwise required because that’s the courteous thing to do – even if efficiency suffers a bit in the process.

It isn’t that efficiency isn’t important – it is. But when employees have to make decisions about what to do during a workday, this relative ordering of priorities helps them decide what to do in any given situation.

This made a lot of sense to me and could explain a lot of problems within religious circles and even in Christian living. If we had and if we could pass on a relative ordering of priorities, our people could easily make decisions – and come to simply live – in accordance with Christian relative priorities.
Here are two lists that illustrate the difficulty and confusion that might arise in a body of believers – and in individual lives if they co-existed. List one:

Obedience
Discipline
Self control

List two:

Kindness
Compassion
Patience

In many of our congregations we seem to have a mix of priorities and standards and is it any wonder that we have congregational tension and strife? Some number of people are trying to live by one of these lists and cannot fathom what the other group is trying to do. As a result, we experience congregational turmoil and confusion in our own lives as we listen to the messages from both groups.

This tool of relative priorities could be a great tool for congregational leaders, teachers, and mentors as we seek to shape the lives of those in our congregations. What would your three to five priorities be for your life and your congregation? Remember, the specific items are all important but are in priority order. Those lower on the list can be violated for a short time in order to meet the demands of an item higher on the list. Those higher on the list cannot be violated to accommodate an item lower on the list.

Remember these are not values per se, but form a decision making tool that is useable by individuals and congregations as we together try to live the life we are made to live. Have fun.

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