Posts Tagged ‘planning’

Nehemiah: Finishing Well

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2010 at 7:20 am



Cross it off your list.


The bigger the project the more satisfying it is to complete it. Nehemiah completed building the wall (6:15) but his project was not quite finished. He had to set things up so that the people could sustain themselves. He set up doors, gatekeepers and guard posts, reinstated the priests, and installed a governor over Jerusalem. In his mind, if this wasn’t done then the project was a failure.

It’s tempting to say you are finished when the majority of the work is done. You pushed hard to complete 95% and that feels “good enough” but that 5% will not complete itself, it needs the same effort. This is one of the differences between work done and work done well. It’s easily overcome with good planning done upfront. Have a clear definition of what will make your project successful and work towards that.

As I write this I’m thinking about all of the projects I have outstanding. It’s a long, embarrassing list. I will write about overcoming this tomorrow.


Nehemiah: Distractions, Part 2

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Most distractions can be ignored (see part 1); others must be dealt with.

Know When To Fight

The first distraction was simply verbal so Nehemiah reaffirmed and restated his goal (get the wall built) and moved on. The second directly threatened the goal. An army was assembled to fight against the workers. This one had to be dealt with or else work would have stopped.

Nehemiah did not change his goal though, he did not direct all of his energy towards fighting off an army. He kept the work going but reduced the load. The workers carried less so that they could carry a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. By the way, this is where C. H. Spurgeon got the idea for his publication. Nehemiah also set up guards to keep watch, this took the pressure off the workers and also let the opposition know he was well defended. Finally, trumpeters were placed at each work location so that if they were attacked they could call for help.

There is something in common with all three of Nehemiah’s defenses: they focus on the work and not the problem. The workers were given weapons so they could fight if necessary but they didn’t have to concern themselves with it, they could focus on their job. Guards were set up so that the workers weren’t worried all the time about a surprise attack. Communication was put in place so that everyone would know that they were supported and not left on their own.

You can count on distractions coming up in your projects. Knowing which ones will keep you from completing your goal and which ones won’t is a very good skill to have. To really refine that skill you need to add the ability to deal with true distractions in a way that keeps the emphasis on the goal and the people working towards that goal.

Nehemiah: Focus On People

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Everyone is on board with Nehemiah’s single goal, get the wall built, but now they are in the thick of it doing the actual work.

Cogs or Humans?

Looking at chapter 3 we see the people are told to rebuild the area of the wall closest to their own homes. The alternative would be to break up the work into corporatized chunks so that if you can swing a hammer you are on hammer duty in whatever area needs it but if you can lay brick you need to lay brick somewhere else. This adds a layer of complexity in the hope that you’ll be done a week earlier but makes it less relational in the process. This places the value on the work rather than the people doing the work.

By allowing people to work on what they really want to (their own neighborhood) you’ve let people work like human beings, not specalized cogs. Look at what this accomplishes:

  • motivating – everyday you go to sleep seeing what you’ve accomplished and you wake up knowing what is ahead of you. This is refreshing and motivating.
  • morale boosting – your family and friends are near-by as you work, lending support and encouragement.
  • efficient – all the supplies and tools you need are right there, you don’t have to go home on your lunch break because you forgot your hammer. Speaking of lunch breaks; you don’t have to question where you are going to eat because your family is preparing food right across the street.
  • confidence boosting – you know the area around your home better than anyone else, who better to work on it? You can be confident that the things you are fixing are the right things because you saw how they were supposed to look everyday. This also gives you the opportunity to fix anything you didn’t like before.
  • helpful – you know your neighbors are right down the road working on the wall as well. If you need help lifting bricks you know exactly who to turn to.
  • community building – everyone on the block is working towards the same goal. This creates a great bond between people. It also helps resolve any conflicts that might come up because you all want the same outcome.

Look at the ways you’re working with people right now, are you doing them in the way Jesus commanded you to, in love?

Will Your Plan Melt Snow?

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2010 at 3:52 pm

I came across a funny article in my nerd reading:

This winter, we as a nation found out that incandescent traffic lights emit plenty of infrared heat through the colored lens—enough to melt drifting snow that otherwise would accumulate, obscuring the lens. Wonderful new, energy-efficient LED traffic lights do not emit that much heat.

It’s not a huge problem that the new LED traffic lights don’t melt snow. When it’s snowing that badly traffic usually slows down enough that turning a stoplight into a stop-sign is just an inconvenience. Research, new technology, and improvements are good. Keep them coming. If you want to produce a great product though, plan for it. Mentally put your stoplight out in the snow before you build it. Be just as proud shipping to India as you are shipping to Wisconsin.

Nehemiah: Planning, Part 2

In Uncategorized on February 11, 2010 at 7:03 am

Read through Part 1.

Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem with his entourage but for three days he kept his goal (get the wall built) to himself. His entourage was clueless and so were the people he’d need to enlist to do the physical labor. Then, in the middle of the night, he snuck off to go inspect the wall in detail. Every inch of it.

Why did he keep this a secret from everyone?

Do You Have All The Details Yet?

Morale drops when someone asks the leader a question about the project and the leader has no answer. We start to lose trust in leadership. Nehemiah didn’t let this happen. Before he announced that he was going to rebuild the wall he made sure he had everything mapped out.

When Nehemiah told the people that God was with him and that they would rebuild the wall there was no discussion about it. The people simply answered, “let us rise up and build.” If you want this kind of response to your project give people a reason to respond this way. Give people details before they ask.

Here are the details of Nehemiah’s plan, he knew:

  • God was with them
  • the goal, the point where he could say it was finished
  • how long the rebuilding would take
  • what supplies were necessary
  • how many workers were needed
  • where each family would work

Imagine your response if someone comes to you and asks for help and lays out all these details before you. Will questions immediately start forming in your head that will cause doubt? Won’t happen. Isn’t it great when someone removes the hurdles before they are formed?

It is exciting for people to be part of something you have given them a detailed vision of. Go create your detailed plan and develop this kind of trust.

Nehemiah: Planning, Part 1

In Uncategorized on February 10, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Nehemiah went through two phases of planning. He first needed a plan to get from Susa to Jerusalem. Then he could inspect the damage and develop a plan to fix the wall. Both plans have the same goal: get the wall built.

What Do You Need?

Nehemiah had a fantastic opportunity with the king one day. The leader of the largest empire in the world asked him, “What are you requesting?” and Nehemiah was ready with a response. He knew he needed to get to Israel (king’s escort) and he knew he needed to build the wall (supplies). So he asked and received. The king then wanted to know how long it would take him. Again, Nehemiah was ready.

We don’t always have it so easy that the boss asks us, “What do you need?” usually we have to make the effort to go and ask. In either case, we should know the answer to that question before we begin the actual work. Once you know what you need and how long it will take you, you can be confident when you go before the decision makers and the ones holding the resources. If you’ve done the hard work of planning it takes the stress off the decision maker because they can see the whole picture.

Arm yourself with a plan, then go get what you need to do it.

Nehemiah: Setting Goals

In Uncategorized on February 9, 2010 at 1:16 pm

The end of Nehemiah’s prayer indicates that he had gotten a task from God during his four months of prayer and fasting. Nehemiah now had a single, definitive goal: get the wall built.

The Importance of Having Clear Goals

In any project you must have one or two clear goals. How will you know when you’ve finished if you don’t know what you’re working on? If your goals are clearly stated then when problems come up you can know which ones need to be addressed and which ones aren’t really problems at all. With well-defined goals you can bypass any distractions because you know that they will take you down a path that will not allow you to achieve the goal. Any action taken either gets you closer to finishing or wastes resources.

We’ll see Nehemiah distracted by those outside the project and by those within. There were plenty of escape routes for him to give up on the wall. But he kept his focus on what he knew God had given him to do and worked towards that goal.

What Are Your Goals?

A project can be anything from reading a book to losing weight or delivering a piece of software. Take a moment now to look at a few of the projects you have before you. Can you state in a few words what the goal is for each one? Are the actions you are taking leading you towards finishing?