Saturday, September 18, 2010

Monitoring and transforming the culture of teams

Monitoring and transforming the culture of teams
10 I also discovered that the portions of the Levites had not been given them, so that the Levites and the singers who performed the service had gone away, each to his own field.11 So I reprimanded the officials and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" Then I gathered them together and restored them to their posts.12
Neh 13:10-12 (NASB)

15 In those days I saw in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs and all kinds of loads, and they brought them into Jerusalem on the sabbath day. So I admonished them on the day they sold food.16 Also men of Tyre were living there who imported fish and all kinds of merchandise, and sold them to the sons of Judah on the sabbath, even in Jerusalem.17 Then I reprimanded the nobles of Judah and said to them, "What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the sabbath day?18 "Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath."
Neh 13:15-18 (NASB)

O - Every culture returns to its root nature if not guided and lead until true transformation has occurred. Here Nehemiah who had gone back for a period of time to serve Artaxerxes in Babylon, returns to Jerusalem to find that the culture was sliding back to it's sinful nature that had brought it into exile in the first place. We see here that he first focuses on the temple and servants of God who had been neglected. It occurred because the Levites relied on the offerings of the people to support them, so they could do the work of the ministry. Instead what was happening is one high priest was storing up treasures for himself. As a result the temple was being neglected (he used rooms in the temple to store his treasure) and the Levites neglected, resulting in the Levites slowly going back home to get their own provision going. Then Nehemiah observed that in all of Judah, the sabbath was being ignored, yet another indication of a backsliding culture who had only so recently repented, been restored.

A - The application for me, especially with regard to project management and leadership is to recognize some basic principles of leading during times of transformation of culture, as well as basic principles of God's kingdom.

1. Take care of those who are serving the core culture preservation

When it comes time to change or correct culture there will be a key core people you need to take care of to ensure they are well provided for, so as to ensure their focus never has to turn to their fundamental needs, but can instead focus on transforming and maintaining the culture that is trying to be set. For me personally this applies to trying to transform the culture of the project with regard to Project Management Fundamental principles. My role is to make sure the provision for the APS's, CTE's, PEPM, ZM's is there for them to successfully focus on disciplining the entire team to principles and culture we are trying to set. I am to make sure I am not storing up treasures for myself that can be utilized for their support; I am to be sure the entire command is supporting there physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, from there they will have

2. Ensure there is rest, and reflection by the body as to what culture we are trying to set

The sabbath is a fundamental principle that when violated can crumble a culture. In order to have the strength to transform culture and be disciplined to Godly principles the principle of sabbath rest and reflection is essential to follow. It allows for a time to recover your energy, recover your perspective, and look forward to where you need to go. Those teams that violate the principle, begin to burnout, never see themselves going off course, and ultimate end up back to the culture they had determined they needed to get away from. For me on project teams, I see this in the transforming of the culture.

P - Dear heavenly Father, thank you for today's devotion may it be sealed to my heart. I pray Lord that you would continue to reveal your kingdom principles, and transform my ways as a leader so that I might effectively lead the teams you have placed me on, and might transform the culture to one that glorifies you, and proves that your grace, love, and strength are sufficient to support, and transform any group of people, if they would follow your principles of worship and sabbath. I pray all this in Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rewarding volunteers who willingly come to fight the battle

Rewarding volunteers who willingly come to fight the battle
S -
1 Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine-tenths remained in the other cities.2 And the people blessed all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.
Neh 11:1-2 (NASB)

O - Here we find that the wall has been restored around Jerusalem, the exiles have come back from Bablyon, the Israelites, had praised God, repented of their sins and sins of their fathers, and rededicated themselves to God and his Law. Time to go back to normal though right. Well as it came down to it, and the celebration had ended and people naturally wanted to go back to their hometowns and settle back in. However, the battle was not really over was it, and Jerusalem was the center, the holy city, and the place that would be attacked again eventually. Here we see the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, much like Washington D.C. or a state capitol. However, that would not be enough would it, more people needed to be kept back to secure and operate the capitol city. But what we see here is that the people cast lots to decide who would live in Jerusalem, likely because they didn't have enough volunteers (though note, the people blessed those you volunteered. I think it is important to understand these people were not just lazy and didn't want to volunteer, it is likely that they recognized Jerusalem now that it had been restored, was a dangerous place to be, order was still being restored, enemies would be testing Jerusalem defenses and the people's resolve.

A - The application for me is very related to teams, and personally for me related to project teams in the shipyard. Project teams in the shipyard are cities of sorts that have a center. That center is populated with the key leadership on the project team. This is where the battles are fought outside the project and inside the project, in other words from both sides. What I often see is that some people are not interested in coming to the center and participating. They are much more comfortable in the suburbs, where little conflict and challenge occur. The lessons here is that there will be two types of people that are required to populate the center of your project team. Those which come because their lot has been cast, and those that come willingly as volunteers. As a leader I am to encourage all to come willingly to fight the battles worth fighting, and to reward and bless those that come as volunteers. I know I do appreciate those who come as volunteers but often times don't spend time rewarding and blessing them, and instead focus my energy dragging all the conscripts along. I must be sure to take care of those who come willingly.

P - Dear heavenly Father, thank you for your valuable lessons in life and leadership that you have been teaching me through Nehemiah. I pray Lord that you would continue to speak into my life and train and equip me to be the leader you have designed me to be. I pray all this in Jesus name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Repentance and correcting back to the basics

Repentance and correcting back to the basics
S -
16 "But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly;
They became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments.
17 "They refused to listen,
And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them;
So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.
But You are a God of forgiveness,
Gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness;
And You did not forsake them.
Neh 9:16-17 (NASB)

O - The returning exiles, after spending few days celebrating and glorifying God through the feast of the tabernacles, moved to a more solemn and repentant phase. They read God's word for a portion of the day (3 hrs) and then began to repent for their sins, and the inequities of their forefathers. By remembering their past, and their own sins, what was revealed was God's grace and love.

A - I believe the application for me, especially as a leader, and project manager, is to recognize the need to stop every once in a while and reflect on the past, mistakes made, lessons learned, and foundational principles, so as to reset ourselves back to the basic disciplines of our organization or teams. For the Israelites, despite the rough previous years in exile, they were able to reflect on their victory in reclaiming the promised land, by God's grace. For project teams we often battle, and even struggle and find ourselves in an exiled state (at the shipyard due to being low priority, short on resources, or quite simply not the crisis the yard is focusing on ). As a team your press through these moments, and when you come out the other side, the leader needs to take time as Nehemiah did to reflect on the fundamental principles of the business, to repent for the deviations (often this occurs after NR or NS audits), and correct back to the basics. All in all as a leader you must remind your team, despite the hardships of the past, we must repent, correct back to the fundamental project management disciplines (PMF) and be thankful for the renewed opportunity to finish strong. There is even grace in the shipyard for a repentant and not arrogant project team.

P - Dear heavenly Father thank you for today's message, may it be sealed to my heart. I pray Lord that you would continue to remind me as a leader what my roots are, and what basic principles I should be speaking into the teams you have made me a part of . Most of all Lord, help me to have a correctable heart; one in which my pride is easily set aside for the sake of the team, and your kingdom. I pray all this in Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Correcting back to fundamental principles and values

Correcting back to fundamental principles and values
S -
9 Then Nehemiah, who was the governor , and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law.10 Then he said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved."12 All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
Neh 8:9-12 (NASB)

O - The context of this scripture is that the wall in Jerusalem had just been restored, and the exiles from Babylon were all coming back, and Ezra the priest and scribe who had been in Babylon with the exiles had returned. Nehemiah, who was no priest had Ezra read the law to the people of Jerusalem, likely recognizing that the exile had brought them far away from the law that Moses had received from God and that was written in the scriptures. When the people first heard the word they began weeping, likely because all of a sudden they realized how far from God's law they have been, and recognized their own sin and separation. In repentance they weeped. What is interesting though is that Ezra said to them go and eat, drink and give offerings because this is a holy day, the "Feast of the Tabernacles". There was another designated day for repentance and the Levites helped them focus on God's law, that this feast was to celebrate, not to repent and mourn. When this was explained by the Levites, the people understood and where obedient to the scriptures.

A - These verses are ripe with fruit; nuggets of wisdom for anyone leading a team back to greatness. Often times as leaders we are called upon to lead change in our organization. The change comes after a dark period in the organization in which the leader is to help lead them out of. Often times that is done through a lot of hard work, disciplined behavior and sacrifice. We see that here with the Israelites as they returned from exile and worked hard to restore the the wall. The working hard part is familiar, but the restoration of fundamental principles is the take away from today's scripture. When leading teams back, there will be all the hard work, rallying, and motivating to be done, this is the first and crucial step, but in the end it will be important to reinforce the fundamentals principles of the organization that underlies all the hard work. For the Israelites it was the laws of the Moses that needed to be restored, for teams it is often the core values, and principles of the organization, as well as the basic operational principles of the team. (for shipyards, it is schedule!).

P - Dear heavenly Father, thank you for today's lesson, may it be sealed to my heart. Lord I pray that you would reveal to me the fundamental principles I need to correct back to in area's I am leading, including my own life. My hearts desire is to represent you and your principles of grace, love, and restoration; help me to be that type of leader that practices the principles you have embedded in me. I pray all this in Jesus name, Amen.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Facing opposition and distraction during projects

Facing opposition and distraction during projects

S -

"Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono." But they were planning to harm me.3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?"
Neh 6:2-3 (NASB)

"It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these reports.7 "You have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you , 'A king is in Judah!' And now it will be reported to the king according to these reports. So come now, let us take counsel together."8 Then I sent a message to him saying, "Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind."9 For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking , "They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done." But now, O God, strengthen my hands.
Neh 6:6-9 (NASB)

15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days

Neh 6:15 (NASB)

O - This portion of the project Nehemiah faces external forces that are not excited to see him be successful at completing, and therefore send many distractions to him and the people to discourage them from progressing their good work. First the distraction come from neighboring enemies that simply invite him to come down and talk, but Nehemiah knew of their plans to harm him, and answered with purpose and focus , that his place was there on the project, not out negotiating and discussing with those who wish to distract and do harm to them. In their second attempt at derailing, they tried to make it sound like Nehemiah was setting up to proclaim the kingdom his to rule, and by doing so cause the Persians to come against them. Now we know from the history, that Nehemiah was a cup bearer to the king of Persia in Babylon, and it was out of that trusted relationship that Artaxerxes supported Nehemiah's efforts. God had given him that position in Babylon for a time such as this where his loyalty would be challenged. His response was once again, wise and appropriate. He responded directly that he knew they were trying to discourage and distract him for the work of God, and then he prayed to God, "Strengthen my hands". The results the wall was completed in 52 days (with sabbath rest of course!)

A - The application for me and project managers is that we will face distractions of many sorts during a project. Many of the distractions we face are not a result of the actual work, but from the churn that stirs up around our project as a result of our good, work, and others suspicions and desires to see us not be successful (for whatever the reason - fear, jealousy, pride, hidden agendas). As a project manager, I need to do what Nehemiah did and use the discernment leaders have to have to determine when to take time and address these distractions and when to simply ignore them, stay focused at the task at hand, and seek God's hand to strengthen our hands.

P - Dear heavenly Father, thank you for today's lesson, may it be sealed to my heart. I pray Lord for the focus and trust in you and your calling that Nehemiah had. Help me to stay focused on the mission and not be distracted by the external circumstances; that I might pray and seek your strength in times of need. I pray all this in Jesus name, Amen

Friday, September 10, 2010

Usury Abolished

Usury Abolished
S - Neh 5:7-12 (NASB)

Therefore, I held a great assembly against them.8 I said to them, "We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?" Then they were silent and could not find a word to say.9 Again I said, "The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies?10 "And likewise I, my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury.11 "Please, give back to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money and of the grain, the new wine and the oil that you are exacting from them."12 Then they said, "We will give it back and will require nothing from them; we will do exactly as you say."

Neh 5:17-19 (NASB)

.18 Now that which was prepared for each day was one ox and six choice sheep, also birds were prepared for me; and once in ten days all sorts of wine were furnished in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the governor's food allowance, because the servitude was heavy on this people.19 Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.
O - We see here that Nehemiah in his 12 year reign as governor began turning around some of the culture of the Jewish people that had been corrupted by the Persian occupation. The Jews that remained, were on one hand supporting the rebuilding of the wall but on the other hand still practicing loan people money with interest to pay there taxes and to barely survive. Those Israelites returning from exile probably faced the hardest trials as they no longer even possessed land and simply were trying to survive. The debts that they were accumulating would obviously way heavily on their spirits as they faced also the daunting task of rebuilding the wall. The old testament commandments forbid the Israelites from this type of heavy usury, instead it outlined a means to take care of one another and forgive debt (recall the year of jubilee were everything gets restored) Nehemiah is reversing this trend of usury at the time to when it was critical to build his team's spirit and restore the true character of the people of Israel. Nehemiah himself exampled this selflessness by denying some of his own rights as governor to be paid and fed by the people, but instead often had people at his own table who were struggling to support themselves and their families.

A - The application for me as a project manager is to follow Nehemiah's example.

1. Listen to the workforce - It was interesting to note that Nehemiah heard the cry of those oppressed. Now that wasn't possible if he surrounded himself with the upper leadership, those likely privileged by position and possession. But rather he heard the cry of those that were being led. Our tendency as leaders is to look to our closest confidants to determine the state of the project and the workforce, but we must be careful to understanding there is filtering that goes on as information flows up a management chain of command. I am not saying listen blindly from the workforce and ignore your leadership team, but you must be willing to listen to both, discern the truth of the situation and make leadership decisions.

2. Practice charity and subordination on your team - Nehemiah's message to the people was "Hey we are all in this together, we should all be doing our best to make sure everyone is well cared for, and supported. Jesus's message was clear, "I came to serve, not be served". Nehemiah understood that this was the most effective way to keep the workforce motivated and highly effective. If your workforce is struggling not with the work but with outside factors like home, family, finances, health, wellness, it won't matter how good a plan you have, their focus won't be on the project, but rather their problems. Leaders need to recognize this and subordinate to the workforce to serve their needs, rather than press them to just perform.

P - Dear heavenly Father, thank you so much for this in depth study of Nehemiah, it daily refreshes my spirit and heart as a leader, project manager, and disciple of Christ. I pray Lord that you help me ingrain these lessons into my own personal leadership of teams and people, so that I might be your light to the world of the way you wish your people to be led. I pray all this in Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Enemies at the doors of your project

Enemies at the doors of your project
S - Neh 4:7-9 (KJV)
[The] Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, 8 And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.

O - So Nehemiah now having arrived in Jerusalem to rebuild the wall that had been breech by enemies of Israel faced the daunting task of rebuilding in a hostile environment. He had already rallied and encourage his workforce to taking on the challenge, but they now faced the reality of the opposition to the work ahead of them. The opposition was not just the daunting physical task of rebuilding walls and gates, but doing so in an environment where outside forces would be against them while doing the work. First words of discouragement came from the enemies and then even the gathering of forces to come against those building the walls began. In each case Nehemiah lead courageously, standing on the strength of God, they submitted prayers to God, and then set up guards day and night in the breeched wall areas.

A - The application for leaders and project managers today remains the same as in Nehemiah's days. We are often brought in to work projects under hostile external conditions. My instinct is often to fight back when facing a hostile work environment, but we can learn alot from Nehemiah's response. First off his response was to make his prayer to God. His first instinct was not to fight back or prepare for battle, but rather lean on God. I know for me this instinct to lean on my own strength vice lean on the strength and wisdom of God is an area I need to work on. Second off He did not ignore the impending danger, but rather built his defenses, setting a watch day and night. And the results were he didn't even need to go to battle, the mere defensive posture created enough security for the workforce to do their job, while discouraging the enemy from approaching. That is my big take away that when it comes to opposing forces you may face on a project, it is best to have a good defense prepared rather than take the offensive.

P - Dear heavenly Father, thank you for wisdom and guidance you continue to give to me through Nehemiah. I pray Lord you would help me apply this to my own life and roles that I play. Lord I desire to be a leader like Nehemiah who turns to you when the enemy is approaching, and seeks a strong defensive posture rather than offensive. I pray all this in Jesus name, Amen

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to motivate the defeated

How to motivate the defeated
S - Neh 2:11-12, 17-18 (KJV)

11 So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. 12 And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.


Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. 18 Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

O - So here we are in chapter 2 and Nehemiah has made the journey back to Jerusalem with King Artaxerxes' blessing for the journey and even more than that with his pledged support. We see here though that despite God's vision and the King's support, he came at first humbly (they walked, only him on a mule, and not in a big caravan proclaiming his mission, and showing the King's decree's. He first just observed the condition of Jerusalem and it's wall's. After three days of observation Nehemiah began his mission work to rebuild the walls not by proclaiming the BHAG of a goal he had, but rather building the spirit of the workforce which had been in a defeated state for many years. He then shared where the strength to rebuild was coming from, from the hand of God, and the decree of the King.

A - The application is evident and applicable to any leader who has been faced with the task of leading a defeated team to victory. Often times we face tasks in grim periods of darkness and are called as leaders to bring light and hope to a workforce that is defeated (at least mentally, physically, and perhaps spiritually). Nehemiah gives us to major examples of how to approach this type of situation:

1. Approach humbly and observe - When faced with a task of leading a team from defeat to victory, or heading into a potentially hostile environment it is important to approach humbly. Even if you come with great backing (senior leadership or positional title) approach as a humble servant and just observe the physical conditions of the project, and the state of the people. Approaching in this manner will ensure you get a true picture of the state of things. If one shows up and announces oneself as the savior of the project or the with the support of senior leadership, you are likely to not get a true picture of things, when you approach people will change how they are acting and will not share what there deepest concerns and assessments are for the current state of things.

2. Present the team with where you strength comes from - The transition to this second principle needs to be a subtle one and presented in a humble and relational way. As a leader I should follow Nehemiah's example and when given a vision or mission from God, solicit the support of the leaders I have found favor with. When approaching the team it is important not to decree your mission and then go seeking support outside because the team's confidence is not easily built on your promises alone. We must as leaders build support of senior leadership, during the times we are observing, and when it comes time to lead the team in a new direction, proclaim where our strength and support come from to carry out what will feel like the team to be an impossible task. Nehemiah examples this well as he saves it toward the end of his speech to the people, that God's hand is on this, and the support of King Artaxerxes is with him. The result, the people were greatly encouraged, and began reading themselves for the work ahead.

P - Dear heavenly Father, thank you for your lessons through Nehemiah in your ways to lead teams and manage projects. Thank you for your continued mentoring and encouragement to continue to grow in these area's. I pray Lord, that you would help me to maintain this perspective when leading, to humbly approach and observe, to gain support of senior leaders, and then to lead your people to do your good work. I pray all this in Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Prepare for the challenge ahead with mourning, fasting, and prayer

Prepare for the challenge ahead with mourning, fasting, and prayer
S - Neh 1:3-4 (KJV)

3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. 4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

O - Nehemiah's heart for God's people and God's promised land is what drives his passion to do something. Today I begin a journey of studying the leader, project manager, and man of God that Nehemiah is. My desire is to learn from Nehemiah what it means to be a inspiring leader and project manager, whom God can use to build His Kingdom. These first verses set the tone for us, by which the lead character Nehemiah begins building his own personal "Holy Discontent" as he hear's the news of the wall's of Jerusalem have been broken down and gate's burned. From the historical context this appears to be a recent event, as the Israelites had returned from exile and given permission to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem, their enemies where taking advantage of their weakened state to attack them putting those who had returned in "great affliction and reproach.

A - The application for me is to catch first the heart of Nehemiah to first sit down weep, mourn, fast, and pray. These are marks of a Godly man, a leader, to example the behavior Jesus affirmed in the Beatitudes - blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Our response to trouble and trials is often one of two things - fear and flight, anger and fight. Neither one is consistent with Godly leaders of the bible, who all often first chose to mourn, fast, and pray when faced with a tragedy or trial. David perhaps exampled this best, during his rise and even in his kingship over the nation of Israel.

P - Dear heavenly Father, thank you for allowing me to sit at your feet, and the feet of men of God who have done extraordinary things in your Kingdom. I pray Lord that you would help cement today's lesson to my heart, that I might take the "Holy discontent" that you have planted in me, and remind me to mourn, fast, and pray for your guidance, strength, and wisdom to act according to your will and not mine. I pray that you continue to reveal to me gems from Nehemiah, so that I might apply it to my own life. I pray all this in Jesus name, amen.