Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2. You need the right people.

Previously on Seminary take-aways: There are key moments of opportunity.

1. Bob Whitesel, channeling John Maxwell, perhaps channeling Jim Collins in Good to Great, channeling David Maxwell, has often told me that "You need the right people on the bus, and you need the right people in the right seats on the bus."

Collins' point is that great ventures depend more on the people than on the goal. In fact, he argues that great companies pick the right people before they pick their goals.

In a sense, the team that designed the Seminary had been on the same IWU bus for a long time. There was already a synergy of values and purpose, a common sense of what good buses look like and where they should go. On the one hand, Russ Gunsalus had been the half time Director of Graduate Ministry for several years under the CAPS model designed by now President Wright. This bus already had a winning design:
  • The cohort model is superb. It builds community. It increases retention. It guarantees that you will have enough students for each class to go.
  • A strength of the cohort model from a practical standpoint is that it allows you to build one course at a time. You do not have to have a full curriculum (or faculty) to begin. You can quite reasonably build the plane while it is flying. You don't need the landing gear until you have to land.
Russ, Keith Drury, Dave Smith, Norm Wilson, and I were tasked by President Smith to design an MDIV. We had been riding the same bus in the Religion Department for years together. We shared values like:
  • A sense that seminary should actually prepare a person to do ministry, that the seminary training most needed by ministers is practical
  • A sense that we learn best by doing, a penchant for problem based learning
  • An aversion to disciplinary silos, a penchant toward integrating disciplines
  • A culture of collaboration and submission to the greater good
  • A host of other common paradigms, many relating to the Wesleyan tradition
So a good team was on the bus. I'll spare the details, but I think "right people" were in right seats for the implementation. As a person who ran Christian education for the denomination and taught it at IWU, notwithstanding being a genius, Keith Drury brought not only a know how to create curriculum but a lifetime's worth of experience in relation to ministry.

Russ brought a knowledge of the workings of the adult infrastructure of IWU. He quickly took on the role of the one designated to lose sleep at night worrying about what needed to be done for it to actually happen. He had the title of Chief Operating Officer for the Seminary's first semester.

I am a writer with a penchant for seeing the big picture. I was able to take the ideas of the curriculum groups and see it make it's way into the concrete warp and woof of a week by week curriculum.

President David Wright has often said that it takes a person. These were "right people" to create something innovative. There was an uncanny synergy. As an aside, I see this same team synergy at 12Stone, a real dream team who caught a dream together.

2. That was now over five years ago. In year 4, we faced the fact that the team that designed the curriculum was no longer around. The team had changed. We now had a faculty living with a curriculum they did not design, on a bus they were not driving. It became important to give more ownership of the curriculum to them without losing our distinctives.

I leave as IWU and the Seminary begin a time of strategic planning. That leaves the key questions that we stumbled on at the beginning for the future:
  • Who is on the bus? We know the majority of bus riders and their seats. 
  • Is everyone on the same bus?
  • Where is the bus going?

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