When you’re developing new approaches to ministry, you can’t predict the way it’s going to go — you have to be prepared for some ambiguity and change along the way. You and your team need to be flexible and adaptable because the unexpected does happen. You can’t develop a firm plan if you’re innovating. Rather, you’ll need to develop an adaptable plan that allows people to adjust their roles and assignments as you move forward. Rigidly hanging onto something previously decided doesn’t work.
Innovative teams must be able to handle ambiguity and change. They need to regularly re-evaluate each person’s roles and duties and modify them as needed in order to maximize effectiveness. Now it’s one thing if you’re walking down trails that are clearly defined and marked out. You may say, “My job is to cook, or my job is to read the map.” Many people have done this before you and known roles are needed. But if you’re exploring new trails, you’re going to face new obstacles and challenges. And if you rigidly say, “My job is only to do X,” you and your team may not be able to rise to those challenges. When you’re blazing new ground, you need to need the flexibility to try things, learn, adapt, figure out what’s next, and adjust.
A recent book by Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains, uses the story of Lewis and Clark to make this point. They were exploring, expecting to be able to find a river to navigate across the northwest passage. They were prepared for and trained in river navigation. But there was no river; what they found were mountains. They had to make the shift from river navigators to mountaineers. Their ultimate goal– to get to the ocean– remained the same, but their job description, approach, and skills needed to change in order to get them there.
Your shared goal is what allows your team to make needed adjustments to get where you need to go. You can’t have people locking into defined roles and assignments and be unwilling to change them. Consider your current team, its goals and it’s current terrain. What changes are currently taking place? What adjustments might you need to make to adapt to those changes? Who are your people most willing to adapt and try something new?