Analysis Paralysis

Wednesday already! I have just launched a harangue for this week’s church newsletter about the necessary evils of statistics and surveys. We are beginning a Church Life Review by filling out National Church Life Survey forms as a congregation together during the service. (This will be good practice for Census night on Tuesday). Then we will have our AGM where, no doubt, we will be focused on more reviews and stats. Then I jump in the car and head to a retreat in the hills where a review with another organisation will be taking place through the afternoon and evening!

These days a review seems to be around every corner! When do we just hop in the bi-plane, leave the tarmac and go barn-storming! How to avoid the clutches of analysis paralysis.

But in my more reflective moments I can see the purpose of such reviews. It is simply because some risky ventures have been taking place that regular re-assessment is necessary. Like walking through a desert and needing to pause frequently to take a GPS reading to ensure we are still heading in the direction we earlier discerned. Such analysis is not paralysis – its purpose is to make sure we get to where we said we want to get!

In which case I am happy to embrace what begins this Sunday!

Published by wonderingpilgrim

Okay Boomer - that I am. But not one of them know-it-all ones! Still learning that the more I know, the more I have yet to learn. What I do know, however, I know well.

6 thoughts on “Analysis Paralysis

  1. U Den,

    Good to see you still blogging away. I’m curious about your recent post. I too am often swamped with review processes both as a minister, and my invlovement with CCTC and Vic/Tas conference. It seems like it’s never ending and I often question the purpose of reveiwing certain things. Like you I champion the review process because I can see the benefit to the individual/organisation/community. The only thing that crates suspicion for me is when surveys are filled out, the results come in then straight to the file. What a waste of time. Do you have any comments on why this happens. I gather there is sometimes a fear of confrontation, change or reality. I reckon the best survey process I’ve ever been a part of (and still fasilitate) is Prepare/Enrich for couples. At least the results are an intentional working document for on going conversation. If only all our reviews can be like that. Otherwise it’s just another peice of paper with stuff on it that has sucked an hour of our precious lives in the data collection process. I find sometimes people in churches are suspicious of reviews for this reason, ‘is it a waste of time?’ Maybe we should change the language from review to ‘conversation tool’. What do you think?

    Your favorite nephew


  2. Hi Mark

    Excellent questions and observations that deserve considered responses. For me, the worth of a review is the action to which it leads – either “steady as she goes” or “let’s change our course in this specific direction.” That’s when Prepare/Enrich works so well for couples. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of organisationalism (there’s a new one!)even moreso now that the need to incorporate our bodies and to ensure sound accountability measures is so high on the agenda. It’s too easy to get bogged in the process. What helps me to keep a balance is to adopt a contemplative stance to such measures. It is deliciously subversive – for the managerial practices that would be king are themselves submitted to prayerful scrutiny. The Ignatian practice of “Examen” helps achieve the same results as a managerial review, but, for me, on a wider and deeper plane. “Examen” asks where and how the Divine has been present in the period under review, what have been the experiences of “consolation” and “desolation,” and to what “resolution” do they lead. These are all loaded terms and a google on the topic will spell them out a bit more. So yes, fill out the forms and tick the boxes and keep the appropriate records on file, but filter it all through a good process of prayerful discernment.

    Reviews are necessary for good organisational management, however we can never lose sight of the fact that we as church leaders are responding to the call of spiritual guidance for our organisations. For me, the former is subject to the latter.


  3. Much of the review and consultation carried out by churches is a con.Take the current process of setting up a new national org of churches of christ.A research doc and consultation supposedly takes place; then congregations hear nothing more.Recs are made but not made public; a new constitution is developed which is not sent out to congregations;it will not be included in the state conference business session;a meeting of staff and a select few(a request of just who will meet to decide what will happen is ignored) then decides what will happen.Its not the review itself which is at fault but those who use the process in such a way to exclude people, rather than as an empowering and creative process.


  4. I completely agree with you Dennis. I’m a big fan of the reveiw, I certianly see the benefits in instances like prepare/enrich with couples; supervision for ministry students; and 360 degree reviews for ministers, CEO’s etc. However alanj reflects a frustration I hear all the time when the review process hits the relm of corperate bodies, churches and organizations. It’s a complicated issue and one I usually see reflected between couples – communication. With little communication back to the body about the learning process from a review, it attracts criticism. I guess my big question is how do I minimize the suspision so others may appreciate what I do about the process? I love your reflections and intend on researching that some more. Asking how the Divine has been present in the period under review under prayerful scrutiny is something I feel is far too often overlooked.

    How did your review go by the way?



  5. Mark & alanj

    The deeper you move into a hierarchical organisation, the more distant the parts become from each other. Reviews a la Prepare/Enrich work well because the intimate setting is already a context. Difficult to provide at National Conference and agency level! How can one ensure that the info gets from one level to the other through the various “filters” and time constraints? Quality control of content and method becomes a major challenge – consequently denominational leaders are forced to make pragmatic cost-effective choices for decision making and often that means less consultation – a real Catch-22.

    Its not impossible at the conngregational level, however. That’s where most people’s investment is found and a collaborative leader can find ways of keeping people involved in the review process. Our current review has just begun and will not be complete until November! It will involve focus groups within the congregation and regular feedback as we go. The bulk of it will be done by the end of the month – but the findings will be used in a series of September workshops to “build our future story.” The remaining time will be for the Board and Elders to take the congregation’s work away and build into a strategic plan for release in November. That’s the theory anyway. The process has worked well for us in the past, although this is the first time it has been spread over four months. Meals baked slowly often taste better, however, as long as its a slow heat. Otherwise it gets burned to a crisp!


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