Beyond whack-a-mole

Fellow blogger and prolific email-sender Ann Fontaine sent a note to the House of Bishops/Deputies email list, alerting us to a great article over at Slow Leadership. It uses whack-a-mole as a metaphor for a certain kind of bad management. Ann rightly connects this with many problems (and solutions) we face as a church.

Whack-a-mole is an intensely fun carnival game where you have to slam these moles that appear randomly in various holes. If you haven’t played it, go to the next street carnival you see and give this game a try. Anyway, here’s a snippet or two from the article:

The challenges are the ‘moles’. As each challenge presents itself to managers, they hit it hard and fast with the hammer of position and conventional wisdom. Slam! They get one. Slam! They get another one. It requires lightning-quick decision making in a fast moving game called “survival of the fittest”. It’s exhausting, but it’s also fun. Each night the players go home, knowing their job remains intact because they have successfully ‘whacked’ enough organizational problems to stay for another day.

And then there’s this:

The plain fact is that whack-a-mole management does not work. People know the right way to do business — they always have and they always will. That’s why it only takes one person to stop and say, “We can’t do it this way any more.” The rest merely need the courage to face this reality and act on it. This is called integrity — and it’s always a better way.

We’re lousy at this in church. Too often we use the same old methods to deal with new issues. We become reluctant to offend the easily offended. We worry more about preserving what’s already in place, rather than embracing a future of growth and concomitant  uncertainty.

Mostly though, we just don’t think. We react to situations as they arise, trying something that we’ve done before. This has to stop. At a 4.15% annual decline, the Episcopal Church is in grave danger. This patient needs CPR, not a pep talk. So next time someone hands you a soft hammer and says, “let’s start whacking these problems,” politely decline. We need better leadership, and we need better leaders.

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