Arriving at Your Preferred Future: How to Develop Milestones

How to Reach Milestones (on the way to your preferred future)

In today’s post I want to explain a process that I think will help all of you. Since we’ve begun to identify our preferred future and are more clear about where we really are today, the next thing we must learn is how to chart a course that leads from where we are (the present) to the preferred future.

First, the backstory:

Before I can explain the process, I need to give you a little context. I need to explain the backstory that led me here.

Although I am regularly engaged as a coach or consultant with churches around the country, I am primarily a practitioner. I’m not a theorist. I have a day job and have been working in and on my own ministry and my own church for over 30 years.

Along the way I’ve been asked to share what I’m learning and help other churches build thriving ministries. I describe the end in mind as getting to there.

To help churches understand getting to there, I embraced the language of business consultant, educator and author Peter Drucker and have long been asking, “What business are you in?” “Who is your customer?” and “What will you call ‘success’?”

In 2005 I read Andy Stanley’s Seven Practices of Effective Ministry and was introduced to the idea of clarifying the win (read: clarifying what you will call success).

But it was a combination of Will Mancini’s Church Unique and Glen Hiemstra’s Turning the Future into Revenue that alerted me to the importance of truly identifying the preferred future (mountaintop for Mancini) and then identifying the milestones that lead to there. See also, Start with the End in Mind.

And that led me directly to the concept I want to share with you here.

Projects, Objectives, Deliverables, and Action Steps

One of the most important practices you can develop and employ involves identifying the objective, deliverables and action steps of every project you undertake.

Think of “building a thriving small group ministry” or “developing an effective next step pathway” as the project. It isn’t something you do in a single move. It’s something that happens over seasons and years.

As you’re building you’re steadily moving toward the preferred future you’ve identified. Two steps forward and one step back. Three steps forward and two steps back. And throw in an occasional loss of ground for realism.

But it happens over seasons and years.

Think of the milestones you identify as leading directly to (and only to) the preferred future you’ve identified. They are your objectives.

As you identify the objectives (milestones) along the way to the mountaintop (preferred future) you’ll pursue them with determination and perseverance. Your first objective may take you 3 to 6 months (or even 9 months to a year).

Example: An example of a milestone might be building the beginnings of an effective coaching structure with  the right men and women doing the right things and for the right number of group leaders. See also, Have You Identified the Milestones that Lead to Your Preferred Future?

Reaching each of the milestones you’ve identified will require certain deliverables being delivered. Deliverables are the things or outcomes that must be developed in order to reach the objective.

Example: An example of a deliverable might to recruit enough coaches to provide a one to five span of care (one coach for every 5 leaders).

A set of action steps are required to produce the deliverables (required to reach the objective.

Example: Examples of the action steps required in this case might be  an understanding of the characteristics of an effective coach, a job description for coaches, a recruiting protocol, and a script.

How to use the process:

After you’ve identified the preferred future you see for your small group ministry, the next step is to identify the first milestone (objective) that you need to reach. Think of a milestone as a spot along the path that you can reach within the next 3 to 6 months. While the first milestone can be farther down the road, I’ve found it helpful to make it a quicker win.

Once you identify the objective, give some thought to, and then begin identifying the deliverables that will make arrival at the milestone possible.

And once you identify the deliverables, brainstorm and whiteboard the action steps required to deliver the deliverables. Make the action steps bite sized.

Once you have the action steps, it’s time to begin chipping away at them, completing them sequentially, so you can deliver the first of several deliverables.

Need help?

Need help? I reserve time every year to work with a select group of churches and organizations ready to get to there. Email me to find out more.

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