Random reflections and various thoughts on developing leaders, organizations, communities, and the church in Asia.

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What are your measurements?

Hmm … I think mine are something like 46 – 38 (with my tummy sucked in) – 36. Not a pretty picture!

We live in a world which seems to place the highest value on that which we can measure. “You get what you measure” I sometimes say to colleagues in my world of international development.

In my organization we are in the midst of updating our strategies in the Asian countries I oversee, and the constant challenge is this: How do we adequately translate the lofty ideals of our mission, vision and values into tangible, measurable outcomes? Or in development-speak, what are the verifiable indicators?  And in other words, how do we make the intangible tangible?  I believe we can do this, and that it can be a helpful means of keeping us on course towards what is really most important, as long as we don’t become slaves to the tools of measurement.

But what should we measure to demonstrate real impact, real change in the lives of people or communities?

At the core of our being lies our most deeply held beliefs and unarticulated assumptions about life, ourselves and the world around us — our worldview. Out of this core sense of identity flow our values which in turn govern our behavior and the choices we make, which then bear fruit as certain results or consequences in our lives. Yet most effort invested in measuring human behavior focuses only on the easy stuff, the final two stages of the process — behavior and the results of that behavior. Very little attention is given to measuring the engine that drives our behavior — our worldviews, beliefs, and values. Because that’s much harder to measure, and it often requires making subjective judgements that fly in the face of objective criteria.

On the other hand, many in the church or religious world will focus on the belief and values side of the equation with little concern for how those beliefs translate into real, lasting, and tangible (measurable!) change within the person and the community they are a part of.

But there is hope! Even the writers of the Bible struggled with how to explain the deeper truths of Scripture in tangible, measurable terms. I think John did it best. He used the most tangible tools at his disposal — his physical senses — to authenticate the deeper truths he would share:  “From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in — we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes, we saw it happen!” (1 John 1:1-2, The Message)

So I am convinced that any important work we do is worth measuring. But I don’t want to settle for just measuring the easy stuff — the “head counts” or busy work. I want to measure real impact — changed lives, transformed communities.

How do you measure real change or transformation in someone’s life? In a church? In a community? What are your verifiable indicators?!

Confessions of a travelling kleptomaniac

I have refrained from setting up a blog until now, as it sometimes seems like the supreme act of narcissism. But I’ve also learned a great deal from some profound blog postings, so I figure it can’t be all bad, right? And it may even help me to use this forum in my ongoing pursuit of self-discovery, albeit in a very public way.  Of course, self-discovery can only happen when balanced with a certain amount of self-revelation. So here goes …

I am a kleptomaniac… There, I said it. I do a fair bit of travelling in my line of work — enough that I’ve gotten quite comfortable (and a bit spoiled) with my Gold Card status in my frequent flyer program. The most common way in which I enjoy this status is by taking full advantage of the airline lounges in the various airports through which I transit. And that’s where it kicks in…

“Oooh, they have TWININGS English Breakfast tea here?” I say to myself as I stuff a few tea bags in my pocket. “Hmm, we’re running low on Equal at home. I could use a few of these.” Several packets of Equal sweetener go into my pocket. Of course, each time I go back for refills on the tea, a few more packets somehow end up in my pockets. Before long, my pants are bulging, and the servers are beginning to wonder how so many people could be drinking that much tea and sweetener.

Then I go to the magazine rack. I pick up a copy each of Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Golf Digest (even though I rarely play), and some obscure travel magazine advertising undiscovered Bulgarian resorts (even though I’m guessing there are good reasons why they are still undiscovered). I quickly flip through the mags, and all of them end up in my bag. Hey, there are some good stories in there I’m going to read … eventually. And besides, my wife appreciates it when I bring things back for her from my trips.

So next time you get that well-thought-out gift from me  — you know, the bundle of toothpicks, or that ultra-stylish folding travel comb — remember, it may have come to you courtesy of one of my favorite airline lounges.

Now I’m just trying to figure out how to poach that nice tray of dragon fruit without making a total mess of my carry-on. And hey, the silk cushion on that armchair would go very nicely in our living room …

Hello world!

The last thing this world needs is another blogger. So even if I just end up talking to myself, I’ve finally decided that this is a good way to reflect on both the humorous and serious sides of life and work in Asia. So hello world! I’m jumping in head first…

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