Continued from My worst project – Lesson 2: Not matching setup to the expectations
It was the summer of 1988 and there we were in the steamy Yucatan Peninsula. The 110 students and sponsors on my project had raised a bunch of money to be there. And the problems just kept rolling my way – a fresh batch every day. Cooks on strike. Students sick and dehydrated. Toilets that stopped working just as Montezuma was getting his revenge on the team. People were not happy. How did it come to this? What could I have done to avoid this mess?
The 19 years of experience I’ve had since then organizing projects for more than 70,000 people have given me a lot of hindsight. If there’s a mistake, I’ve made it! In my prior blogs on the subject, I touched on the importance of leadership and communication. Covey tells us that a good leader will “begin with the end in mind.” That’s called designing the project. A leader’s first job is to design the project. His second job is to staff it. And his third job is to thoroughly plan the project using a notebook full of checklists.
Here are some questions to ask when designing the project:
Ensure good staffing
Choose your people carefully so that you can focus on the spiritual aspects of the project. You may need to recruit some staff from the participants if you don’t have enough volunteers. Build a trust relationship and train them. Consider meeting with them in advance of the project to ensure this happens.
If you’re not a detail person, for heaven’s sake delegate the planning to someone else. And if your ego won’t allow that, then at least use a great checklist. I have a bunch of these. For example, here’s a list of questions that I use for screening host church partners:
Ask “what if…?”
Because Murphy’s Law is universally true on mission projects, you not only need a plan A, but a plan B and C. I should have asked about the plumbing system before we arrived. I should have checked out the water source.
Tomorrow, I’ll look at the problem of inadequate team preparation…
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I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.