November 2008 • Journal 01 • Issue 02



The Oil of An Organizational Engine

The problem with engines is that they create friction. The problem with friction is that it kills engines.

Every engine generates friction, no matter how well engineered or manufactured. And ultimately, there are only two ways to overcome the deadly heat caused by that friction: shut down the engine or use oil.

Engines in open-wheeled Indy cars—those high-tech multimillion dollar marvels—operate at over 10,000rpms. They can fly around the two and one-half mile oval of Indianapolis at speeds over 220mph. That translates into lots of heat. Yet, with the miracle lubricant of oil they can endure that heat and sustain that speed for 500 miles!

In any organization, the very things that create your capacity for accomplishment, progress, impact, etc. create friction. That friction is often experienced as miscommunication, agenda-confusion, administrative frustration, the tensions of growth, etc. I don’t know the culture of your business or organization, but in ministry settings—the place where most of my leadership energy is focused—it seems like personal conflict or is one of the common crippling forms of friction. And, we are so afraid of conflict that our knee jerk reaction to friction of any kind is try to make it go away.

What if you can’t make that heat go away? What if it is fundamentally impossible to move forward without creating heat? What if as the power of your engine increases—your capacity for great things—the heat you are create increases as well? And, what if shutting down “your engine” to make all friction subside is the wrong way to go?

There is no way around it, every organization requires oil and that oil is vision.**

Vision puts everything in perspective; makes sacrifice palatable; and provides something much bigger than personal preference as the governing focus. Vision has a way of lifting people’s attention to a higher plane. Vision gives everyone and every challenge you face a compelling reason. A reason to look beyond the temporary friction.

Now, by vision I am not talking about the caricature of polished pointless words or some wild-eyed plan that is out of touch with reality. Real vision is anchored in reality in a way that connects real need with real opportunity. Vision disconnected from reality is only a fantasy. Vision disconnected from urgency is just another idea in a mind-numbing world of ideas. Vision anchored in reality and motivated by urgency is compelling.

A simple definition: vision describes a picture of what the future could be like.  It describes a picture of the future in terminology so specific that you can actually measure progress toward it.

  • it is deeper than a motto or slogan
  • it need not fit on a t-shirt
  • it gives people a sense of destination that is clear enough to understand and pursue
  • it is not powerful because of its packaging, but is made powerful by the compelling nature of what it describes
  • it is concrete enough to fail at!, even simple in nature can be the most compelling

This issue of noREDcapes is dedicated to the topic of vision. If you peruse the articles you will find practical perspectives as well as tools to help you develop and communicate your vision. Behind it is the desire to help you infuse fresh oil into the capacity of the people you lead.

Signature of Gary Mayes

**NOTE: Is Vision the Only Oil? There is an argument that could be made, that relational health is also a lubricant. To be technical about it, I would suggest that vision is the oil that keeps engine heat palatable and relationships are the transmission fluid that enables the smooth shifting of gears-the constant adjustments-necessary to function effectively. But that is another discussion.



Overcoming the Half-Life of Vision

Understanding the concept of a half-life: simple... Recognizing its impact on those you lead: profound... Knowing it was birthed out of a parallel to radioactivity: ominous. The point? “Vision has a half-life of seven days!” A half-life of seven days means the potency of your vision in the minds and motivations of your people diminishes by half every week. It also means that in a mere 28 days what was originally powerful will be impotent.

Redefining Visionary Leadership

We frequently talk and act as if the most important criteria of leaders is the ability to create and communicate vision single-handedly. We expect leaders to develop vision from scratch and then articulate it with god-like inspiration. As a result, scores of people devalue their capacity for leadership for the simple fact that they don’t excel at this full-feature visionary role. This article attempts to redefine visionary leadership.

The Power of a Stump Speech

This unique challenge of politics is the territory that gave birth to the notion of a stump speech. Others have called it an “elevator speech.” No matter what you call it, the point is simple: if you cannot communicate your central message in 30 seconds you won’t be able to communicate it effectively in 30 minutes.

Crafting Vision

The power of vision does not come from believing it is important, but in the vision itself. This simple article is written as a primer to provide you with a process for crafting vision that is compelling and clear enough to communicate.