what our services can learn from car design

My dad was an engineer at GM for 32 years.  He is one of the smartest people I know, a brilliant engineer, and when I was a kid, I thought what my dad got to do was the coolest.  I remember we used to start every family vacation with picking him up from work and taking one loop around the test track with our van loaded to the roof with stuff.  I always thought we would tip over as we went around those crazy banked turns.  It was awesome!

I don’t recall much about his actual job, but I do remember him complaining about designers a lot.  They were all so worried about what the car looked like, that they didn’t care about whether it would run or not.  When I stop and think about it, without a beautiful design, no one would probably be attracted to the car enough to buy it in the first place.  But on the flip side, if the car doesn’t run well, the word will get out and nobody will buy the car, regardless of how good it looks.

As a result, there are have been many cars that nobody remembers.

There is a values tug of war at play here.

I would argue that these forgettable cars were so altered by immovable values of each department that they end up with a car that nobody wants.  “I need this much space to make the transmission work.”  “I HAVE to have this space for my air duct design.”  “The headlight has to be shaped this exact way.”

When you have so many people demanding that their thing is the most important, you end up making decisions along the way that compromise the big idea.

Let’s translate all this into the local church service context that most of us are dealing with:  “I have to have the band as close together as possible.”  “I have to know the order of lyrics, exactly.”  “This service won’t work without a particular amount of time for the message.”

It is so important for each area to care deeply about what matters most to them.  If you are a lighting designer, you care most about lighting angles.  You don’t really care about message length, as long as the person giving the message is standing in exactly the right spot.  If you are an audio engineer, the lyrics don’t matter to you, as long as the vocalists know their part so that you can get the perfect mix.  If you are the video director, who cares about how long the message is, just give me the frickin’ graphics on time!

These are all extremes, but how can we all work together to create the best service possible?  How can we care deeply about our thing, but hold it loosely enough to make the most amazing experience?

I realize that so much of this depends on a vision.  Just like there needs to be a person who know what a car needs to become, someone has to own where this thing is going.  There has to be some sense of “we are all this together”, or else your loose grip will mean that the thing you care deeply about will be ripped from your grasp.

Let’s just say you have a clear idea of what the goal is.  Let’s pretend that you know exactly what the finished product is supposed to look like…just for a moment.

How tightly are you holding onto the thing that you care most deeply about?

How can you fight fiercely for the thing you care most deeply about, then let it go for the sake of the whole?

photo by: tinou bao