Archive for the ‘Strategies for Change’ Category

 

Mission, Marketing and Media—Inseparable, Invaluable

Posted on: January 26th, 2014 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

 

Like many of you, I work with some really smart people, who love what they do, strive to learn from others and passionately share their knowledge in return. The next three posts will be from experts who exemplify these qualities, and I’ve invited them to write about the integral relationship between mission, marketing and media. Our first guest is Daniel Chiat, of Measuring Success, whose organization has rich, unique data on why mission matters. Hope you enjoy these posts!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

 

Got Mission? It Matters—and Here Are the Data To Prove It!

ChiatDaniel Chiat, Measuring Success

 

What characteristics of synagogue life predispose members to feel satisfied and to feel that they have personally grown as a Jew? There are certainly many worthy answers, but the two most important aspects both come down to vision.

 

We’re not guessing at this conclusion; it’s grounded in the analysis of thousands of synagogue members across North America. Over the last five years, we’ve assisted nearly 40 synagogues in using data to create strategic plans and build relationships. We’ve asked over 15,000 congregants to answer questions about their priorities and satisfaction levels. The results indicate that the top drivers of synagogue satisfaction and personal growth are high scores on the following two questions:

 

 

Hayim Herring Blog

We know that high scores on these vision questions are the best predictors of satisfaction and personal growth regardless of a synagogue’s location, membership size, or denomination. This is because our database includes synagogues from across the spectrum and everything in between. The data suggests that synagogue leaders should invest energy on vision and values in order to have significant impact on outcomes like member satisfaction, retention, and personal growth.

 

(more…)

Collaborate, Communicate, Connect

Posted on: November 7th, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

New, Free, Hands-on Workbook for Synagogues

 

I’ve generally heard agreement among synagogue and federation leaders that congregational collaboration is a valuable endeavor. Collaboration can lead to elimination of redundant services, cost savings, better programs, etc. So, who would argue against it? If you’ve actually planned, implemented and helped sustain collaborative synagogue efforts, you know how beneficial they are—and also how much effort you have to invest and maintain in them order to make them work!

 

synergy - UJA Federation - Hayim HerringThat’s why I’m happy to introduce you to another resource that provides you with concrete, practical tools to support your efforts around collaboration, and strategies to increase communications, connections and meaning in your congregation. This free, download is titled, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: A Guide for Study and Action, and it’s a seven step implementation guide to some of the key ideas in my book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life. In addition to collaboration, you’ll find six additional units, on topics ranging from becoming an entrepreneurial congregation to preparing for the future by better anticipating trends that may have an impact on your congregation.

 

(more…)

From Network Judaism to Platform Judaism

Posted on: October 8th, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

 

In 2000, I wrote a paper called Network Judaism, later published in 2001. MySpace was launched in August 2003 and Facebook in February 2004. While not long ago at all, it’s hard to recall that social media platforms didn’t exist. But if you were tracking possible significant trends carefully, you could anticipate the potential emergence of the networked organization. What no one was able to grasp was how social media sites would be enable societal changes of major magnitude.

 

Today, here are a few stats on some popular social media platforms:

Facebook-1.15 billion registered users

Flickr -87 million users, 8 billion photos

Pandora – 200 million registered users

Twitter – 500 million registered

Word Press – 66 million blogs

Angie’s list – 2 million users

Yelp – 12 million users per day

YouTube-500 million visits per day

 

The numbers tell a story of how rapidly socially media sites have been adopted and how embedded they are in our lives. Yet, synagogues, federations and other historic organizations have not shifted their structures to enable themselves to become platforms for people to connect socially, spiritually, philanthropically and educationally.

 

As we are now in the networked era, Jewish organizations need to shift their paradigms to a platform model. Otherwise, the great the work that many are doing around making Judaism more relevant, inspirational, meaning-saturated and beautiful will be inhibited or fail. Unlike many Jewish start up organizations that have blossomed over the last ten years, established Jewish organizations need Platform Judaism, or more accurately, platform Jewish structures.

 

What is an organizational platform (and I can highlight only a few dimensions in this space)? A platform is an enabling space for people to interact and act upon issues. An organization that becomes a platform enables individuals to self direct their Jewish choices and express their Jewish values within the organization’s mission. That is a radical shift from organizational leaders directing people how, when, where, why and with whom to be Jewish- in other words, the dominant paradigm of more established Jewish organizations and synagogues!

 

Becoming a platform is also a mindset. It means embracing the desire of individuals to co-create their experiences, opt in and opt out of Jewish life, do new things and old things in new ways-of course, within the organization’s mission. This mindset operates within the building, outside of the building, on the website, and anywhere else. It also requires a much more creative and intentional use of technologies to tell individual stories and organizational stories and a redefinition of professional and volunteer leaders’ roles, new governance models and even new professional and volunteer positions.

 

Most critically, restructuring as a platform requires a relentless focus on a compelling mission and purpose. When organizations can clearly define their purpose, they have the opportunity to help individuals activate their latent hunger for community, experientially educate them about the difference between a discrete cause and an enduring commitment and provide opportunities for deeper relationships that transcend Facebook-type “connections.”

 

Talking about organizational structure isn’t sexy. But the payoff for paying attention to it is potentially huge, enabling:

 

In part, I wrote my book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life, to stimulate thinking around the urgency for organizations to move to a platform model. Within about two weeks, UJA-Federation of New York’s Synergy Department and the Alban Institute will be releasing a study and action guide to help synagogues and organizations practically apply the concepts of Platform Judaism, one of the central concept in Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today, to their real world settings. Then, several weeks later, the Alban Institute will be publishing a companion volume to Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today, with a deeper discussion of some of the core concepts of the book and even more practical resources. If you’ve registered for ongoing information, you’ll learn how you can access these new resources-one of which will be downloadable for free. If you haven’t, you can sign up here.

 

And in October, I’ll be presenting and facilitating number of sessions in Baltimore at United Synagogue’s Centennial; in Westchester, Manhattan and Long Island through UJA-Federation of New York; and the Rockland County Federation’s Rockland Jewish (Synagogue) Initiative. You can click here for more details on these presentations and if they’re in your area and open to the public, I hope that you’ll participate. Looking forward to working together with you!

 

Crossed posted on eJewishphilanthropy in a modified form.

 

 

Resetting the Rabbinate

Posted on: May 20th, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

 

In the past few months, I’ve read at least six articles or blogs about rabbis and the contemporary rabbinate. (Just search sites like eJewishPhilanthropy, The Jewish Week, the JTA and the Jewish Daily Forward for a sampling of results.) Any rabbi will tell you that there’s structural change occurring and the media now seems to have picked up this story. Some of the stories suggest new roles that rabbis are fulfilling, others are about gender and the rabbinate, or prognostications about the future of the rabbinate and the rabbinical seminaries’ challenge in keeping up with what they perceive as new skills that rabbis require.

 

(Disclaimer: I’ve written about the rabbinate over the years as well in publications like Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life and “The Rabbi as Moreh Derekh Chayim: Reconceptualizing Today’s Rabbinate”. But why so many articles in such a short time?

 

Rabbis are experiencing significant role ambiguity and the 20th Century paradigm of what defines a rabbi is clearly inadequate for this century. A few examples will suffice:

Rabbis used to have primary or heavy involvement in the examples above but now, much less so.

 

And it isn’t just that functions are changing. Relationships are changing as well. In speaking with colleagues, they sense that they are increasingly being treated more as employees and less as individuals with a sacred profession. As one colleague wryly commented, he felt that “evaluations” had become “devaluations.”

 

This lack of role clarity is a symptom of a paradigm change. As renowned futurist, Joel Barker, says: “When a paradigm shifts, everyone goes back to zero. Your past success guarantees nothing in your future.” And all of these conversations about rabbis’ roles certainly have the feel of “going back to zero,” that is, accepting that the assumptions that undergird last centuries’ rabbinate will not support today’s rabbinate.

 

I believe that rabbis have significant roles to play. Some will be the same as the last generation of rabbis, and others haven’t even yet been imagined. But I’d like to hear your thoughts about the unique roles that rabbis can play. By unique, I mean what is it by virtue of their training that they alone can do, or that they can do with greater ability than others with Judaic knowledge and experience? All are invited to respectfully weigh in and thanks!

 

 

A Question for Leaders: What’s Your Liberation Moment?

Posted on: March 28th, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments

This year, my wife, Terri and I, were once again privileged to celebrate Pesach in Jerusalem. We had family and friends at our table who had made aliyah (moved to Israel) decades ago and relatively new olim (immigrants), friends from Minneapolis and St. Paul and some friends of friends in both categories. Our youngest guest was 16 months old; our oldest, about eighty!

Grigory Mikheev. Exodus. acrylic, oil on canvas, 82?95, 2000.

"Exodus" by Grigory Mikheev (Wiki Commons)

Our eclectic group of strangers became an extended family by the end of the evening. Why? Aside from great food and a story about individual, communal and universal liberation that never gets old, I incorporated a suggestion from Ayeka. (Ayeka is an organization that understands that Torah study is not just about the acquisition of knowledge but the transformation of character.) The suggestion was to use a series of provocative questions to trigger personal discussion, and these are the four from Ayeka that I found, that deepened the conversation among our guests:

Terach, Abraham’s father was stuck-that’s why he only started his journey to Canaan but didn’t complete it. Abraham got unstuck and look what happened! Ruth, the Biblical character about whom we read on Shavuot, got unstuck and risked returning to Israel with her mother-in-law under difficult circumstances, while Orpah, her sister-in-law, got stuck and returned to her family. And, as I write this post from Israel, politically, the Israeli electorate got the system unstuck from politics-as-usual and elected two new leaders who seem to determined to make substantive social change.

The point: if you want to be a leader, you’ve got to recognize your “liberation moment” and then embrace it. It requires faith-if not in God, than at least in yourself. Leaders take action on their commitments and that can definitely be frightening. But by making this kind of total commitment, they get the status quo get unstuck. I’ll be sharing my “unstuck” moments in the next few weeks when I officially re-launch my business focus. And if you’re in a position of leadership, or aspire to be in one, I invite you to answer the question, “What will your liberation moment be post-Pesach?”

Downsize Institutions and Upsize Imagination

Posted on: June 4th, 2012 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Creative brainstorming

Photo: opensourceway, on Flickr

Kudos to Dr. Stephen Windmueller for his piece last week in eJewishphilanthropy, entitled to the unfolding of the third Jewish revolution. Windmueller provides us with a rich framework for analyzing major historical turning points in Jewish communal life, including the one that we’re experiencing now. I want to focus on one of his points – the one that preoccupies many in Jewish communal life today.

Money: who isn’t concerned about having sufficient financial resources to maintain or launch high-quality programs, needed services or simply pay for administrative overhead? Windmueller says it best when he writes, “the American Jewish system is a $9.7 billion annual enterprise that cannot be sustained as a result of the current economic realities.” (We should ask if it should be maintained, but that’s another issue!) It is no surprise that many of our institutions are being downsized. That’s a tough reality for those who are experiencing it.

Precisely because we have to downsize our institutions, we have to upsize our imaginations. All the money in the world wouldn’t solve many of our challenges if we continued to do things in the same way. So this transition can challenge us to think about how to do critical work differently and better. It can also help us prioritize the issues that will have the greatest impact so that we can focus on them and sunset less essential activities.

Upsizing our imagination is one strategy for making our way through the transition successfully. Another is embracing the idea that it is possible today to do more with less in some cases. And that’s a fact that is easy to forget in the current economic environment. For example, it used to take thousands of dollars to build a quality website. Today, a pre-teen can build a website without effort. When we wanted access to a book or periodical, we used to have to spend time going to the library. Today, the library is at our fingertips. One of the ways to do more with less is to fully exploit the advantages of time and cost savings that technologies enable.

I don’t want to minimize the pain that many are feeling as our Jewish community undergoes a major revolution. While this transition may cause momentary paralysis, I hope that it will ultimately energize us as we move further into the 21st-century.

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Make your sermon like a shofar blast

Posted on: September 22nd, 2011 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Shofar Blowing

From Joe King on flickr

Rosh Hashanah is less than a week away.  Synagogues are in crunch mode.  Rabbis are putting the finishing touches on their sermons. Congregational leaders will be working extra hard during the next several weeks and more congregants will engage with the synagogue than at any other time during the year.

People will be looking for a meaningful message that they can take away from their yamim noraim (High Holy Day) experience, and rabbis, other synagogue professionals and volunteer leaders should consider both the content of their messages and the most impactful way to communicate them. They need to think strategically about how they are communicating with their audiences—during the coming High Holy Days and in the long-term.

Strategic communication is not just about trying to get people more involved in your synagogue’s programming.  Everybody will be doing that in one way or another.  It is about being more intentional in how you share your synagogue’s message with others.

Strategic communication is also not the same as “marketing.”  Marketing focuses on getting different demographics of congregants interested in a specific program or service. Strategic communication, on the other hand, relates programs and projects to the overall mission and goals of the congregation.

Strategic communication does not happen overnight, of course.  Many organizations go through the process of creating a “strategic communications plan,” which is developed and used by all levels of the organization.

In other words, ideally your communications are not limited to your congregational newsletter or information on your website, but in every interaction that your staff and lay leadership have with congregants, potential members, or local media outlets.  It represents a consistency in your organizational message, driven by your mission. It is about telling your story in an effective way.  (The SPIN Project offers a free online template for creating a strategic communications plan that you may find useful, though it is targeted to organizations engaged in advocacy work.)

Even though this process does not happen overnight, you can use the High Holidays as an opportunity to begin thinking more strategically and proactively about how you communicate with your various audiences.  Once you start engaging in these critical conversations around communications, you will begin to see a meaningful transformation in the way your congregation’s message is communicated and how it is perceived.

The blast of the shofar during the High Holy Days calls us out of our complacency and inspires us to return.  With a little bit of planning, your communications can have a similar impact on your audience in the new year.

Please contact us to learn how we can help take your organization through a unique, engaging process of creating your own strategic communications plan.

L’shanah Tovah,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

 

From Courageous Conversations to Daring Decisions: More Thoughts on Collaboration

Posted on: September 14th, 2011 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Collaboration

From blogging4jobs.com

I hope that more leaders will spark the kinds of courageous conversations that Rabbi Bisno has started in his recent opinion piece, “Let the Courageous Conversation Continue” in eJewishphilanthropy.com on September 7th.  Such conversations seed the ground for potential collaborations on the local level. In following up on Rabbi Bisno’s call to action, I want to suggest a few ways that we can move from courageous conversations about collaboration to daring decisions that foster creative group and organizational partnerships that will enrich the Jewish community.

But first, let us remember just how long various leaders have been calling for greater collaboration. For example, in 1976, the late Rabbi Samuel Dresner wrote an essay called, From Jewish Inadequacy to a Sacred Community, that appeared in a book, Federation and Synagogue: Toward a New Partnership. Since that time, aside from a handful of communities, there are few synagogue-federation partnerships that we can point to. Why, we ask, are collaborations so difficult to create and sustain?

In one community, I interviewed fifteen volunteer leaders, professionals and philanthropists about their understanding of collaboration. They confirmed what I suspected: potential stakeholders in a collaborative effort have different understandings of the implications of collaboration. For funders, it can be a code word for a merger. For a program officer, it can mean more work with ambiguous benefit. For a lay leader, it may mean efficiency. A lack of shared understanding at the beginning of discussions about collaboration sets the stage for misunderstanding and distrust, and often stops partnerships in their tracks.

Here is a definition of collaboration that I have developed based on other experts who have spent a lifetime of work building collaborations and my own experience of over twenty-five years doing so:

At least two organizations working together, while retaining their identity and autonomy, provide a higher level of service to an agreed upon constituency than they can provide individually. Participants in a collaboration share jointly in the costs and benefits of working together.

Notice that cost savings are not in this definition. In fact, collaborations may not save money, at least initially. If community leaders seek to reduce costs, there are better organizational arrangements for doing so, including mergers, joint programming corporations and management services corporations. While saving resources is a legitimate concern, collaboration is fundamentally about raising the quality of experience for participants in a program. Collaborations can make individuals deepen their involvement in the Jewish community and increase their positive feelings about it.

If funders want to see more collaboration they will have to align incentives with that goal. Here are a few ways they can do so:

When organizations collaborate with one another, they make a conscious decision to cultivate a trusting, transparent relationship. Have you ever seen any healthy relationship come into being spontaneously? Collaborations, like all relationships, require ongoing work and support. But they are worth it, because when they happen, they present better ways for more individuals to find personal meaning in the Jewish community and, in turn, contribute their talents to making it richer.

A version of this article originally appeared on the eJewish Philanthropy blog on September 15, 2011.

Prayer on Rosh ha-Shanah: Eternal or Eternally Long?

Posted on: July 21st, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments
They are only about seven weeks before Rosh ha-Shanah, the Jewish new year. We might refer to a synagogue during Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur as a house of perpetual prayer. Imagine yourself sitting in the pews on parts of these days, for at least a few hours at a time. Overall, what has that experience felt like for you? Did you feel God’s presence or at least a sense of being part of something larger, more purposeful?  Did these experiences open up new insights into dimensions of your life that you don’t usually think about?
These aren’t only asked by those involved in the synagogue community ask; they are also questions that people of other faith traditions ask.  Just go to a recent blog post on The Alban Institute’s website, authored by Graham Standish, who asks: “Why Do We Worship The Way We Always Have Worshiped When People Keep Changing?” For many Americans raised and educated in our primarily secular culture, prayer is tough, regardless of your their faith tradition.
I encourage you to read the Standish’s full post and the comments on it. Here are some thought-provoking excerpts:
•“…what I think is paramount in a worship service [(is)]: encountering and experiencing God in a way that transforms us, even if just a little bit.
•Most generations approach worship differently from previous ones. They are not always looking to reinvent worship, but they are seeking a renewed sense of relevance to their context.
•Ultimately, the problem isn’t that each generation keeps changing. The problem is that as time passes congregations and their leaders forget to keep the focus of worship on the encounter with the Holy.
•Being intentional means…asking whether what we are offering actually connects members of each generation with the Holy. It means asking a simple question: Do people encounter the Holy in our worship services?
Prayer, as currently presented, works for some people. And we know that good music, participation, less Hebrew or more Hebrew (depending upon the makeup of the congregation), a little meditation, teaching the meaning and the melodies—these tactics can enrich prayer, but they mask Standish’s question, “Do people encounter the Holy in our worship services?”
While we have some time before Rosh ha-Shanah, please answer Standish’s question: “Do people encounter the Holy in our worship services?” And more importantly, what can you do so that your congregation can answer this question with a resounding “yes”?
Thanks, in advance, for your reflections,
Rabbi Hayim Herring

There are only about seven weeks before Rosh ha-Shanah, the Jewish new year. We might refer to a synagogue during Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur as a house of perpetual prayer. Imagine yourself sitting in the pews on parts of these days, for at least a few hours at a time. Overall, what has that experience felt like for you? Did you feel God’s presence or at least a sense of being part of something larger, more purposeful?  Did these experiences bring insights into dimensions of your life that you don’t usually think about?

These aren’t only asked by those involved in the synagogue community; they are also questions people of other faith traditions ask.  Just go to a recent blog post on The Alban Institute’s website, authored by Graham Standish, who asks: “Why Do We Worship The Way We Always Have Worshiped When People Keep Changing?” For many Americans raised and educated in our primarily secular culture, prayer is tough, regardless of your their faith tradition.

I encourage you to read the Standish’s full post and the comments on it. Here are some thought-provoking excerpts:

Prayer, as currently presented, works for some people. And we know that good music, participation, less Hebrew or more Hebrew (depending upon the makeup of the congregation), a little meditation, teaching the meaning and the melodies—these tactics can enrich prayer, but they mask Standish’s question, “Do people encounter the Holy in our worship services?”

While we have some time before Rosh ha-Shanah, please answer: “Do people encounter the Holy in our worship services?” What can you do so that your congregation can answer this question with a resounding “Yes”?

Thanks, in advance, for your reflections,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

flickr.com trodel

Remixing in Your Synagogue

Posted on: July 5th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Unique, break-through inventions are very difficult to achieve. Most innovations are not completely “innovative.” Rather, they build upon and incorporate prior efforts, while adding some new features. In a recent article in Fast Company Magazine by Farhad Manjoo, entitled The Invincible Apple, the author notes that Apple’s claim about making revolutionary projects is somewhat overstated. Manjoo writes,

To use a musical analogy, Apple’s specialty is the remix. It curates the best ideas bubbling up around the tech world and makes them its own. It’s also a great fixer, improving on everything that’s wrong with other similar products on the shelves.

Think of some the great big Jewish programs that seem to have burst upon the scene: Taglit-Birthright Israel, PJ Library, Moishe House and most recently, Hebrew Charter Schools. The quote above about “remix” can just as easily apply to these initiatives. Taking young adults to Israel, parents reading books to children, young adults who share something in common living together and acting on their values, charter schools—none of these are completely unique. But, they are conceptually brilliant because they are simple, powerful, elegant and well-executed. (Full disclosure: I have work and continue to consult for some of the philanthropists behind these ideas.)
Now, consider some of the work that your congregation does: adult learning, youth work, prayer. Without new resources, is there some area of congregational life that lends itself to a “remix?” Have a discussion with your staff and volunteer leaders, and see what emerges. Remember—“big ideas” can start with a series of small changes that don’t involve new funding! Please share your thinking with readers of Tools for Shuls. I’m eager to hear from you.
Thank you,
Rabbi Hayim Herring

Courtesy of Apple

Unique, break-through inventions are very difficult to achieve. Most innovations are not completely “innovative.” Rather, they build upon and incorporate prior efforts, while adding some new features. In a recent article in Fast Company Magazine by Farhad Manjoo, entitled The Invincible Apple, the author notes that Apple’s claim about making revolutionary projects is somewhat overstated. Manjoo writes,

“To use a musical analogy, Apple’s specialty is the remix. It curates the best ideas bubbling up around the tech world and makes them its own. It’s also a great fixer, improving on everything that’s wrong with other similar products on the shelves.”

Think of some the great big Jewish programs that seem to have burst upon the scene: Taglit-Birthright Israel, The PJ Library, Moishe House and most recently, Hebrew Charter Schools. The quote above about “remix” can just as easily apply to these initiatives. Taking young adults to Israel, parents reading books to children, young adults who share something in common living together and acting on their values, charter schools—none of these are completely unique. But, they are conceptually brilliant because they are simple, powerful, elegant and well-executed. (Full disclosure: I have worked and continue to consult for some of the philanthropists behind these ideas.)

Now, consider some of the work that your congregation does: adult learning, youth work, prayer. Without new resources, is there some area of congregational life that lends itself to a “remix?” Have a discussion with your staff and volunteer leaders, and see what emerges. Remember—“big ideas” can start with a series of small changes that don’t involve new funding! Please share your thinking with readers of Tools for Shuls. I’m eager to hear from you.

Thank you,

Rabbi Hayim Herring