Before We Start:
If you have talked with most of the significant people in your field of interest and have a sense that you know the primary issues; that your know how the significant people feel about this topic – its challenges and priorities – then just skip this bit and start with # 3 in the list below. But, if you have the slightest doubt about who the key people are and what they think about both this issue and the possibility of working together let me encourage to serious work through #1 and 2 below. It will make a huge difference in your potential for success.
The 10 Key Network Success Factors:
So you have a great vision, know some key people, and are convinced it’d be better if God’s people could work together on this challenge. What’s next? Chances of success will be greatly increased if you keep these ten things in mind.
- Who are the knowledgeable, influential, proven people already involved in this challenge? Take the time to identify those already identified with the challenge – they will be key elements in the future of your network. Start with the few that you know – asking them who they know. Keep doing that and you’ll soon find many times cropping up again and again. Those are the key people you need to connect with.
- Get to know these people. Talk to and get to know these influential, already-engaged individuals. Listen actively! Ask good questions. Learn about their personal history; what has motivated them; what are their current priorities; and, if they could identify the 2-3 most pressing issues in your area of shared concern – what would those be? Feed back to these people as you talk. And, ask if they’d be interested in joining a few others of like mind to explore possible options for creative action – together.
- Great vision inspires great action. What’s the ‘big challenge?’ (global child trafficking, 4 billion who can’t read, 1.6 billion Muslims, etc.) Hundreds around the world are already at work on some part of the challenge. You will inspire them if you can state the challenge is clear, brief, highly motivating terms. This is not the mission or vision statement for your network. Those will come later as people put their shoulders to the challenge – together.
- Effective networks are a process, not an event. The quickest way to kill a high-value potential Kingdom network is to call a meeting. Once you’ve done your homework so you know the key people and the key issues the next question is – are at least 40-50% of those people willing to talk, one time, about a very simple question: “Is there anything we might do better together than if we all just keep working independently?” If you have that consensus you’re probably ready to plan a meeting.
- Participation is key to owner Doing a DRAFT agenda for your first meeting then circulating it for input by all those you’ve talked with gets them engaged. They need to know they are being listened to and can influence the outcomes. You may want to ask which in your group would like to serve in a planning team for your first meeting. More engagement, more ownership. The simple diagram below is a guide – a sequence that you may use – to get people talking. To engage them actively. The steps suggested her may also be helpful as you draft your agenda for your formation meeting which you probably want to circulate in advance.
- No talking heads – everyone involved. Whether you meet digitally or in person, be proactive and get everyone involved. A silent person is usually not engaged and an unengaged person won’t be an enthusiastic participant – or an advocate on behalf of your network. Work in breakout or small groups; assign specific questions or issues to groups of 2-3 – asking them to come back with recommendations.
- Early wins communicate credibility and a sense of progress. Big ideas and big plans almost always fail. Recovery after failure is very, very hard. Once the big picture, the big challenge has been identified, identify key elements that contribute to progress. What will it take to achieve progress on those one, two, or three of those smaller yet vital elements? Limited, achievable objectives are vital in the early stages when your beginning to work together. Walk before you run! Here’s a simple diagram that illustrates the point.
- Specifics are vital. Your limited, achievable objectives must always address the classic questions: What is our specific objective? How will we measure success for this objective? Who will be responsible for part of the action plan? What is the timetable for what action – by what date? Who is responsible for staying in touch – encouraging, following up, communicating with those taking action?
- Communications measures the heartbeat. Taking people through a process like we’ve described seriously raises expectations. Communications on progress is vital. Get the news out about progress being made on those mutually-agreed limited achievable objectives. Even when the going is tough, an update on the work that has been done is often very encouraging. No one expects this vision to be easy to realize. If it was, someone would have already done it! Keep the life blood of the network circulating through regular communications – that may be every two weeks, once a month, or whatever you feel is appropriate for your group. It is hard to over communicate!
- This is not a game of guns and money. We are locked in a battle with a deadly enemy, the prince of this world, who wants to destroy relationships and hates the possibility of God’s people working together. Along with vision and committed leadership, the single most critical element in success is a committed, consistent prayer team. Get them engaged; include them in all your communications; give them encouraging feedback. Spiritual breakthroughs must be powered by prayer – inside your network and with a committed team that is alongside.