A few days ago I attempted to dig up a recently-heard quote. The only problem was that I couldn’t remember exactly where I had heard it. Had I read it in a book? On a blog? Seen it linked from a Twitter post? Read it on someone’s Facebook wall? Heard it on a podcast? Mentioned in a sermon? Recounted in a conversation? Caught it on a TV show? Seen it cross-stitched in my grandma’s living room? A frantic search proved fruitless, and so I was left without the source material to recap the quote, use it as I wanted to, and prove whatever point I was trying to make.
The quote was about a CEO who took over a company and immediately identified vision drift due to too many mission statements. As best I can remember, the company had a half-dozen variations of their mission, 17 value statements, and countless numbers of service standards they’d subscribed to. The excess of VERY IMPORTANT THINGS meant that employees didn’t know what the company really stood for, what they should really care about, or at the end of the day what really mattered.
Ironically, the story I was trying to find illustrated the very reason I couldn’t find it. I suffer from a classic case of information overload. I subscribe to dozens of blogs and even more dozens of podcasts, I constantly have 2-3 books going at once, I follow a few hundred people on Twitter, and I’ve hit that mid-40’s spell where I can’t remember who I talked to about what, so I just repeat a lot of stories and hope for the best. Because EVERY SINGLE THING IS IMPORTANT, nothing is important. The things that I want to pull up in memory recall, I can’t, because I’m trying to cram too much into every cubic centimeter of gray matter.
I fear that what I do to myself and what the aforementioned company does to its employees is a lot like what we do to our church volunteers: we overload them with too much information. Champion this cause listen to this announcement care about this thing read this new policy come to this training memorize this value statement memorize this other value statement memorize this once and for all value statement commit to this new campaign jump through this hoop. Volunteers are left with conflicting goals, convoluted objectives, and confused spirits. At best, they don’t know what they need to pursue. At worst, they throw up their hands in frustration and walk away from all of it.
A surplus of information results in a deficit of transformation.A surplus of information results in a deficit of transformation. Click To Tweet
What can we remove from our volunteer team’s information pile? What can we simplify? What policies can we reduce, priorities can we align, prerogatives can we adjust? Their time and their focus is limited, and when we engage that time we must do so with their good as our highest priority.