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Opening times

  • Saturdays and Sundays
    8am-5pm
  • Mondays to Fridays
    8am-6pm
  • Bank Holidays
    8am-6pm
  • FREE ENTRY

Siftings: More Poetry, Less Prose

These occasional short reflections by the Very Revd. Geoff Miller, Dean of Newcastle focus on his ministry and lifetime of learning:

I think maybe that I am just getting cynical but as I get older I am developing an aversion to ‘strategy’. Don’t get me wrong I’m not against planning nor having goals that stretch. I have spent a lifetime learning how to develop plans, not just personally but in the churches where I have ministered and in the dioceses in which I have served. I think in time I have hopefully learnt a few things. Pretty straightforward and obvious things really but wow they take some putting into practice. Take the most obvious cliché: “If you aim at nothing that is what you get”. That is true, but I have come to believe a contrary dictum: “What you aim for is the best that you can get”. My world has been dominated by strategic theories that are incredibly linear. Define your aims (goals, objectives, WIGS or whatever name you want to give them), then you must articulate the steps you will take to reach them (small, realistic steps that help you measure your progress), then you can recruit your ‘early adopters’ and cascade the plan from the ‘cockpit crew’ to everyone below at every level. Their job is to win hearts and minds throughout the organisation and promote sharing in the vision that is being given to them. It all sounds reasonable but these days I am less and less sure, in fact not sure at all. Of course, even the proponents of these change programmes are not convinced, or at least accept that the evidence of the efficacy of the process is hard to find. Cotter, the Harvard change guru, tells us that some 85% of all change programmes don’t work!

Instead, the understanding that real change only comes about when people embrace, even more create, the vision and then are allowed to co-create the way it becomes a reality grows more and more crucial to my understanding. I accept that this too is not an easy route to take for any manager or leader, priest or Bishop (or in my case Dean). To let go of the power to decide the way forward and to actively share it with others takes a confident leader and leadership team. To accept that the only way forward is through imagining, dreaming and learning together, through an interactive process of meaningful conversations is a risky step. To accept that the job in hand is simply for the leader to help a community find and articulate a way forward and learn how to hold each other to task is admittedly not a fast route for change. It is a more authentic pathway and guarantees a more exhilarating (and productive) journey. In short, I have come to understand that what we need is more poets than managers, more poetry than prose.