Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quit First, Ask Questions Later

Update: well I never, Alan Wilson has written a piece entitled 'Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix' for the Grauniad (Ht Thinking Anglicans). This may look like a co-ordinated Anglican message, but trust me, it isn't.

Hazel Blears has been doing some thinking since last week. She now wishes she’d done the thinking before her triple-whammy of the Observer article, the resignation and the brooch, but the horse - or possibly the chipmunk - has bolted.

Withoutapauseoranyspacesit’sveryhardtomakesenseofthings. High-speed, 24-hour culture has plenty of adrenaline, but not (Aside - tried to just have a long space in that gap but nether Blogger nor Wordpress would let me. Even our blog software can’t stand space) We shoot first and ask questions later, but corpses don’t give great answers - something Blears is discovering as she fights to salvage her political career.

Here’s the dilemma: if we don’t get instant answers to problems and issues then that’s ‘dithering’. But often the best answers come after a bit of time to think, consult and plan. Gordon Browns notorious Youtube video was a classic example of feeling a need to DO SOMETHING, and botching it. Brown is a naturally long-term man trapped in a short-term system, and finding it doesn’t suit him.

We can’t have it both ways. We naturally expect everything ‘now’, but if we want swift, decisive action from the government, church, banks, etc., then it’s less likely (unless the need is screamingly urgent), that they’ll get it right.

The quality of our politics, leadership, and national life requires that government and agencies be given time to think things through. This fights against our culture of the instant. Any government which gives the people what they want won’t be giving us what we need.

Repenting at leisure is all very well, but it’s better not to sin in the first place. 24-7 culture struggles to find the time to make quality choices. The ancient tradition of Sabbath - rest for yourself and for your workers - built in time every week to take stock and step back. A culture without this has lost its Pause button, and that’s not good.

this is a cross post from Touching Base, a weekly column at the Wardman Wire.


  1. I'll stay off the political stuff and stick to the concept of the Sabbath. I think you're on something.

    I've started to implement Getting Things Done and that contains a weekly review which is exactly that. It's an hour or two (as a concession to the modern world you can't take a whole day over it) to look over where you are, take stock, realign what you are doing compared to what you think you should be doing. It's too easy to get onto a track of just doing stuff without really thinking if it's helping.

    By the way, on the issue of multiple       spaces. You need to use non breaking spaces. & nbsp; (close the space after the &)

  2. Hopeless geek comment on your aside. HTML can't do space, not the software. It needs a hack.

    Okay, I missed the point and chased the red herring!

  3. Getting Things Done sounds a bit like Stephen Covey's Quadrant 2 time, where he suggests spending some time each week/month planning in the important things, so that you 'get the big rocks in first', to use his famous illustration.

    The geek shall inherit the earth.

  4. Like the beatitude.

    I'm also looking at GTD and have found some good software (the Hit List) to help.

  5. David - I did try seven habits, it's too full on for me, GTD allows me the freedom to let things get out of control sometimes because there's a way of reeling it all back in.

    Doug - Oddly enough, I task capture on paper most of the time then just email myself to drag that task into a folder.

    Paper doesn't need any boot up time and I like the physical throwing the paper in the bin once I've got the task in my action list or tickler file.

    If I don't have my notebook with me (very rare) I'll voice record the task onto my phone and email that to myself. I'm going to put some GTD stuff onto my blog because it is completely life-changing.

  6. When I got my Wednesday off from work (unpaid, of course) everyone said "oh so you'll be able to do more at the church then".

    Nice 20-mile bike ride this Wednesday. You need a Sabbath. Even when it's mid-week.

  7. "Brown is a naturally long-term man trapped in a short-term system, and finding it doesn’t suit him." That seems both true and charitable, and therefore a vast improvement on most commentary about him which manages to be neither.

  8. Sam - if Christians can't be true and charitable then we really are in trouble.