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What in God's name is Going On Here?

Posted: August 28, 2015 by Rob Voyle

One of the things I am most consistently asked for is an "Appreciative Alternative" for performance appraisals and mutual ministry review processes.

The request invariably is asked following a review that has been distressing and lead to poor performance rather than to improved motivation and performance. The worst example I have dealt with was treating a pastor for PTSD following a well-intentioned but highly abusive performance appraisal.

Within the Episcopal church we have gone from performance reviews to a process called Mutual Ministry Review (MMR), sometimes to good effect and at other times they are conducted much like a performance appraisal and the outcomes worthless and in some cases downright diabolical.

When asked for a review process my first response is to explore two questions:

Why do you want to do a review?
What is the underlying culture of the organization?

From my perspective, the only reason to conduct a review is to create a better future. But most reviews are so focused on the past that the future is ignored. People repeatedly tell me: "the person being reviewed needs to know how they are failing." My response is: "no, they need to know how to succeed!"

The underlying organizational culture is critical when conducting any form of review and future planning. If the culture is adversarial and/or punitive any review process, whether appreciative or otherwise, will be used to punish which will further degrade rather than improve future performance.
If the system is conflicted, forgiveness, reconciliation, and collaborative team building is required and not performance review. My great sadness about our congregations is that organizational forgiveness and reconciliation are often in extremely short supply.

The alternative to an adversarial system is a collaborative learning system, where the commitment is to learn how to do things better and to create a preferred future. Love replaces fear and curiosity replaces contempt.

So back to Mutual Ministry Reviews. My preference is to call them Mutual Ministry Valuations because I want to move from simply reviewing the past to valuing and grow what was valuable in our ministry.

But before we do that we need to define ministry. What is Ministry? Do we have a mutual understanding of what ministry is? In many situations when I ask for a working definition of ministry it is clear that the people do not have a mutual understanding of what it is that they will be reviewing or valuing.

Here is my definition of ministry: "ministry is joining with God in what God is already doing." So the first part of any review is to discover what God is doing and then we can ask how are we doing in joining God in doing that? Its about really discovering "What in God's name is going on here?" This shifts the review/valuing process from simply reflecting on human performance to spiritual discovery.

You can find a more detailed version of the MMV process at:
MMV Process.

I have also posted a parable:
Parable of What Not to do and What to Do When Creating Cultures of Excellence that describes the problem of review processes and an alternative.

I have also converted my in-person Mutual Ministry Valuation training program to an online webinar. For details and registration please see:
Mutual Ministry Valuation Webinar

I wish you great blessing as you discover what God is up to in your world and ponder how you can join God in doing more of that.

Rob Voyle
Director of the Clergy Leadership Institute.

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
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  • Healing: I create opportunities for people to experience transformational insights that lead to new ways of living, working, and being in the world.

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