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  • Writer's pictureDr. Neal Nybo

Technical and adaptive challenges in church: from Shut Tight

“Puddle” problems tend to be more technical in nature. According to Ronald A. Heifetz and Martin Linsky, technical problems are the kinds of issues that people face on a regular basis for which they have known solutions.[2] For example, needing to lose five pounds put on over the holidays is a technical challenge with known solutions. To lose weight, one eats less and exercises more to burn more calories than one consumes. Technical problems arise in churches all the time. For instance, the Sunday school director does not have enough volunteers. The known solution is that an announcement for more volunteers needs to be made in worship services. In extreme cases, perhaps a sermon series on service is needed. When more ecumenical technical challenges arise—perhaps a pastor resigns or non-members wish to have their infant baptized—the BOO can be relied on to provide standard operating procedures to address such situations.

Adaptive problems are those that cannot be addressed by authoritative decisions, such as those provided by the BOO. Adaptive problems require those involved to internalize a change before the problem can be resolved. In the case of being overweight, it may be that depression leading to an inactive lifestyle has contributed to the condition. A technical change like walking upstairs at work instead of taking the elevator will not solve the adaptive problem. An adaptive solution would be for the individual to internalize the change from inactive to active. The solution would require recognizing the need for help, perhaps seeking therapy, and altering the primary response to the systemic challenge (the depression). In this way, facing adaptive challenges will “require experiments, new discoveries, and adjustments from numerous places in the organization or community.”

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