Blameless Autopsy, Get To Your Desired Destination With These Three Steps

Blameless Autopsy, Get To Your Desired Destination With These Three Steps

Last week was the Orange Conference in Duluth, GA. Only 8000 of the greatest minds; kid, student and family advocates learning, networking and gathering for One Voice. What can we do when we’re united and working together?! So. Much. More!

I had the honor of speaking at one of the many break-out sessions this year on the topic of Creating a Comprehensive Plan from Birth to College. Seriously, a light topic for 60 minutes… where do you even begin? You begin at the bottom and work your way up. One of the steps I took us through is called a “Blameless Autopsy”.  An exercise of discovery and evaluation to determine where we are and if our current direction will take us to our desired destination. Here are some practical steps to take your team through a blameless autopsy:

1) Take off your hat
Check your leadership hat, your ministry hat, your territory and your ownership hat at the door and seek to face the brutal realities of where you are in order to get to where you want to go. This means being willing to look under the hood and do the diagnostics without emotion, blame and/or defensiveness for the sake of reaching our goals in great ways.

2) Lead with Questions, not answers
This comes straight out of Jim Collins book, Good to Great (here’s the link: Ask the questions that are keeping you up at night. Ask your team what questions are keeping them up at night. Ask what each team member what their biggest dreams are. Then ask where you are as a team to reach those goals and make those dreams become a reality. Questions help us gain understanding, plain and simple. This doesn’t mean coming up with the answers and motivating everyone to follow to your desired end-in-mind. “It means having the humility to grasp the fact that you do not yet understand enough to have the answers and then to ask the questions that will lead to the best possible insights.”

3) Create a Culture of Trust and Safety
When we allow people to speak truth without getting all bunched-up, we create a culture where people can engage in spirited debate without fear of rejection, demoralization or in the worse case, loss of your job. In our marriage, my husband John and I call this “intense fellowship”. We can disagree, debate and wrestle a topic and still love and like each other. As the leader of an organization, we set the tone for this. Lean in with the curiosity of a scientist and allow everyone to be curious also. It will be up to you to guard this process and help everyone around the table to remain curious and de-escalate when needed.

Jim Collins states, “All good-to-great companies began the process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts of their current reality.” In leading ministry teams, I like to use some tools as we’re diving into the Blameless Autopsy:

  • The Orange Leaders Handbook (here’s the link:  This is a great guide if you’re leading a NextGen or Family Ministry team or if you’re in the beginning stages of assessing where you are with a NextGen strategy.  I literally use it to lead our team in grading each of the Five Essentials of the strategy.
  • The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni (link:  Regardless of what your organization is this book will help you create clarity through the Four Disciplines Model.  You’ll end this by creating a playbook that your entire team can run their plays by, it’s brilliant and highly recommended.

This method of discovery has worked very well in the organizations that I’ve led over the years.  It can actually be a really fun process as you seek to elevate your impact and strengthen your vision.  I’d love to hear from you about what methods you use in discovery and evaluation.  Leave a comment below!


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