Elul: The Season of Reflection & Iterative Planning

Transitions are always a time for reflection, regrouping, and looking forward.  When a leader retires, the organization must take stock of where they are at, and what they need for the next era.  When a child starts the new school year, parents reflect on how far they’ve come and what milestones they’ll achieve this year.  My seven-year old daughter, for example, is just having that amazing reading explosion, and I’m excited to think about what books she’ll be reading independently by the end of the school year.

Fall is always a time of transition when vacations are over, school years are starting, and the weather changes.  For the Jewish community, this is a time of very serious introspection and reflection.  The High Holidays are a time of personal reflection that helps everyone think about self-improvement, and recommit to themselves, the community, and the Divine.

At Darim Online and See3 Communications we have been thinking a lot about “lean” models, “agile development”, and the empathetic “design thinking” approach.  All of these approaches — strategic, technical and creative – are based on iterations.  Try something out, evaluate how it’s going, be reflective, and iterate.  Just like in life, there’s no one finish line – it’s a constant process of growth, evolution and self-improvement.

So, at this time of seasonal transition and personal reflection, we also want to encourage you to step back professionally to appreciate what you and your team have accomplished over the past year, to reflect on what you’ve learned and how it might inform the future.  When we’re often so focused on strategy and outcomes, perhaps this is a valuable opportunity to think about your organizational culture, how you appreciate and support one another, and how you’re growing (individually and collectively) as professionals.

We know synagogues are deep in planning and logistics (and sermon writing!), so this reflection might be more practical after you've put the chairs away and cleaned the sticky honey out of the social hall carpet.  But reflection is important, and doing it as a team is an important part of being agile, iterative, and growing.

So, where to start? 

  • Check out 10Q, a project of Reboot.  Starting September 24th, they’ll send you one question per day for the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.  They’ll save your answers and share them back a year later to help you reflect on how you’ve grown.  Keep the answers private, or share with your team to get to know each other better.
  • This is a great reflection sheet from Sara Shapiro-Plevan for groups of educators based on the Jewish concept of “heshbon hanefesh” (accounting of one’s soul).
  • The Harvard Business Review has a great recorded webinar on coaching employees that you might find useful in designing a reflective process.
  • Caren Levine created this source sheet for the holidays that can be a good converastion starter.

How do you do annual personal, professional and/or team reflection?  Why is it valuable? Share with us in the comments.