Tag Archives: bureacracy

Organizational “Stuff”

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Future of Cru

I’m returning to my blog series called “The Future of Cru” which is essentially some of my reflections and thoughts about some of the things I see that either need to change for the future or things I see glimmers of in terms of helpful change that I think will be significant to its future.  This blog I’ll simply entitle, “Organizational Stuff.”

I love organizational “stuff.”  I read, study, and generate tons of “organizational stuff.” That means content, policies, strategy, and structures. I like it. I think I’m good at it.  And I’m in a world that’s good at it, perhaps prolific at it.  I’ve written before on the ways in which organizational structures can function in idolatrous ways and how “those who build them become like them.”   I’m not going to hate on organizational efficiency because it’s important, but it’s not the future.  It’s not what will bring about a compelling vision into contemporary reality.

Efficiency in some cases can be an idol as can be some traditions and some structures.  I see one thing in common is that all of these things can be used to control people.  And that’s not the future of any ministry or any endeavor.  So organizational stuff that lacks something else, something deeper, to give it parameters and shape is not the future.  Organizational “stuff” requires a deeper identity to it that allows you the capacity to see where and when your organizational “stuff” violates the very deep identity of what you hope to be and what you are called to.  Disconnects here are even more glaring in the ministry or church world than they would be in secular companies or organizations.

There are great tools and organizational wisdom I like…but without a greater context and identity these things can end up moving towards creating an altogether different reality and community life than what was originally hoped and what might be more true to the hidden deep identity of Christians. An example is when teams are in conflict.  I so often see organizational people so quick to make teams read Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team and work on “trusting” each other so that they could have the kind of communication needed for healthy functioning.  Sometimes it “works”.  But ministry or church teams, while benefiting from this book or others, primarily need to be reminded of who they are and what that means for how they will relate to one another. People can be told to “trust” one another all day long but if they aren’t developing an understanding of “how” to trust and “why” things like trust and vulnerability are important for deeper reasons than this kind of “team development” is just a crapshoot.

Organizational stuff gets after symptoms.  It keeps things moving.  It maintains order.  It insures ‘quality’ in some measure. It serves…the organization in many cases and the question of whether something serves actual people is something more fluid and dynamic.

It does not shape the future, though it will shape the future in the absence of intentional and identity based leadership.  What does shape the future?  Living out identity. Who we are. Who we were meant to be. What fruit we want to produce.

Tools must be used in context and consistently with identity and purpose. Otherwise we give them too much power.

So why put this in the context of my ministry organization. We’re big. We’re a behemoth organization where over time there’s just layer upon layer of “organizational stuff” that affects organizational culture and the ability to adapt and change in needed ways.

The future is not more organizational stuff.  It probably means less “stuff” and a renewed commitment to who we are and what we are wanting to see happen and the organizational identity and calling.  This doesn’t just mean “back to the basics” which sometimes is just code (and sometimes even propaganda) for just returning to the first layer of the “stuff” of a particular time and era.  It means remembering the deep identity and ultimate purpose and working through how each of those things impact how we lead in a given moment and season.

So how do you guard against “stuff” and keep your tools in context of who you are and who you must be in light of your ultimate purpose?

Don’t Wait to Create!

I reviewed a book a while back called Orbiting the Giant Hairball that was given to me by a friend this past summer.  Since then I’ve gotten no less that 20 people to read it (no joke) and I’ve had fantastic interactions over it and I’m using it in the leadership coaching group I’m starting (this week!).I thought I’d include one whole chapter from the book because it’s great.  It’s chapter 19 entitled “Orville Wright.”  Here’s the chapter in its entirety:

“Orville Wright did not have a pilot’s license.” (pg. 191)

There it is.  The whole chapter.  How great is that?  It’s amazing how the simple truth that creativity ought to be freed from bureaucracy can be expressed so concisely and with such common sense humor.Don’t wait for the bureaucracy to give you permission before you begin innovation.  At some point you may need to grease the wheels of the organizational machine, but don’t wait to create and pursue dreams!”

Responsibility and Bureaucracy

This is somewhat of a follow-up post to my post a few days ago which raised the question from Robert Greenleaf about the need to be both good and bad in some ways to enjoy life to the full and comprehend its meaning.  I didn’t get much response to that post so I’m continuing my reflections on what I think Greenleaf is going after in some of his statements.  I’m going to use a few more of Greenleaf’s quotes here – quotes that focus on responsibility.

This quote is almost too bothersome and convicting to type:

“Responsibility is a difficult thing to talk about.  it is often seen as that which others should have more of.  Few of us think of ourselves as irresponsible; the admission would be too devastating.  We all do pretty well at rationalizing our own acts of commission and omission that bear on responsibility. (Servant Leadership, 292-293)

Here’s how Greenleaf defines responsibility:

Most definitions of responsibility imply conformity with conventional expectations, conventional morality, or being deterred by consideration of known sanctions or consequences.  Such definitions imply that the rules and penalties are all set and the responsible person is one who carefully stays within bounds.  I prefer not to use the word responsibility to mean conformity to expectations (although a sensible person always does some of that).  Rather I think of responsibility as beginning with a concern for self, to receive that inward growth that gives serenity of spirit without which someone cannot truly say, “I am free.” (italics mine, 293)

What Greenleaf calls being “bad” sometimes is really is way of saying that to enjoy life and even understand and comprehend meaning in life, you sometimes need to be a non-conformist.  Sometimes you have to break the rules and go a different direction than the stream’s current.  We need to view responsibility in terms of preserving spirit and freedom and not in terms of conformity.

A culture that views responsibility (and I would add the term competence) only in terms of conformity and duty pretty much generates bureaucracy and here’s some awesome Greenleaf reflections on the damaging nature of bureaucracies:

Bureaucracy is defined as a system that has become narrow, rigid, and formal, depends on precedent, and lacks initiative and resourcefulness – a pretty bad state of affairs.  It is the feet of clay that seem to encumber everything that is organized.  As I see it, this is the way all institutions tend to become as they grow old, large, or respectable……..They may do some good in the world; in fact, they are all we have.  But they still tend to become bureaucracies–given size, age, and respectability.  Because we need the good they do, we tend to overlook the harm done because they are bureaucracies. (294)

What kind of responsibility do you nurture in your own context and environment?

Do you agree with Greenleaf?  How do you avoid perpetuating bureaucracy?