Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Easter Denomination Part II: Agile Enterprise vs. Traditional Bureaucratic Model

While my typical "lead card" would be to go with either Scripture, tradition, or my experiences that have worked well I'm intrigued by an article I stumbled upon while looking for something else on the internet. I think this concept has application to denomination, church, and clergy in the current context of ministry.

Do you know about an Agile Enterprise?

While there are problems with imposing a business model upon the institutional church the concept does help me realize that many of the current denominational models were built on industrial era approaches to management. Of course, now you overlay life in the information era and many who either have prejudice against institutions or have no experience or perceived need for religion and the number of significant issues most denominations are facing is apparent. I find many elements of Agile Enterprise to be more reflective of what the church and the Church should be.

Forgive the extensive copy & paste, but I like the whole article which you'll find below. I have bolded a few concepts that catch my attention for current denominational church work. Here's the link if you are interested at Agile Enterprise

"The traditional bureaucratic model is exemplified by Scientific Management, which was developed during the Industrial Era for use in conditions that were easily measured, controlled, and replicated. It is characterized by routine, streamlined work and close supervision of workers who have clearly defined responsibilities. Mass production, which is characterized by centralized hierarchy, standardized product designs, and specialization of labor, is typical of a bureaucratic organization. During the Information era, however, rapid technological changes, extensive globalization, and intensive competition have created significant pressures on organizations. The Agile Enterprise is an appropriate alternative to the bureaucratic model under these conditions. The Agile Enterprise uses concepts from complexity science, which is based on the assumption that relationships between actors are autonomous and continuous. The result is self-organizing emergence, or the spontaneous formation of constantly evolving work teams, that produces novel products, services, or solutions through iterative and incremental development. The Agile Enterprise relies on the ability of its participants to rapidly evaluate feedback and new information, to continuously learn, and to morph and evolve as needed, often spontaneously."

"An Agile Enterprise is a fast moving, flexible and robust firm capable of rapid and cost efficient response to unexpected challenges, events, and opportunities. Built on policies and processes that facilitate speed and change, it aims to achieve continuous competitive advantage in serving its customers. Agile enterprises use diffused authority and flat organizational structure to speed up information flows among different departments, and develop close, trust-based relationships with their customers and suppliers."

"The Agile Enterprise focuses on (often dramatically) improving its 'front office' and 'mid office' processes, i.e. those processes which are directly or indirectly customer facing, and help the enterprise to move its products and services, and associated information flows, efficiently, effectively, and as quickly as possible."

"'Agility' in this context, could be defined as the sum of "Flexibility + Visibility + Responsiveness" - and the whole being greater than the sum of the parts."

"For an organization to achieve marketplace agility, it must be organized in a way that supports continuous change. External adaptability derives primarily from a self-organizing workforce. A Self-organizing workforce requires employees to assume multiple roles, improvise, spontaneously collaborate, and rapidly redeploy from one work team to another and another, while simultaneously learning from and teaching their peers. For this type of organization to succeed, its employees must be open to new ideas and be able to collaborate with others to accomplish shared goals."

Characteristics of an agile enterprise
"In their book The Starfish And the Spider[1] by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom describe several characteristics of a starfish organization, a term they use as a metaphor for an Agile Enterprise because of the starfish’s ability to adapt to trauma by rapidly regenerating lost limbs. Separated limbs are capable of returning to health and surviving on their own, much like autonomous work teams in an Agile Enterprise. (These authors use the term spider as a metaphor for bureaucracy because a spider’s body is controlled by a central nervous system and cannot survive severe trauma, much like a bureaucracy that is dependent on top level management to make all major decisions.) Brafman and Beckstrom offer several characteristics of a starfish organization that are consistent with views of the Agile Enterprise. Some of these can be summarized as follows:

1. Projects are generated everywhere in the organization, and many times even from outside affiliates.
2. No one is in control; thump it on the head and it still survives.
3. If you take out a unit, the overall organization quickly recovers.
4. Participants function autonomously, which facilitates workforce scalability.
5. Roles are amorphous and ever-changing; tasks are performed on an “as needed” basis.
6. Knowledge and power are distributed; intelligence is spread throughout the organization.
7. Working groups communicate directly, not hierarchically.
8. Key decisions are made collaboratively, on the spot and on the fly."

Sound like a church/Church/clergy that would work well today? What does this say in response to the current UMC constitutional amendments under discussion?

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