From What Matters Now, by Gary Hamel:
In the first and second centuries, the Christian church was communal, organic, and unstructured – a lot like the Web today. Within the Roman Empire, the Christian church grew from a handful of believers in AD 40 to over 31 million adherents by AD 350, making it the world’s first viral organization. By contrast, today’s mainline churches are institutionally powerful, but spiritually weak.
What’s true for churches is true for other institutions: the more “organized” and tightly “managed” they are, the less adaptable they are. Not surprisingly, the most resilient thing on the planet, the Web, is loosely organized and lightly managed, and so was the first century Christian Church. The lesson here? To thrive in turbulent times, organizations must become more disorganized and unmanaged – less structural, less hierarchical, and less routinized.
As institutions mature, the positive thrust of missions diminishes and the pull of habit strengthens – until one day, the organization can no longer escape the gravitational field of its own legacy.
No pastor would ever tell you that the goal of his or her church is to create a place where members can gather each week to be expertly entertained while congratulating themselves on their moral superiority. And yet this often seems to be the case.
Speaking to the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit a few years ago, Hamel asked the crowd “Is there a difference between ‘doing church’ and ‘doing Jesus’?”
Following a positive response, he then asked, “So where do your loyalties lie? Is it with the mission of redemption and reconciliation, or with the traditional programs and policies of your church? And if it’s the first, how would people know? What would be the evidence? Wouldn’t it be your willingness to sacrifice some of these familiar practices on the altar of a bigger purpose?”
I’ve never met a leader who swears allegiance to the status quo, and yet few organizations seem capable of proactive change.
It’s impossible to build adaptable organizations without adaptable people – individuals who are humble, honest, and inspired.
Are you adaptable?