Can you imagine how difficult it would be for Jesus to call his disciples today? They’d have to pass a background check, which I’m pretty sure Simon the Zealot would fail. They’d also need to go through an assessment and a multi-tiered interview process. The idea of building a team by calling out to a couple of blue-collar guys, “Hey, come follow me” seems rather naive and even dangerous today. We’ve got a system for that. I wonder if Jesus looks at the complexity we’ve built into following his call and wonders what in the world we’re thinking.
This isn’t a rant against systems and procedures, every lasting institution the world has ever seen eventually creates structure. The challenge I’m running into is when the process erodes the principles the organization was originally built on.
I’m dealing now with a great organization I have interacted with from their beginning. In the early days everything was done on the basis of a relationship and a handshake. This informal, highly connected culture was the heart of the organization and made it very attractive. As the organization grew layers and layers of processes, procedures and programs eventually buried the culture. Now, if you want a relationship and a handshake, you need to fill out all the right forms, attend all the right meetings and jump through all the right hoops. The process has shaped the culture rather than the culture shaping the process.
At the other end of the spectrum is Apple. Four years after the death of their visionary leader they are now the most valuable company in the world, and continue to grow year after year. In almost every interaction with Apple the principles that drove Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to found the company in 1976 still come through. They build insanely great products sold by incredibly well-informed staff through almost frictionless sales channels. From the first Mac, to the first iPod to the greatly anticipated Apple Watch the experience stays the same.
Is your church, business or non-profit still operating on the same principles it was founded on? Does your culture shape your process, or is your culture held hostage by your process? In the midst of the forms, interviews and procedures is there still a warm relationship and a strong handshake? Does your organization have a heart, or is it simply an institution?