Every organization has a spirit, a life source, an origin, a reputation, a purpose, which made it famous or successful. The sense of serving the spirit of an organization does not just apply to “Christian” ministries, but ultimately to every organization and, in fact, nation. Understanding and recognizing the spirit is essential to the administrator if they are to fully serve their organization. In some instances, the spirit of an organization is very obvious. Yet, even then it can be obscured and forgotten under the pressure and weight of managing the structure rather than the purpose. Quite simply put, busyness (business) takes over.
Even this can become a badge of honor for some to wear as they proclaim how busy they are despite the fact that they have lost sight of the purpose.
Overbearing and misdirected administration will impede, mask, and even destroy the spirit of an organization. Everyone involved in the business or administrative work of a hospital, for instance, needs to have in their sight the vision and mission of the organization. Without this, the workers will become disconnected from the purpose, and apart from the effect this has on the organization, they will not have a sense of worth attached to what they do. That sense of worth is an essential motivational force for every worker in every organization. Not only will the individual suffer without it, but the mission of the organization will also suffer. What that person does at their desk will become the goal, achieving their tasks rather than serving the spirit of the organization, which in the case of a hospital, is health. It is hard to believe that a hospital or healthcare system can forget why it exists, but certainly aspects of it can adopt a “Jobsworth” mentality and be weighed down by administrative bureaucracy.
It is the danger and fear of administrators creating bureaucracy that has contributed to the negative reputation of administration and its related disciplines. The answer, as you well know, is not to reject the gift of administration, but to redeem it, to inject it with value and purpose.
Whatever births an organization must be kept alive, and not just alive, but reviewed and kept in view. It must be regularly “re- viewed”. This is one of the roles of management. The focus of managers and their systems and structures is to serve the vision and mission. Over time, particularly in growing organizations, there will be an increased need to manage what was birthed out of vision, opportunity, or even just good fortune. This is a crucial moment in every organization as the increased need for systems and structures is identified. If this stage is not stewarded with an awareness of the spirit and purpose of the organization it can begin the journey to what the sociologists call the routinization of revival, and it doesn’t just apply to a Christian revival. The routinization of revival refers to the routinization of any birth or re- birth of a product or service. This occurs when the passion that created an organization loses ground to the daily routines, rather than the organization thriving with continual reviewing of itself in the light of vision and purpose.
In the world of church leadership it has become popular of late to hear leaders say that they don’t want to “do church.” They are looking for something different. Invariably, what they are say- ing is that they don’t want to run programs for the sake of running programs. They want to get back to what started their church in the first place. The programs grew out of the need to serve the people, but then the programs become an end in themselves. There is great validity in this concern, but the answer is not to stop doing church. The answer is to rediscover that life- flow of the church and revive the swamp into a vibrant life-filled river with other streams and rivers flowing together.
Understanding the spirit of an organization must be in the toolbox of every leader. The increased need for the management consultant and the prevalence of workshops and trainings to help discover vision, mission, and core values is evidence of this. But however successful these events are, they need to become a part of the daily life of everyone in the organization. There are a number of other phrases that organizations use to describe what I’ve been calling “spirit.” One of them is the term “DNA.” It is a useful term and contains with it the sense of passing from one generation to the next.
One aspect of using this language in an organization that I particularly like is that scientifically the DNA is a marker that remains forever. This is also true of organizations. Even if the DNA of an organization is almost completely obscured, it can be rediscovered and its power restored. I believe that the original revival culture and purposes that permeated the Wesleyan movement—now Methodist church or the Salvation Army—are there to be reclaimed for the movements of today.
This role of not just serving the spirit, but rediscovering the obscured, lost, or forgotten spirits of organizations, is work that belongs in part to those with the gift of administration. Many organizations that have lost sight of their spirit or DNA can be described as having form but no power. If we look back at the leadership aspect of administration, we can see how organizations find themselves in this position. Steering (leading) an organization requires a vision, and a vision must always serve the mission. The spirit of an organization is the “Why?” of the organization. In other words, it is the mission. The very reason it or we exist or are alive.