Monday, 15 October 2012

Not so Handy was Handy with his Handiwork

First of all the Church in Wales realised that it is collapsing. It brought in (amongst some others) Charles Handy, the business guru, to recommend that the Church shrink itself rapidly.

Yet there are still simply too many carpet warehouses in Wales that started off as chapels. There are too many houses that were originally churches. There is no way of selling any of them off any more. The Methodists, the URC, the Baptists, are in general collapsing just as rapidly. It seems all the Churches in Wales (except Roman Catholics) need to fall in to each other together.

Let's look at some of the metaphors of Charles Handy and try to apply them...
Has he been a little too restrained with his own picture-book icons when applied to Church life?

For example, is the Church a follower of the God Zeus, being a power organisation, or Apollo, for maintenance of a system, or Athena, built around tasks, or Dionysus, encouraging the self-orientated individual? In the latter members choose to be members and upsets power control mechanisms in the culture of propriety. He prefers the latter Dionysus after the culture of specialisation and differentiation has come to a dead end.

The problem is people are choosing not to be members at all. The solution for the Church in Wales is maintenance via reduction; the solution of the Churches is back to structural ecumenism where all ministers are available to everyone, all bishops for everyone. It's like an illusion of growth to each denomination, but actually a massive contraction. Inevitably repetition of plant and machinery will be obvious, and places will close.

Handy promotes the Shamrock organisation, which involves a core of qualified professionals, technicians and managers on one leaf, subcontractors on another and part time with temporary workers on another. The core people are the salaried professionals etc. but the core has been reduced down by every successful organisation. Contractors are paid by results and the flexible workers need better treatment and training, he says. So who are those in the three leaves of the Churches today? Presumably the Churches need a core staff of ministers and officials, but as many come in on contract as can, and the laity are the flexible ins and outs folks who know their place - but who ought to receive training and recognition for commitment.

The doughnut principle is an inverted doughnut, the core being all that must be done in the job so it does not fail, whereas what is around it is all the things that can be done to make a difference. Organisations too have a necessary core of must dos in order not to fail, surrounded by flexible space and contracts. This seems similar to one leaf being of core people but this time in terms of essentials to do with negative consequences in not doing them. So what are the necessaries of Church life: presumably, holding services and maintaining/ providing places to meet.

His trinitarian thinking is of liberty, equality, and fraternity, a kuind of underlining humanism.  Change has to be handled before it is forced, rather as in a product cycle curve - but now ecumenism is being forced. Then he has nine paradoxes (Buddhism?).

Paradox 1: Intelligence is a new form of property, so who actually owns the business? Who are the haves and have-nots?

This raises the question of theological education and all managerial skills and whether the core people are such if others are required.

Paradox 2: Enforced idleness follows on from efficiency.

The more the core people do and arrange to get done, the more time they can generate for themselves (e.g. for study).

Paradox 3: People displaced from organisations do more work - a DIY economy of invisible work.

In other words, a Church shakes out people and then relies on volunteers, that so much gets done that is not noted down.

Paradox 4: Lots of time is available, but we never seem to have enough time.

Thus the stipend and then time to serve others gets filled up with tasks.

Paradox 5: Rich populations in developed countries, that can afford to buy, are shrinking - thus needing to invest in international competitors until they become rich enough to buy.

This is like the West is confident in its ideas and humanity and has no need of Churches, who have to generate positive notions of confidence and humanity elsewhere.

Paradox 6: Large organisations need to reconcile differences where once characteristics of one side or the other were a choice of a way forward.

The days of the party Church are over when an organisation has to preserve what is left of itself. Evangelicals may be arrogant of their self-sufficiency, but the decline is throughout and even growth is found in small patches. Indeed, it is with the most apparent flexible denominations that growth is seen; the old core is dying regardless.

Paradox 7: This generation is different from predecessors' it thinks, but the future ones are seen as the same. But conventional jobs are shrinking and education may even have to become indefinite in length.

Here we are now is definitely not how it was, and how it will be will not be like it is now. The idea that 'it's stabilising' now simply is not true. Nothing needs to bottom out.

Paradox 8: There is more individual expression encouraged for today but organisations need teamwork.

Churches stifle creativity. There should be lots of it, in the words spoken and music chosen, but actually the sameness of it all is like a past era out of place. The language is feudal, the theology monarchic; the music regimented.

Paradox 9: You want justice for yourself but the other may be imposed. Greed motivates but is a difference - one cannot avoid the other.

The golden thread of most major religions is necessary here, perhaps.

Handy predicted the portfolio career as standard, the person with the CV and transferable skills. So that would mean a travelling Church, light-footed.

The Unitarians would not be a part of this great ecumenical necessity. It has had to learn what is necessary and what is creative, and how to be light-footed and flexible. It is becoming a pure, flat, voluntary organisation but still understands the value of trained and educated ministry (that knows the tradition, that grasps theology, and surely educational theories and sociology of religion). It has to draw on and use well historical money and that's what it manages.

A lot of what Handy has written never appeared in the Church in Wales report. Well, much of it is flowery metaphor. Plan, do, check, act is his approach to Total Quality Management, which is associated with a circle of learning. It involves taking responsibility for the future, getting a clear view into the future, determine to arrive there and believe that you can do so. But do these Churches believe in what is being imposed upon them by rapid decline?

Hellier, Robert (2001), Charles Handy: Pathfinder and Prophet of Change in the Workplace, Business Masterminds series, London: Dorling Kindersley.

No comments: