The “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is a common saying suggesting that we can accomplish more when working together than working individually, even if we’re working toward a common purpose. However, this is only true for an organization when the various aspects are fully integrated with one another. Over the past few months we’ve been exploring various parts of the “bigger picture” of our approach to theological education and how each makes a vital contribution to the whole enterprise.
As a catalyst for discipleship, our primary interaction is with students in their own spiritual and educational journeys. Many of the items below exist almost “behind the scenes” and go unnoticed by many who only think of Winebrenner as a school or seminary that provides education. However, it’s becoming more and more evident that providing affordable access to the education we provide is growing in importance. Therefore, this is intended to make some of the element that may seem invisible visible.
The following six aspects of organizational life provide a way to integrate the elements from this conversation into previous InDepth discussions. The goal is to provide greater clarity for how we are approaching theological education as well as providing some areas for next steps and additional attention.
First, an organization needs to have a clear foundation which is found in mission, vision, culture and strategy. You can read more related to this by clicking on the following:
Kingdom Transformation (Vision)
Second, in order to fulfill the unique mission it’s important to be attentive to the roles people serve within the particular structure of the organization (or, as Jim Collins writes in Good to Great, it’s imperative to have the right people in the right seats on the bus). You can read more at the following:
God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: Reorganizing for Mission (organizational structure)
On the Path Toward Financial Sustainability (an example of a process to align people with roles)
Third, it’s helpful to provide direction and accountability for the work that is being carried out in an organization through some form of “scorecard” or “dashboard. This data helps clarify and direct the activities of those who working to fulfil the mission. You can read more about efforts to develop a dashboard at Winebrenner by clicking on the following:
Fourth, it’s highly likely that questions and concerns will emerge that will require organizational spaces for honest discussion and clarification. The following provides some insight into how Winebrenner approaches this topic:
Fifth, new activities and collaborative relationships often require new types of decisions. However, organizations often get caught in a cycle in which each decision-making process can feel like a first-time experience, even when it’s a repeated decision point! This element emphasizes the importance of developing processes for those activities that are repeated and require interaction between colleagues. The following provides an example of a process designed to better align employees with the roles they serve within:
Sixth, finding the best rhythm to build momentum becomes a major next step. In most organizations this means maximizing organizational gatherings and meetings to accomplish the items listed above. Winebrenner has a combination of a weekly check-in, monthly administrative and/or faculty meetings, and quarterly off-site meetings. This loosely follows the framework suggested by Patrick Lencioni in Death by Meeting. Regardless of the actual schedule of meetings, they need to be forums for identifying, discussing, and solving various problems and opportunities.
When combined effectively and efficiently, these six items can lead to an effective operating system for an organization like Winebrenner Theological Seminary. If you are interested in gaining more insight into how these six items work together is Gino Wickman’s book Traction.
We are continually organizing and re-organizing around mission and strategy. I have found these six elements to be a helpful way to integrate the various aspects of our work at Winebrenner.
- Brent C. Sleasman, President