Justice, And Only Justice.
In an organisation based on power, authority and control, staff concerns and problems are presented to managers. These managers consider the issues, weigh the facts, and make a decision on behalf of those who report to them.
In my dream organisation it works differently.
Managers are committed to creating opportunities for their staff to make their own decisions, and to take control of their own problems. So they act more as coaches than as decision makers.
Such manager-coaches don’t say, “What’s your problem, let me fix it for you?”
They say “What’s your problem, how can you fix it?”
The role of the manager-coach is to ensure that staff have the right information and resources. So they can decide for themselves.
I have discovered that a lot of people around World Vision Australia understand this very well.
Many managers do act in this way.
But sometimes we seem to be confused.
I guess it is the natural consequence of change. We are an in-between organisation. We are sometimes controlling. We are sometimes empowering.
Take the Justice Studies for example.
The idea of involving all staff in discussing justice is a good sign of an organisation that wants to empower its people.
The outcomes of the justice studies have been widely shared and discussed at all levels of the organisation.
The executive team, for example, has discussed the studies often, formally and informally, in meetings, and by e-mail.
I know lots of other groups have done the same.
The justice studies led us to talk about justice mostly in terms of working conditions. This may be a commentary on whether we are fully engaged in our ministry of empowering our two customers on a journey of transformation. For, while working conditions is a valid and important area of concern for us, we need to place it alongside the other justice issues at the core of our ministry.
But to get back to the point.
One question, more than any other, reveals how schizophrenic we still are. We have asked, “When is the chief executive (or the executive team) going to respond to the Justice Studies?”
When I first was asked this question I was actually a bit taken aback.
“I am responding,” I said. I was a bit offended.
“How?” my questioner pressed on bravely.
“By encouraging people at all levels to work on these issues.”
“But you should make a clear statement about these issues,” she said.
“It won’t do any good.”
“Yes, it will. Philip, if you just say the word, people will fall in line.”
Sorry, folks. I’m not going to manage like this. You are not going to get commands from the cathedral. I am not God (not even with a small g).
Some may be amazed to know that some of the issues raised in the justice studies were already a matter of policy.
The commands had already been issued. Some of them years ago.
For example, ever since I have been chief executive it has been official World Vision policy to have flexible working hours.
Yet it still comes up in the justice studies. Why?
Because it is not enough for me to say it. Unless, of course, we want to become the kind of organisation in which we try to make things happen only through executive power.
I believe I am playing my part in responding to the justice studies. I have responded personally to any person who has spoken to me on any issue.
But the real work is being done by us together. The staff manual review group is a good example. Here a group of staff has wrestled with the issues and worked at shaping a better organisation that represents our common work, our shared values and our mutual participation in ministry.
Let us all respond for Justice’ sake.