Vineet Nayar in a Harvard Business publication says It’s Time to Invert the Management Pyramid, which Ryan Bolger follows up by saying We Must Invert the Pastor Pyramid. I’m not really very big on chasing down business strategies to apply to the church, but it’s always striking to notice how all the really good organizational ideas that the churches adopt are ones which the business realm has had a grasp on for a decade or more. With this in mind, whether one takes the result as a prescription or not, it is instructive to take note when the business realm begins to find fault with their old organizational method and begins imagining or suggesting an alternative structure. The Harvard article states,

I’m talking about the brand new dinosaur on the block – the classical management pyramid. Time has come to dismantle it and adapt to a new evolutionary and unstructured model that leverages the team effect to ensure that companies can lead change rather play catch up or be left behind.

…The management pyramid, as we know it, began to take shape around the early 1900s. There were two important factors that influenced the classical (traditional) management school of thought: The Industrial Revolution and the World Wars.

The Industrial Revolution brought along with it the problem of management and the Wars brought with them the solution. In every war there was the General, the man who controlled and commanded. He had ‘managers’ who reported to him; these managers in turn had several ‘assistant managers’ who reported to them, and the whole configuration went on to make the traditional organizational structure, or the Management Pyramid.

Most churches should be able to recognize this pattern in their leadership structure in some fashion. And it’s time for a change…

Change, then, is the order of the day. And, when change sets in, this pyramid will get deconstructed. The ‘Me’ command will turn into the ‘We’ control. The focus will be on collaborative success, not on individual glory. The thrust will not be on one-stop command, but on a flexible, seamless workplace.

Yes, the traditional pyramid management structure needs some unstructuring. Flexibility is the key to survival in the 21st century, and organizational structure is no exception. It needs to be open to change, to take any shape that’s best suited to the organization.

Leadership would do well to shun the ‘Me’ approach and deregulate, decentralize and transfer a substantial part of the organizational control to the frontline.

Are the implications for church “leadership” becoming apparent yet? Here are a few hints:
    • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
    • Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
    • The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
    • Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

Ryan Bolger redirects the observation.

In our churches, similar changes have occurred. We’ve inherited management structures that were introduced to our tradition fifty or more years ago. In our day-to-day lives together as a church community, we assume a command/control structure is the way to get things done. However, the culture has moved on — one person cannot, within their person, have all the tools to direct an organization in an informed and intelligent manner. Likewise, our churches falter when it is the pastor who is assumed to do most of the ministry and leading. It does not need to be this way. Within most church traditions, appeals can be made to move towards a collective priesthood, one where a variety of gifts might lead and inspire the community at different levels. The pastor must shift his/her role towards one that creates space for the people to take center stage.

He’s right to ask if we have the humility to step aside for this, and I think there’s probably an alarmingly small number who are. More often, one tends to see leaders talking about the “next generation” who won’t seek prominence, yet the leaders proclaiming this fail to lead this way by example and don’t yield their place to the new type of leader that they say God is raising up. Meanwhile, this new type of leader isn’t waiting for permission, they’re just going and doing, finding new tribes and decentralized networks and doing their thing.

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