Overcoming Organizational Silos as Steward Leaders #1: Going it Alone

Posted by Matthew Thomas

In his “A Stewardship Manifest: A Call to Action,” pages 7 - 8, Design Group International CEO Mark L. Vincent describes three ways in which we work to the detriment of our stewardship goals for our organizations. The first of these ways is “We foster independence rather than interdependence.”

matthew-thomas-2This can be true of businesses and non-profits as well as churches. Whenever we believe we can do better without everyone else, and that it’s better just to do it ourselves, we will find that our enterprise becomes significantly weaker. There are very few true monopolies in the world: most enterprises have to work with others outside of themselves in order to make their business thrive.

Businesses are often better collaborators than churches and non-profits because they know that they have to collaborate with suppliers, vendors, ad agencies, governments and the general public to survive, thrive and grow. Ironically, it is more typical that churches and non-profits often want to go it alone.

In what ways does this appear?

  1. No gifts, grants or collaborative funds that go toward local organizations with similar vision, values, focus and delivery. Often, for instance, churches give money to overseas and national-level missions, but only marginally support local mission work. If they do support local work, they do so by supporting local non-ecclesial charities.
  2. A local non-profit entirely or nearly entirely dependent on grants and donations for its income spends every last penny on its own programs and staff, and fights with other non-profits or government agencies competing for the same kinds of funding.
  3. A small group of people creates a new non-profit to promote a cause for which they have nowhere near the capacity to really manage, even though other more well-funded non-profits with similar or overlapping purposes exist, just because they want to run it themselves.
  4. A new start-up finds early success and builds upon this success to create a platform for solving a social ill or becoming the go-to church. They then begin to speak negatively of existing, long-standing organizations in the community, since those others are not demonstrating the same level of success they themselves were currently experiencing - as measured by the start-up. Resentments start to brew.

See "Two Aha Moments in Economic Redevelopment" on the need to emphasize the positive aspects of development.

One way for steward leaders to counteract number 1 above would be to find ways to support the work of the church that is your church’s closest neighbor – no matter the denomination or affiliation. Find ways of supporting the work that you can (or should) do together in your community. The same goes for charitable non-profits.

One way to counteract number 2 above would be to design a budget that pays forward a certain percentage of the annual revenues to other organizations in the community with similar or overlapping purposes in an effort to foster collaboration on problems that cannot be solved by one group working alone.

One way to counteract number 3 above would be for those who are passionate about the cause to find an existing group with whom they could partner to raise funds and develop solutions to the social ill they are trying to solve. Then they don’t have to have their own small, struggling non-profit while still making progress toward their cause.

One way to counteract number 4 above would be for the new start-up to use their success platform to elevate what is good about the existing organizations around them and publicize it. Moreover, when working in the community, invite other entities along in a way that allows them to collaborate with dignity.

What silos do you see? In what ways do you attempt to go it alone? What options do you have for collaboration? 

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Topics: steward leader, collaboration, silos