Why do companies fail–why do churches fail?

Megan McArdle explores the first question with reference to GM. Here’s her conclusion:

Unfortunately, corporate culture is a sort of black box; from the outside, you can’t see what’s going on. You have to wait to see what emerges.

What we can say is that this time, we’re actually going to find out. GM has fixed basically every other problem that anyone could name: Instead of a $2,000-a-car cost disadvantage due in large part to legacy costs such as wages and retiree benefits, it now has a cost advantage. The eight marques that multi­plied the overhead and muddied the value propositions of its brands have been streamlined to four. The excess dealerships have been closed.

What’s left is culture. After everything, if GM begins losing market share again, we’ll know that it’s beyond saving. To paraphrase the old joke: “How many experts does it take to turn around a big company? Only one—but the company has to really want to change.”

There’s more on change in the Episcopal Church. A video featuring is subtitled “an adaptive moment” is available here.

Tobias Haller offers some insight and perspective on the video. He raises some important questions about mission–what we mean by it and says this:

It seems, therefore, odd to talk, as the presentation does, primarily about the national budget, while ignoring the billions of dollars raised and spent by the parishes — only alluded to in the presentation — when talking about the proportion of money spent on mission. The proportion of our “Gross Episcopal Product” spent on mission is substantial — as we have to include the salaries of the missioners, the maintenance of the places in which we worship, and so on. It is deadly dangerous, and verges on a kind of missionary gnosticism, to forget that the cost of running a parish is a crucial part of its mission. Seek economies, by all means, but let us not say to the foot, I have no need of you!

I’m intrigued by the comparison of the Episcopal Church with GM. We’ve already had comparisons with Kodak, but it seems to me that in the case of the auto industry the parallel is especially apt. The corporate hubris of both and the way in which people are indoctrinated in the corporate culture of each seem similar. And the way in which whenever talk about structure begins, the infighting begins as well. With GM, it was the fighting between management and the UAW; in the Episcopal Church, it’s the conflict between General Convention and the Presiding Bishop, or the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.



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