7 Ways to Adjust How Your Ministry Teams Work Together

Different than a bureaucracy, an adhocracy is a theory of organizational management within which functions, groups, and structures within organizations cut across traditionally defined lines and defy standard bureaucratic constructs. At the risk of sounding like I’m describing organizational anarchy (I’m not), it’s a philosophy that has some pretty attractive-sounding tenets, at least when those tenets are reasonably applied to certain scenarios.

An adhocracy is most assuredly a textbook example of the old easier-said-than-done adage, and just like almost any organizational theory, it has its weaknesses. And just like any idea, it’s going to be neither universally applicable nor universally successful. This model won’t work in every organization, industry, or situation; but will probably work more often than we think and in more situations than we think.

What’s this adhocracy look like? Perhaps it would be helpful to think of them as being similar to cross-departmental project teams or task forces. Or like organizational Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Or better yet–Voltron. Or something. OK, I don’t think any of those really captures the idea well, but an adhocracy has some of the below attributes:

1. People at multiple levels of the organization are empowered to make meaningful decisions.

2. No, really. They actually mean #1 above.

3. Instead of innovators being patronized or ideas being crushed, leaders value innovation over standardization, and therefore it’s more prevalent, encouraged, and rewarded. Creative confidence is built.

4. In an adhocracy, people are more OK with the gray. Folks are flipping out if authority roles aren’t as clearly defined. Find people who specialize in things, give them the information and connections they need to do their thing, and then grab some popcorn and a soda and get the heck out of the way. It’s amazing what people can do when we get out of their way.

5. On the whole, it’s well-suited to problem-solving and innovating. If that’s the sort of environment you’re going for, maybe you should give some of this a look. If you prefer having very clearly-defined authority structures where power originates more from position in hierarchy than from something else; and if your organization and/or industry is more well-suited to a methodical, measured, conservative, reactive, traditional business model; I wouldn’t suggest incorporating elements of an adhocracy.

6. Members of the organization have authority within their respective areas of specialization to make decisions and take action. This one’s tough. It means we have to let go. We don’t get to control everything. We need to trust our folks enough to let them do their thing. Often, the best thing we can do as leaders is create space for our folks to do what they’re good at and then–as I said above–get out of the way. Let them work, collaborate, and make things happen. Be there to support, advise, and roll up your sleeves and help; but not to dictate.

7. The structure itself is very organic in nature, meaning that it is very free-flowing, loose, constantly evolving, etc. I’ve said it so many times that I’m sure you’re annoyed, but organizations are clumps of humans, and since that’s the case, we need to embrace the fact that we’re all flawed, unique, weird-in-our-own-way people. So knowing that, why not roll with it more? Heck–why not harness it and take advantage of the fact that humans have this amazing ability to adapt, create, collaborate, progress, perform, grow, learn, and propel themselves and the collective forward.

Like I said, I don’t think the adhocracy is for everyone, but it may be that your team could unlock and unleash some hidden potential by employing one or more of the above adhoc-ish (I know, I know–that’s not a real word) ideas with your teammates. Or maybe there’s a particular project coming up that might lend itself to being successfully completed via an adhocracy.

So think about it. How might you be able to adjust how your team works together? What new forms or structures or constructs could potentially be tweaked in such a way that it produces new and better outcomes?

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Matt Monge

Matt Monge

Matt is a cancer survivor who’s dead set on making the world a better place by helping organizations be better places to work. He’s currently Chief Culture Officer at Mazuma Credit Union, and also does speaking and consulting work to help other organizations with culture, development, recruiting, and leadership. He has been recognized as one of Credit Union Times’ “Trailblazers 40 Below,” and has spoken at national conferences for CUNA and NAFCU in addition to other events. He has written articles for Training magazine, the Credit Union Times, the Credit Union Executives Society, is a contributor for CU Insight, and an editor for CU Water Cooler. He is also a Training magazine Top 125 Award winner. Matt is earning his Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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