Let’s recognize that organizational and management fads are just that, cogent ideas riding the highest wave of marketing. Are there good ideas riding on the currents of business culture? Of course. Is there any single vision of how to manage an organization that deserves our dogmatic devotion as the idea issued from the right hand of God? No.
In the age old battle between hierarchy and consensus (which is not really a very old battle) devotees of each become slaves to their ideas and trapped in categorical thinking about something that is far more nuanced and morally neutral. What works best in a given situation for a specific task and among a given group of people? Consensus and hierarchy are not either/or and have innumerable iterations along a continuum rather than only the extremes. One is not better than the other.
The primary question about hierarchy and consensus is practicing whichever you choose well, and that it is a choice. Each has a place and is useful, while both can be disastrous when practiced poorly. The particular fruits of consensus are creativity and energy, spawned in the process of navigating and discovering a place that envelopes everyone involved. A special benefit of hierarchy is much less energy and attention to maintenance because the basic machinery is in place and chugging along, which then allows more energy and effort to be devoted to other things – envisioning and program perhaps.
We need to get over the contemporary prejudices against hierarchy and overly romantic notions about the virtue of consensus, and apply them where appropriate with skill and loving-kindness. Each ecclesiastical institution has its own traditions and canons, which must be given their due, but at the same time, within the superstructure and at the local level there is likely much room to adapt hybrid models that work best for you. But whatever you do, if it is not working well change it up – no method is sacred.
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