What do Fitness and Organizations have in common?
I am going to bring up a controversial subject. There really is no way around that. It simply is going to happen. My intention is not to debate over this topic or scuffle about the small details. Phew now that I got that out of the way, we can all take a deep breath and move on.
Now that I have your attention, I probably should let you know what I am even talking about, and what this controversial subject is. So, to make a confession, my real topic of this blog is not to terribly controversial, but rather the comparison I am going to make as a point of illustration is, this is why I set this disclaimer.
Today I want to discuss formal organizations, particularly the new trend in the differences between formal organizations and functional organizations, and also I am going to talk about the Christians involvement in formal organizations with the uniqueness of the function that is the church, and what the differences are in this and how a Christian is to approach this.
So, interestingly, before I can actually describe to you what my illustration is to help you understand, and make your choice between what is a better approach to organizations, I must first describe what formal and functional organizations are so that we are all on the same page. (I wouldn’t want anyone getting left behind).
First, this idea begins at what is called “Organizational Power”, and because in the world of sociology the term power is “the capacity of an individual or group to control or influence the behaviors of others, even in the absence of their consent”. You have to look at four different styles of authority to begin to understand this power.
1. Traditional authority- this is basically people following people or systems that have always been in place and nobody questions. Or it is people who have been given power but do not really deserve it and it cannot be questioned. The oldest example of this is familial monarchy.
2. Legal-rational authority- this authority entirely comes from an office that is occupied by someone of power, typically someone from traditional power. This is like a court setting or something with law and order and structure.
3. Charismatic authority- this authority comes out of someone who has personal and attractive qualities. This often comes out of someone who attracts people to them and then people rally around them and they become elected leader, and their followers are very willing.
4. Competency-based authority- this comes out of measuring the potential capacity to push forward towards goal oriented progression. This is based upon measurement of knowledge and skill and performance that is gained from training and experience.
So understanding these four categories creates a distinction between two different styles. The first is formal organizations, and the second is functional organizations. The first two styles of authority describe this formal organization and the second two describe the functional organizations. The first two styles of authority are extremely oriented around rules and restrictions. The formal style of leadership are built upon order and structure. The functional structure of leadership is built more upon emotion and creativity. There are certainly similarities between the two different organizations, but mainly there are significant differences in formal organizations being more rigged and structured and functional organizations is build more around fluidity and consistent change and improvement. This structure of functional organizations is coming about more and more in the way organizations are being run because the center of these ideas are relatively newer. Organizations typically have been built more on turning people into what you want them to be and making them faceless cogs that can produce exactly what needs to be produced and needs to be produced, and functional has begun to open the door to allowing and celebrating the differences in people and what they bring to the table.
Now, obviously, there is a significant amount more of information that goes into what formal organizations are, let along the difference between formal and functional organizations, but this is the ten thousand foot level. Hopefully then, because this is just a snapshot of what the differences are between formal and functional organizations, my illustration will shed some light.
Along with the differences between formal and functional organizations also come incredibly similar personalities between formal and functional fitness. Play along with me now, formal organization is similar to formal, traditional weightlifting, and functional organizations is similar to CrossFit, which is functional fitness.
To help you understand, traditional weightlifting is built entirely on structure and rules. It is built on the basic age old styles of training that never have changed. The movements used are the same movements that have always been used. This is incredibly similar to formal organizations. On the other hand, CrossFit is all about “changing things up”. The idea of functional fitness is all about consistently varying movements and never having routine. In CrossFit and functional fitness it is all about always changing things and bringing new ideas to the table, and pushing your body to new limits.
The other thing that is similar in my little example of fitness and organizations is that CrossFit in itself is controversial in comparison to traditional weight lifting. Traditional weightlifting is what people have always known, similar to formal organizations. Formal organizations have been proven to work, and so often times there is little question to what has been set in place. The difference in this is that the center of both functional fitness and functional organizations is to recognize the old and use what is good from the old, but then also consistently be seeking for changes and improvements. This is the center of the difference, as well as that formal organizations are more built on the structure and the functional organizations are built on emotions and fluidity.
As I said, there is so much more to be able to continue on and expand on when it comes to the ideals behind formal and functional organizations but again, this is the ten thousand foot level of looking down and both of these ideas. I have given a small window into these ideals and it then is for you, the reader to decide which organizational style they believe is right and best.
Now it is time to take a look at formal organizations from the Christian perspective of the church purely because of the uniqueness of what the church is. What this idea of the church is, is unlike anything else. First before we can even talk about the church, you have to throw the idea of a building and an organization in that sense out the window. The church, if being done right should absolutely not be confined to a building and if following biblical principles should entirely be about going out to reach the world with the gospel and the love of Christ.
The biggest area of conflict comes when Christians begin to look and the church and organizations of the world as synonymous. These two different things should be on entirely different ends of the spectrum as Christians are consistently instructed to live differently from the world. One of the biggest temptations that arises when Christians look at the organizations of the world and try to make the church look like them is the pride of having positions. When this view affects a church, suddenly the title after somebodies name becomes what they are focused on and it is not about actually following the teachings of Christ and that is to make yourself lower than those around you in service.
If done right, the church should be the perfect blend of formal and functional organizations, with an even better, living, added part. The church should continue in the foundations of the traditions that have been set, but should not be to dogmatic to stick to the traditions as culture changes, but ultimately everything that the church does should filter through a biblical lens and not an organizational lens and this is what should produce authentic and real change in people, and as this happens the church will continue to look different then the patterns of the world.