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high performers

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 09, 2009

(This item from the OTR archives, originally posted on December 14, 2006, takes on special poignancy in light of our current economic circumstances.)

The current NCR has a piece on corporate America's solution to the Catholic Church's management problems.

The driving concept behind the lay-led National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management is simple enough: Take the best tools of modern management -- detailed budgeting, comprehensive financial disclosure, human resource policies that reward high performers -- promote them widely within existing church structures, and then apply them to the diocese and parish.

"Human resource policies that reward high performers." We all love it when business types give that baritone growl and lecture us about the remorseless imperatives that govern their competitive lives. When the going gets tough, the tough get prolix:

Such thinking is second nature, a no-brainer, to the Catholic corporate leaders who formally launched the Roundtable less than two years ago. Accustomed to shareholder scrutiny and government oversight, these business honchos see disclosure and accountability as part and parcel of quality management, less a burden than a boon to high-performing organizations.

Wait. There's more where that comes from.

Boisi, a New York investment banker who previously served as senior general partner at Goldman Sachs, has brought together 225 senior executives from the worlds of business, finance, law, academia, philanthropy, nonprofits and church ministry, to offer what he says are practical "best-practice" procedures the U.S. church can implement to improve performance and further its mission.

And still more ...

"We know that the church is not a corporation, but it is comprised institutionally of people and finances, and both of those need to be well-managed in order for the church's mission to be more effective and that's simply what we are bringing to the table," executive director Kerry Robinson, speaking from the group's Washington headquarters, told NCR. "We emphasize the positive, what works well, and when we find it we want to celebrate it," said Robinson. "We don't see excellence as contrary to the mission, but as fulfillment."

Uncle. We give up. You made the sale. And now, boys and girls, with all this senior executive brainpower concentrated on cutting through the deadwood and maximizing excellence by identifying and rewarding the high-performers, whom did they choose to bring together and join them in brainstorming?

Those attending that session included then-Washington Archbishop Theodore McCarrick; Wilton Gregory, then-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; conference vice president (now president) William Skylstad; and Bishops Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., and William Friend of Shreveport, La.

Impressive. Could you assemble a sorrier lot off the top of your head? It's just possible (I might swap McCormack or Thomas O'Brien for Friend), but for a first go that's a very complete roster of the masters of the business of bishophood that led to the crash in the first place. Certainly we'd be hard pressed to find five men less inclined to solve the problem that sent Bishop Dupre to St. Luke's and Bishop O'Connell to the Fifth Amendment. For example, what will these business honchos (to use the article's own jargon) "accustomed to shareholder scrutiny and government oversight," have to tell us about Bishop Robert Lynch, who paid off his triathlete staffer $100,000 in compensation for unwelcome massages, and awarded another special friend and sportsman $27 million in no-bid construction contracts? Is it his openness that recommends him or his effectiveness? Best tools, high performers, no-brainer, disclosure and accountability, quality management, practical best-practice procedures, mission, emphasize the positive, celebrate, bring it to the table, excellence. The Roundtable's approach seems to be: no buzzword left unspoken. And one notes with pleasure that "former Clinton White House chief of staff Leon Panetta and Jesuit Fr. J. Donald Monan, chancellor of Boston College" are among the bottom-line boys doing the coaching. In fact, the more deeply one considers it, the more apparent it is that consultor and client have very similar standards of achievement. Those who remember last year's Mystery of the Missing Millions will relish the news that the experts not only instruct the dioceses, but hand out prizes for outstanding accomplishment:

In June, the Roundtable gave its best practices award to the Boston archdiocese, citing its release of its first-ever consolidated report of the financial health of that archdiocese. Said Boisi, "The Boston report is a great exemplar of the comprehensive, consolidated, audited, and reader-friendly financial reporting the Leadership Roundtable is calling for."

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