high performers

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 14, 2006

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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  • Posted by: Sidonius - Dec. 20, 2006 9:29 AM ET USA

    I see that the Holy Father today accepted Bishop Friend's resignation, he having reached the age limit.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Dec. 16, 2006 12:17 PM ET USA

    This is almost unbelievable, Diogenes. A lay-led National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management seeks the guidance of bishops who have committed some of the most scandalous offenses in recent Church history: Cdl. McCarrick, who lied to the USCCB about Holy Communion; Abp. Gregory, who deceptively states that the scandal is "history"; Bp. Lynch, whose history you note. Just add Mahony, Brown, Pilarczyk, Trautman & Weakland & you'd have quite a "management" team. Mary, ora pro nobis.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 15, 2006 6:38 PM ET USA

    Recall, Diogenes, that this is the same group that started with the secret meeting with certain members of the US hierarchy few years back. It was an idea Mr. Boisi presented to H.E. McCarrick over breakfast and the secret meeting included those other hierarchs you listed. Boisi's idea, of course, is that better and more open management would have prevented the whole thing. If that's the case, then why did they start out with a secret meeting?

  • Posted by: Sidonius - Dec. 15, 2006 11:37 AM ET USA

    The Curch is not a business, and the bottom line is fidelity to Christ's message for the purpose of saving souls. The Church is far too often already run like a business - with the concommitant turf battles, interoffice politics and the trappings of a toxic and self-protective bureaucracy. Also on the Roundtable's board are Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Leon Panetta, two not concerned with the culture of life. Also, Fr. J. Bryan Hehir.

  • Posted by: unum - Dec. 14, 2006 10:52 PM ET USA

    Of course, why didn't we think of it. Better management equals a better Church. That's why Christ picked 12 outstanding managers to lead His Church (with a little help from the Holy Spirit).

  • Posted by: Meg Q - Dec. 14, 2006 10:43 PM ET USA

    Love the "poster". Maybe we might see a new line of Catholic-themed items from Derision, Inc.? The perfect yuletide gift for your favorite chancery employee.

  • Posted by: Clorox - Dec. 14, 2006 9:22 PM ET USA

    What? No Weakland?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 8:29 PM ET USA

    Correcting comment above: the Tucson Diocese bankruptcy was completed by Bp. Kicanas last year. All parishes were incorporated after adjudication. Not HIS mess, but he cleaned it up very quickly and skillfully. Give credit where credit is due. He may have other faults, but he did a great job on this and we can now successfully budget for the needs of the Diocese without threat of future lawsuits on what may have occurred prior to bankruptcy filing. A parishioner in the Diocese of Tucson

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 7:34 PM ET USA

    Diogenes, what about YOUR accountabilty? Who is that bishop? You don't know, but you pin that quote on him. It looks like a session of bishops where some dreadful aspect of the scandal is being discussed and the bishop puts his head in his hands out of shame and remorse for the Church. For that he should be held up before everyone as a homosexual bishop? How Christian is that? Let us pray and do penance for the Church in the United States. Calumny will not convert pastors or flock.

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Dec. 14, 2006 6:43 PM ET USA

    what will become of the Church in America? may the Lord have mercy on us all.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 6:24 PM ET USA

    Sound business practices for the Church? That's just what we need. Who was on the committee? Pan Am; Eastern Airlines; TWA; Enron; Michael Milkin; Carl Icahn; etc? How about cutting out all the nonsense and giving us a good, simple, humble, heterosexual man who loves the pope and learned obedience and religion when he was a child? He doesn't even need to buy into all of the changes and garbage that's been thrust down our throats for the last 40 years! Please, Dear God, we humbly beg.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 5:34 PM ET USA

    Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. - No wait - come to me and I will measure your performance and squeeze every last ounce of productivity out of you. Sounds more like pharaoh than Christ. I'm not against measuring performance or accoutability but where is the concern for shepherding souls in this?

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 14, 2006 2:35 PM ET USA

    He has figured out a way. An old tried-and-true American corporate management technique...kick them upstairs! That is, bring them to Rome where he can watch them more closely and beat ...um...that is....charitably correct their errors...in a more direct and timely fashion.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 11:56 AM ET USA

    The wolves are still in charge of the sheep!Another meeting, another committe, soon they will be meeting in Las Vegas. What a soory lot! JPII once complained that he could not do anything about the "bad" appointments of bishops by previous popes. Maybe this one can figure out a way.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 11:52 AM ET USA

    If Jesus had followed proper business guidelines, Judas would have been the first pope and peter would have been canned!

  • Posted by: rpp - Dec. 14, 2006 11:46 AM ET USA

    I was disappointed to see that two important bishops were not present, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson Arizona and Archbishop John Vlazney of Portland Oregon. Both of these diocese, as well as Bishop Skylstad's Spokane diocese are in bankrupcy.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 10:27 AM ET USA

    Great. When you go to Mass, there's no difference between the achitecture and local elementary school; between the liturgy and a visit to the shrink; between the homily and Oprah; between the music and light rock. If these clowns have their way, there'll be no difference between going to Mass and sitting through some nonsensical "meeting" at work. Which is what they want. No discrimination!

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 9:46 AM ET USA

    Just what the bishops need; another committee. maybe they can pay another consultant to help them. When they get time from their "corporate responsibilities; maybe they can spend some time instructing their clergy and the faithful in orthodox "Catholicism". That's probably too much to ask. They have been so VERY busy over the last 20 years that their diocese each lost multitudes and they still do not get it. Diogenes for Pope!

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 9:26 AM ET USA

    The problem I have with the Roundtable is related to a discussion I had once with a Sister-Chancellor. I pointed out how I thought bishops should be replaced immediately upon their retirement. I asked, "How many US corporations could function without a CEO for 18 months?" She replied, "How many of those corporations have lasted 2000 years?" Touche.

  • Posted by: opraem - Dec. 14, 2006 9:20 AM ET USA

    using business indicators would have brought the abuse mess to the fore sooner. if 5-10 percent of a bank's tellers were involved in theft, the regulators (vatican???) and the shareowners (parishioners) would have spoken up. sad to say, the sole effective means to discipline the bishops and cardinals is to withhold contributions from the local dioceses. it's a slow process and people get hurt. but not as hurt as the victims of clerical abuse and the episcopal cover-up.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 9:16 AM ET USA

    Bishop Wilton Gregory: The Sound of One Hand Quacking.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 8:10 AM ET USA

    Very inspirational! How is it that Jesus never thought of all this? Oh yes, there were not yet capitalist and corporate models around at the turn of the 1st century. Which leads one to speculate if this might not be a prelude to the Second Coming? But then who are the goats and who are the sheep?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 7:11 AM ET USA

    Corrupt culture trumps even the best strategy. Focusing on the development of new programs and strategies carries with it a risk of losing sight of what God really wants us to keep in our crosshairs. According to St. Paul : The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside." 1 Cor 1 18-19

  • Posted by: - Dec. 14, 2006 6:55 AM ET USA

    Re: "Accountability" poster: I didn't think my slow dial-up connection could transmit as many megalaughs per second!

  • Posted by: parochus - Dec. 14, 2006 6:33 AM ET USA

    Mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru.