Doing What Needs to Be Done – or, What Does this Organization Need from Me (at this time)?

Every organization that hires well will, without doubt, have a clear position profile – the job description – that includes both expectations of the role or responsibility along with the basis or terms on which one will be evaluated within the position. 

It should be clear what is expected – perhaps highlighting what is particularly essential.  And it will equally well be very clear that one will experience a performance evaluation that matches the position profile.   More on performance evaluations in a future blog, but here I wish to highlight something else. 

Institutions are fluid entities.  The environmental factors change; the circumstances in which the organization finds itself will change.    Another factor is that colleagues might move on and their successor brings a slightly different set of skills or capacities – in that we are not cutting cookies when we fill a position; each person brings a distinctive set of strengths and limitations to a role.  And thus when a colleague is hired it requires that we all make adjustments.  

In other words:  we were hired for a particular job and when we were hired we had a position description.   All good.  But now, the situation has evolved or changed – perhaps in ways that we could have anticipated; perhaps in ways that were a complete surprise.  But the point is that the situation is different.  And while there will be points of continuity what needs to be asked is this:  what is required of me now, in this time and in this place, in light of what has changed since I first became part of this organization? 

I serve as the president of a small Christian university.  And it is essential that I consider not so much how I would like to do this job if I could write the script but, instead, ask:  in this time and in this place what is needed of me?   What does this organization need from the president at this time?

Actually, we do this all the time in other aspects of our lives.  What do our parents need from us – at this point in their lives, in light of changes that have happened [perhaps they have aged significantly]?  What do our children need from us – and it is very different if they are in their mid-teens compared to their mid-30s.  My point is that we know that we need to consider the situation and the context and the particular circumstances and ask:  what is needed?   And the same applies to the organizations in which we serve – be it in our day job, or in the local church where we are active members.  Sometimes, we might realize that a range of capacities or strengths are needed and we do not have them – and this might lead us to move on to another organization.   But as a rule, the norm is probably that we adapt and assess and adjust our time and energy according to the critical and essential needs of this organization.   As a faculty member, a colleague has gone on sabbatical or on sick leave or actually resigned:  and so we are open to the Dean approaching us to ask if we could pick up one of the courses that had been taught by our departing colleague.  We flex; we adapt.   Yes, there are limits; we are not omni-competent.   But as we are able, we adjust to the new circumstances and ask:  what is needed of me for this organization to fulfill its mission?  — in this time; in this place, because I care about the whole and not merely about my role within the whole.

Institutional Intelligence is the capacity to work effectively within organizations.