Regarding the Andy Crouch review of Institutional Intelligence

Regarding the Andy Crouch review of Institutional Intelligence [in Comment]:

On the one hand, very good to have this kind of affirmation of institutional thinking. And, of course, I appreciated that he commended the tone and enthusiasm for institutions in the opening chapters of the book. But then he shifted and brought three noteworthy critiques or comments that were less than commendations. 

First, he noted that after the opening foray that was positive and engaging that the book then got lost in the minutiae of organizations.   Not nearly as interesting to read. I had to laugh as I read this “critique”, because the response is rather simple: if you truly believe in institutions, then you will get down into the specifics of governance, finances, facilities, policies and all the rest of the day to day mundane of making institutions work.  We do not truly believe in institutions until and unless we realize that we do not live with a 30,000 foot view from above – thinking nice and encouraging thoughts about institutions. We only truly believe in them when we roll up our sleeves and actually work, year in and year out, to make an institution work. If the book – Institutional Intelligence – had not made this transition into the specifics, it would have suffered from another critique:  all nice to say institutions matter, but what about governance and money and policies? 

Second, he noted that the book focused [too much?] on two organizations in particular – academic institutions and churches. And yes, point taken: this is my world. And so yes, the majority of illustrations and references are to these spheres of involvement. But, two things.  Most of my readers will be involved with congregations; so how churches work or do not work will matter to them. And, I am wanting to signal that the heads of non-profit organizations might have something to learn from academic institutions – particularly in terms of how the faculty are incorporated into the governance process. 

And third, he observed that the focus was on institutions that are religious in character and did not sufficiently address the vital need for Christians to invest in institutions that do not have a religious identity. And on this, I fully concur. I note that Mr. Crouch is affiliated with Christianity Today and with Fuller Seminary. But I would like to hear from someone who is involved with a non-profit or service agency that does not have a religious identity and ask them:  how easy would it be to take the material from Institutional Intelligence and draw on those insights for working in the public sector. I have a son in the restaurant business; my thought is that he could take each of the seven elements identified in Institutional Intelligence and find them directly applicable to his business: are we clear on our business focus [our niche]?; do we have a structure of decision making and governance that works for this operation?; are we hiring the right people?; are we managing the finances in a way that keeps us in business?; do we have a “culture” that fits our mission?; do we have the right space for what it is that we are trying to do?; and do we have the strategic partnerships and associations that will allow our business to flourish?. In other words, the seven elements of institutional effectiveness are universal. They are not “Christian”, per se.

Institutional Intelligence is the capacity to work effectively within organizations.