The successful global organization
When advising clients on how to create an effective international or even transnational organization I'm often asked to give an example. Rather than naming companies which may have been around for a hundred or more years and have hundreds of thousands of employees I, sometimes to their visible frustration, look beyond the world of business and cite the Christian Church, and, in particular, its Roman Catholic branch.
The Roman Catholic Church has all the features of a successful global organization. It has one billion members worldwide, a compelling vision and mission, a memorable logo (the cross) and a clear leadership structure. If sustainability is a measure of success then it is highly successful as it is one of the oldest institutions in the world. Regardless of their religious beliefs, business leaders have, no doubt, much to learn from it.
Over Christmas, I had cause to reflect on the Christian Church, or rather churches, as I had the privilege to stay for a few days in a remarkable monastery in Bavaria. Its special feature (or what business people might call its USP) is that Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox monks live side by side in one community. By the way, the Orthodox Church, with its 225—300 million members, is also a force to be reckoned with.
"The language was virtually unintelligible — but it had a powerful mystical effect."
If you want to find out more about this Benedictine Abbey have a look at its website. The homepage alternates between pictures of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox parts. I was able to experience services in both the Roman and Byzantine traditions, and was particularly inspired by the chanting in the Russian Orthodox tradition. Although German is used in the services, the chanting was so fast that the language was virtually unintelligible for me. Despite this, or maybe because of this, it had a powerful mystical effect. This was all very different from the explicit communication of the happy-clappy evangelical Christianity that I am familiar with. My head is still buzzing with this rich intercultural experience.
Wishing you many inspiring intercultural encounters in 2013.