By John Clifton
There is a classic quote about management which says “what gets measured gets managed”. However, the full quote, as Simon Caulkin points out, says this:
What gets measured gets managed – even when it’s pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organisation to do so.
In community organising terms power is defined as the capacity to act. There are two types of power: organised people and organised money. For most churches there’s not usually much money so we rely on the power of our people and the depth of the relationships that people build with each other. When it comes to the state and the market, however, they don’t have many people but they do have money. We can all think of obvious examples of how the state uses money as a lever of power: taxation, fines, tendering processes. We can think of even more obvious examples for how the market uses money as a lever of power. Just a week or so ago I met a family of five, the three children were all in primary school, whose debit card had been used fraudulently and, despite their attempts, had not yet been reimbursed the money that they had lost. When I met them they were waiting for the money to be put back into their account on Monday. Their account had been overdrawn since the week before and they had been threatened with charges for the overdraft. The family were scared, disoriented, and unfamiliar with such a situation. They came to The Army for help to get through the weekend. This is just one example of how the market and its money impinges upon the everyday life of people. It even happens accidentally simple sheet or simply due to bureaucratic or technological errors. It becomes the responsibility of the power of people (civil society) to push back against the power of money (state and market).
I have been a Salvation Army officer for four years. One of the things that has amazed me during this time is how little accountability there is for visitation. This is in contrast to how much accountability there is for corps finances. We submit weekly spreadsheets about money. Our visitation book is looked at maybe once or twice in a year. It would be interesting to know if this bureaucratic bias is similar in other countries.
If it is correct that people and the strength of our relationships are the best mechanism to generate our capacity to act, then surely we should be measuring the most effective way to do that: one-to-one meetings, which we call visitation. On pages 16-18 of ‘Marching Towards Justice‘ we define visitation as 30-45 minutes of personal contact with someone, where they are to be found, with a view to furthering their spiritual interests. We make the assumption that furthering someone’s spiritual interest involves their engagement in justice-seeking and developing their capacity as an active citizen. What gets measured gets managed even if that process of measuring damages the organisation. It is my fear that we measure money too much at the expense of our personal relationships with each other. What would happen if we measured the number of visits a Salvation Army officer or soldier did each week with as much diligence as we do our financial returns and cartridges (tithes)?
Our orders and regulations and our policies and procedures have the capacity to guide our behaviour. There are occasions when they can guide our behaviour out of fear of what might happen. However, there are also occasions when they can guide our behaviour positively because we want things to happen. In the UK territory we’re going through a big review called Fit For Mission. It would be exciting if some of the structural and bureaucratic changes led to a bias towards spending time in one-to-one meetings, or visitation. It’s a really great opportunity for this.
I know, as much as other officers, how important it is to demonstrate financial integrity. I take this as given. However, I am also aware how easy it is for the hard work of building relationships to take a back seat to an urgent deadline. If we are serious about seeking justice and our participation in the kingdom of God, then the long and patient investment of time and energy into the relationships of people in our Corps must be our priority.
- Is time or money a more valuable resource?
- What do you think would happen at your Corps if the officers and soldiers were held accountable for visitation as much as they were for financial returns?
- What would change if you tithed your time (as well as your money) and dedicated this to creating community where there is none or strengthening it where it’s weak?