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APR 9, 2013

Pope Francis and the Rebuilding of the Catholic Culture

By King del Rosario

Pope Francis, whose real name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is from Argentina. He is the 266th Pope and the first in ages from outside of Europe. He is also, interestingly enough, the first Jesuit Pope after a very, very long time.

But what makes a great Pope? There are obvious answers such as, but not limited to, having an unwavering faith, the right age to reflect sheer wisdom (whatever age that may be), a great communicator (e.g. Italian, English, etc.), and a track record of pushing Catholicism forward. As such, the role of the Pope is, for the lack of a more appropriate term, similar to that of a CEO.

As a Catholic, I try my very best to follow all the dogmas, which are the set of principles laid down by the Roman Catholic Church as unquestionably true. The infallibility of the chosen Pope is one of these dogmas. However, I just want to point out as an academic exercise that every organization has a life cycle and I believe that the Church like all forms of religion is not excluded from this vicious progression. Thus Pope Francis as the newly-appointed Chief Evangelizing Officer would make historic achievements if his executive actions are in line with the times.

There’s the start-up phase at the early onset of a corporation’s life. In the case of the Church, this happened around 2,000 years ago. At the other end of the life cycle is the reorganization phase, which, if addressed successfully by the CEO, would revamp the cycle all over again leading to a new era, a new beginning. This reorganization phase has happened within the Church in the past as TIME magazine aptly states, “No other institution can claim to have withstood Attila the Hun, the ambitions of the Habsburgs, the Ottoman Turks, Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler, in addition to Stalin and his successors.”

Using social media to create a sense of urgency within the organization

As the second CEO in the time of social media, Pope Francis is on a very advantageous digital pulpit, making use of technology to connect people. I believe all internal stakeholders are fully aware of the scandals that have rocked the Church, which is why in retrospect Pope Francis is already way ahead of all the rockstar CEOs from Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn to P&G’s A.G. Lafley in creating this elusive sense of urgency, without which the stakeholders of the Church can become both complacent and passive.

Ghosn had to immerse himself first in the company culture for a couple of years before he executed his grand plan. On the other hand, Lafley’s announcement as the new CEO created a negative impact on P&G’s stock prices because investors did not believe in his leadership capabilities, among others.

This is why with every tweet and every status update I firmly believe social media can strengthen the Church. Not only do Catholics acknowledge the need to change right now but Pope Francis also has had the full support of most – if not all – Catholics worldwide since the moment he first appeared waving in front the Vatican crowd, on TV, and on social media.

Rebuilding the Corporate Culture

Trying to recalibrate every stakeholder to the organization’s original purpose is easier said than done. This is why it is notable that Pope Francis comes from the Society of Jesus. Of course, being a Jesuit is not enough to change the world. However, we should give credit where credit is due since Jesuits according to the Encyclopedia Britannica are known for their “educational, missionary and charitable works, once regarded by many as the principal agent of the Counter-Reformation and later a leading force in modernizing the Church.” Modernizing the system or being effective educators as Jesuits are known for would presuppose having the disposition for open mindedness. An open mind then allows for a multitude of perspectives from which to choose as the best possible course of action in any given moment.

Transforming the Middle Management

The middle management is widely known to be the bottleneck of any organization. Without focusing too much on the intricacies and the sensitivities that plague the Church at this time, social media once again can be utilized to empower and inspire middle management. The Church’s middle management does not have to be made irrelevant in favor of a direct interaction with the frontliners just like what Jan Carlzon did with the SAS Group. On the other hand, Pope Francis does not have to follow the lead of Asahi Glass CEO Shinya Ishizu, who appointed assistant CEOs in various units to do the strategic leg work for him. In the truest essence of being a follower of Jesus, he is now leading by example, walking the talk and showing humility at its finest. Some people call it “management by wandering around” or Toyota’s going to the gemba, a Japanese term meaning “the real place.” I think Pope Francis is just yielding to the popular Christian acronym WWJD which means “what would Jesus do?”

A lot of cases have been written about corporations in dire need of salvation and the best practices that made a miraculous turnaround. Without presuming to know what Pope Francis has in mind, he might actually follow McKinsey’s three-step process oftentimes seen in best practices of successful strategic reorganizations. The first step is de-capitalization, meaning you take out the rotten apples from the basket. This does not necessarily mean heads will roll but the Church has to divest itself of attributes that is pulling down everyone else to a spiritual loss. The second step is re-capitalization by investing in the organization’s strengths. Perhaps it is foreshadowing that Pope Francis has already stated that he wants the Church to be poor, and for the poor.

The final step is the consolidation process wherein all efforts are merged with renewed spirit and vigor that is in line with the ultimate vision as an organization. As the community and the frontliners can see the goodness in the CEO’s actions through social media that is both transparent and constructive, morale and engagement among the 1.2 billion Catholics would be at an all-time high. With Pope Francis, the ubiquitous terms “share,” “follower,” and “friend” will begin to regain their valuable meanings.