Redesigning FTE Once Again | Forum for Theological Exploration

Redesigning FTE Once Again

By: Stephen Lewis
January 22, 2020

All that you touch you Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God Is Change.

- Octavia Butler, from Parable of the Sower

During the past three years, FTE has taken time to discern our next faithful steps in response to continuous changes in the church, academy, and broader society. We have been exploring a new strategic direction and questions necessary to advance our historic mission.

  • Is our work still necessary? If so, what is the leadership problem FTE is trying to help solve for the church and academy?
  • What is the accrued wisdom of the organization with regard to cultivating and empowering diverse, faithful, wise, and courageous Christian leaders for the church, academy, and world?
  • What is the best way to distill and disseminate what FTE is learning and developing with partners to a wider audience regarding emerging leaders, diversity, innovation, leading change, and discerning vocation?
  • What kind of work is FTE’s current structure and staffing model designed to accomplish? What is the best way to structure and staff the organization to carry FTE’s work forward?

Our staff and board wrestled with these types of questions and more in our attempt to discern how FTE is now being called to serve. Our increasing work with Gen Z has informed changes to FTE programs that were designed a decade ago for Millennials. Our work with institutional partners seeking to lead changes in their context has informed organizational design and change management skills now needed among our team. Changes in the job market have informed how we accompany the next generation in discerning and pursuing their vocational aspirations. Changes in what leaders and those who accompany them need to expand their vocational imagination have informed the ways FTE designs events and awards grants.

While change can be exhilarating, for many, it is terrifying, if not exhausting.

In a society where everyone is called to work like machines—not like humans—and in an industry where too many institutions have to do more with less, the majority of my team feels like there is not enough time to do good work, reflect on it, make mid-course corrections, take on other creative projects and celebrate our successes along the way. Most of our learning, reflections, and creativity has been siloed and conducted in the margins of the organization’s work.

We recognized that we had an organizational design problem.

In 2019 FTE paused and shifted a few of its core activities in order to create space to discern our next faithful steps. We hired an organizational development firm to help us listen deeply to the pain points and needs of our team, as well as implement an emerging new strategic direction. They helped us restructure and redesign our 65-year institution to be more nimble, agile, and responsive to a new strategic direction and what’s needed now to support a new generation of leaders for the church and academy and world.

While we will continue to award doctoral fellowships and institutional grants, offer discernment retreats and leadership forums, and host peer networks among leaders of doctoral institutions, congregations, and church-related organizations, FTE will do the following as a result of the organizational redesign:

  • Organize our work around learning to distill FTE’s organizational intelligence on vocational discernment, needs, and practices of emerging, diverse leaders and the institutions that teach, accompany, and call them to lead.
  • Be more explicit about the role of design in our strategic efforts and build the staff’s knowledge and expertise in vocation-centered design principles.
  • Restructure FTE from a constituency-based operational model to a functionally-based operational model, comprised of two new teams: (1) learning design and (2) experience design to create the kind of experiences diverse constituents need to cultivate a vocational imagination, accompany the next generation, and pursue their vocational aspirations.
  • Establish a different organizational rhythm and way of working that enables team members to do their best work and distill and develop FTE’s thought leadership and process improvements.

Over the next few months, we will reveal exciting new organizational and programmatic updates that will hopefully better enable FTE and our partners to inspire a new generation to shape the church’s future and its work in the world. I hope you will check back with us, observe our progress, and be inspired to embrace organizational change and help start new institutions and redesign existing ones for a new decade and a more hopeful future.

Tags...: Inside FTE

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