I never thought that Obama’s “red line” in the current Syria crisis would be a dramatic object lesson for a board governance seminar!
I was wrapping up a day-long workshop with the Board of Directors of the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust and trying to impress upon them the difference between what a board is supposed to deal with and what management should be handling. As with so many African boards (and US ones, too, for that matter) it is easy for boards to step across into management details start micro-managing operational issues ultimately reducing the effectiveness of the organization. When I explained this in a graphic PowerPoint slide, the lights came on for the board chairman when he said, “So this is like the Obama ‘red line.’ If we cross it, we can get in trouble!”
It was even more rewarding two days later, to hear another board member tell the manager of public relations that the board was no longer going to be involved in choosing new logo colors. “Now we understand that sort of decision would be crossing the line and taking on something your department is supposed to do."
It may seem like a little thing, but it’s just one example of how the subject matter of these workshops I’ve been offering have had practical application for day-to-day operations of these national ministries. Every little bit of increased efficiency is hopefully leading to greater effectiveness for the ministry result of these organizations.
Another good example of this was during a workshop I led a few days ago for managers and their secretaries on how to improve office work-flow. “We have so many interruptions,” one manager said. “People simply knock on our office door and then come right in regardless of what we’re doing. It’s the African way.” After discussing this a bit, we concluded that one solution was to re-position the secretaries’ desks so that they blocked easy access to the manager’s office and allowed for more chance of scheduling up future appointments for office visits.
Whether from greater efficiency or greater leadership vision, it’s exciting to hear that NBTT has started 22 new translation projects just since the beginning of the year. Considering there are over 350 languages in Nigeria with no Bible (100 of them being a priority) this signifies a significant step forward. It has been very fulfilling this past week playing a small part in these ministry results byleading four different management development workshops.