New Wineskins for New Wine

New Wine Skins for Todays New Wine by Dr. Greg Waddell

Limestone relief of two servants bearning food and wine, 358-338 B.C. Available at Flicker.com

All organizations — whether for-profit or non-profit, secular or sacred — need a plan for interacting with a competitive environment to achieve their goals and serve their values. Due to rapidly changing environments, strategy must change. If structure does not change with it, both strategy and structure are wasted.

Often, however, organizations get stuck into patterns that are resistant to change, long after those patterns have lost their functionality. Yesterday’s solutions are no longer meeting today’s needs.

This is not a new problem. Jesus faced the same thing as he came to establish his kingdom first among the Jewish people. After centuries of national and religious development, patterns had set in and were vigorously defended, in spite of the fact that they had lost their usefulness and in fact were leading the nation away from the very place they needed to be. Jesus said,

No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.
—Matthew 9:16–17, ESV

New wineskins are needed because new wine expands while it ferments. Old wineskins are already stretched to capacity.

The competing values model for categorizing organizations is congruent with the new and old wineskin concept. The X axis of the diagram (horizontal) represents the focus of the organization: moving from inward-focused toward outward-focused as you move toward the right of the diagram. The Y axis (vertical) represents the structure of the organization; it moves from stability toward flexibility as you move up the diagram. This creates four distinct types of organizations.

Competing Values Framework

SOURCE: Adapted from K. S. Cameron, R. E. Quinn, J. Degraff, and A. V. Thakor, Competing Values Leadership
(Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2006), p. 32.

The clan culture is characterized as having an internal focus and valuing flexibility. This type of organization encourages collaboration between employees and is committed to having a cohesive work group and high job satisfaction. This type of organizations, however, can easily become disconnected with the external environment and become irrelevant in a world of change.

The adhocracy culture has an external focus and values flexibility. This type of culture fosters creation of innovative products and services by being adaptable, creative, and fast to respond to changes in the market. Centralized power and authority would not be effective structures in an adhocracy. These organizations promote creativity, innovation, and knowledge sharing. The danger with this type of organization, however, is that as they grow in size, a need for a higher level of formalization and control takes over.

The market culture has a strong external focus but values stability and control. This type of culture focuses on the customer over employee development and satisfaction because the goal of managers is to drive towards productivity, profits, and customer satisfaction. This culture rewards employees who deliver results. The danger of the market culture is that it can lose touch with its employees and appear to be indifferent to their needs thus triggering various forms of passive resistance which eventually affects their bottom line.

The hierarchy culture has an internal focus and a formalized, structured work environment. Its internal processes will tend to be reliable and its mechanisms more focused on control. The problem with these kinds of organizations is their tendency to be sluggish when change is required by the external environment.

What do you think? Is this model for understanding organizations helpful? Where does your organization fit into this framework? What about your church? Please share you thoughts in the comments section below.

provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.

2 thoughts on “New Wineskins for New Wine

  1. Greg,

    Just wondering if you have seen examples of adhocracy models that have maintained their flexibility even as the organization grows? Perhaps via reproduction, specialization or some other tack?

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