New Governance

Written by Pascal Flamand and Christine de Panafieu

Everyone agrees with the fact that today’s way of managing companies, countries and organizations – according to a vertical hierarchical organization and formalized processes- is outdated and maladjusted to the way we live in the XXI century. Societies nowadays are part of a worldwide social network, people are better educated and informed, they are more autonomous and individualistic and their lifestyle is less conventional, more flexible and they are selective with regards to their social engagements.
To govern well means to embrace these societal changes – instead of ignoring or fighting them – to develop fluid and efficient structures and processes taking the growing omplexity and interdependence of people and organizations in their eco-system into account.
A working group – including Irène Dupoux Couturier and Alain de Vulpian- laid the ground of governance in the 21 century. We identified four fundamental principles that can be applied to different types of organizations.
A common project: the absolute necessity to make emerge a project or vision collectively, based on common grounds, conjoint aspirations and shared energy.

Complementarity: Economic and social factors have to be conceived as complementary and not antagonistic. This inclusive “AND” strategy aims at harmonizing opposing interests.

Subsidiarity: An organizational principle of decentralization, where responsibilities and matters have to be delegated to and handled by the least centralized and most effective authority. A bottom-up and top-down approach.

Leadership: leaders need to have a long term vision, able to act as a catalyst in the process of the realization of the vision. They need to act for the benefits of all and not only for their own benefit.

Surprisingly one world-wide known “manager” is proposing, sharing and experimenting this new vision of governance: Jorge Mario Bergoglio, alias the Pope Francis.

Few months after he arrived at the head of the Vatican one year ago, the Pope wrote a text called “Evangelii Gaudium” (the joy of the gospel) that we can really consider as a book of management.

If we exclude the Christian specificity of the Catholic Church, we can consider that the Company the Pope has to manage is in bankruptcy. Surely not in a financial meaning, but in –let us say- a “commercial” one: people leave the church, go to other churches (evangelist or not) and to other spiritualties, priest are less and less numerous and are subject to moral scandals. In other words, the Catholic Church which is the oldest and one of the most conservative institution of the world, gathering 1, 2 billion of members, is in a total decrease and decadence.

The text the Pope Francis published, the interviews he gave, the decisions he took can be considered as the illustration of the four principle we have defined. For example:

Complementarity: The Pope wants the Catholic Church to be “the Church of the poor”. In order to be credible, he needs to reform the Vatican Bank. His criticism of the liberal capitalism and his plea for human dignity are very strong. “Today, we have to say no to an economy of exclusion and social disparity. We have created a “throw away” culture, where the excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

Subsidiarity: the traditional Italian Vatican nomenclature has been replaced by a group of 8 advisers coming from different parts of the world, reminding the organization of the Catholic Orthodox Church.
The pope François uses the image of the polyhedron where each point is at equal distance to the center and all elements maintain their originality. He insists that the church has to “go to the border”, that the local condition prevails over the global one – except the control of the respect of the dogma of the Catholic Church.

Leadership: His attitude of simplicity, his humanity, his humility show his proximity to everyone. The Pope Francis evidently has charisma, a charisma fitting the modern world. To give an example of the modernity of the Pope, we can quote what he says about internet: “internet is a gift of God” that allows Catholics to become “digital citizens” to offer “more opportunity to meet each other and to support each other.”

A common project: The Pope radiates faith, his words emanate from a place of transcendence – the core messages of the gospel. And he is profoundly engaged to improve the human condition and to fight for human dignity. This is why his words are shared by his community and beyond. In the same way, any other leader in the secular world has to embody a “secular transcendence” shared by the employees of the citizens he leads.
Of course, there will be strong resistances against these radical changes of governance. And it will be
interesting to observe how the Pope will get around, overcome and manage them.

Beyond the Vatican experience and the surprisingly refreshing book “Evangelii gaudium.”, the four
principles we developed will in a next step be enriched by a dialogue and confrontation with other
organizations such as small or international companies, public or private communities, states and
federations (Europe for example).