Savvy People, Not Savvy Policies

In Luke 16, Jesus tells a parable about a wicked and shrewd manager who in a savvy way ensures that people will welcome him into their homes when he is no longer employed. Jesus affirms his shrewdness, not his wickedness, to challenge believers to be more shrewd with eternal matters than the wicked are with temporary ones. God’s people can and should be shrewd.

The dictionary defines “shrewd” as: having or showing an ability to understand things and make good judgments; marked by clever discerning awareness and hardheaded acumen. A ministry or organization really benefits from shrewd people, from people who are hardheaded about their theology and ministry direction but are able to implement with self-awareness and wisdom.

Sadly, this statement Jesus made to His generation is true of ours as well: “For the sons of this age are more astute than the sons of light in dealing with their own people” (Luke 16:8).

To compensate for a lack of shrewdness or a lack of wisdom, many organizations attempt to foolproof their organizations with a plethora of procedures and policies. Instead of dealing with a problem surgically and strategically, a new policy or procedure is put in place. Someone made a dumb move, and a policy was added. After all, it is much easier to add policy .0145 than it is to have a confrontational conversation or provide training.

Over time these policies can add up to a ridiculous amount and hamper empowerment, creativity, and speed. Policies and procedures are important, and good policies increase speed and empowerment as people are able to devote time to execution instead of continually discussing/debating the same issues. But an overabundance of policies is unwise because it is impossible to completely foolproof an organization and the cost of attempting to do so is extremely high (loss of creative thinking and empowerment).

It is much better to value savvy and shrewd people than to think savvy policies are the solution (even if there is such a thing). It is much more fruitful and healthy to recruit leaders with hardheaded acumen and teach and equip teams to possess clever and discerning awareness than it is to add yet another page of fast-working and easy-to-install policies.