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Session Summaries

From Culture to Mission
Rev. David T. Tyson, C.S.C.

The purpose of this session will be to provide a framework for further discussions on how the cultural characteristics of organizations can affect the implementations of the mission. We will identify the characteristics of an organization's culture, the need for culture change, being an agent of change, and the process of changing a culture.

The participants will be asked to examine the culture of their catholic charities unit in light of the theoretical framework presented, and their experiences.


Catholic Charities and Catholic Mission
Rev. J. Bryan Hehir
Professor, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Secretary for Social Services, Archdiocese of Boston


  • Purpose of Session: to examine the socioeconomic and ecclesial context in which Catholic Charities agencies function today.

  • Method of Lecture:

    • Background: the evolution of Catholic Charities in the United States; from service of the Church to service of Church and society.

    • Structural Setting for Catholic Charities: issues of church-society and church-state relationships

    • Content of Catholic Social Vision

    • Ecclesial setting of the work of Catholic Charities

  • _______________________


    From Culture to Mission
    Rev. David T. Tyson, CSC
    Provincial Superior, Indiana Provice
    Congregation of Holy Cross

    The purpose of this session will be to provide a framework for further discussions on how the cultural characteristics of organizations can affect the implementations of the mission.

    We will identify the characteristics of an organization’s culture, the need for culture change, being an agent of change, and the process of changing a culture.

    The participants will be asked to examine the culture of their Catholic Charities unit in light of the theoretical framework presented, and their experiences.


    Mission-Based Leadership and Organizational Development
    Joseph Holt

    Director for Executive Ethics, Executive Education
    University of Notre Dame

    Dimensions of Values-Based Decision Making

    Our session will cover the topics just below this paragraph relevant to values-based leadership and decision making within Catholic Charities.  All readings mentioned below are recommended as a stimulus to your own thinking on the topics we’ll cover, but are not required for participation in our discussions; please read as much or as little as your schedule allows.  I apologize in advance for including 4 appendices to this document; given that you have limited time for pre-reading, they are meant to provide the heart of certain readings, which will hopefully serve you well even if your schedule does not allow time to read the articles in question.

    (The Jim Collins and William Pollard articles mentioned below, from the Leader to Leader Journal, may be accessed free of charge online at -- the Collins reading is in the Summer 1996 issue and the Pollard reading is in the Spring 2000 issue.  If that link doesn’t work, go to and follow the link to Knowledge Center, then the link to Leader to Leader Journal, and then conduct a search under Search Journals by the authors’ respective names.  For copyright reasons, we are regrettably prevented from providing hard copies of those readings to you.)

    Topics covered:

    • Briefly recalling the Larger Mission Context of Decision Making and the Role of the Laity in It
    • Establishing the Organizational Context of Decision Making: Vision, Mission and Values
    • Engaging Employees’ Values: A Prerequisite to Successful Fulfillment of the Mission and Implementation of Values-Based Decision
    • A Recommended General Approach to the Values-Based Decision-Making Process
    • A Framework for Values-Based Decision-Making at Catholic Charities

    The objectives of our session are as follows:

    • Underline the importance of the mission of the Church as the horizon of values-based decision making within Catholic Charities agencies
    • Emphasize the distinction between ministry and mission and the growing importance of laity in carrying out both the ministry and mission of the Church
    • Outline the three-fold leadership task of envisioning, embedding and sustaining in the formation of the organizational context for values-based decision making
    • Clarify the role of vision, mission and values statements in the values-based organization
    • Indicate the need to go beyond a statement of core values to reinforce those values in concrete and specific ways through policies, practices, etc.
    • Emphasize the importance of aligning mission and employee values as a necessary precondition to successful implementation of values-based decisions and accomplishment of mission
    • Outline a general approach to values-based decision making that is consistent with the legislative style of leadership
    • Begin to develop a framework for making particular moral decisions consistently with the principles, values and standards of the CCUSA Code of Ethics.

    The remainder of this pre-work document will begin to flesh out the sub-topics we’ll consider under each of the major topic headings given above and suggest readings and reflections relevant to the sub-topics.

    I. Recalling the Larger Context of Decision Making and the Role of the Laity Within It

    There is an important difference between basing decisions on the core values of an organization—in which case those values drive the decision making process-- and making a decision on some other basis and then confirming that it is consistent with or at least not in conflict with those defining values.  In the former case, the core values of the organization are a forethought in the decision making process; in the latter case, they are brought in almost as an afterthought to bless a decision made on other grounds.

    In the case of Catholic Charities, local agencies may vary to some degree in the articulation of their vision, mission and core values or principles, but the vision, mission and values statements of each agency harmonize with the principles, values and standards articulated in the Catholic Charities USA Code of Ethics; and the principles, values and standards of the CCUSA Code of Ethics harmonize with the mission and teaching of the Catholic Church from which they derive. 

    The mission of the Church will receive extensive consideration in other sessions in your program.  At the beginning of our session we will briefly recall it as the backdrop of values-based decision making in local Catholic Charities agencies.  We will say a word also about the increasingly critical role of the laity in carrying out the mission of the Church within Catholic Charities and beyond.

    With respect to the importance of the host mission of the Church to the work of your agency, I suggest reflecting on the following hypothetical situation:

    If you were offered a donation that would double your annual budget for years to come, but only if you agreed to become and remain completely secularized, with no lingering traces of your Catholic past save the services offered themselves, would you accept the donation?  If so, why and what do you think would be lost as a result?  (Why is it important that your agency remain Catholic Charities rather than [Name of Your Town] Charities?)  If it isn’t, why isn’t it?  How would you answer if asked why it is important that your agency remain Catholic Charities and not [Insert Name of Your Town or City] Charities?

    What are the implications of your answer for the further question of how best to measure the success of your organization’s work? 

    II. Establishing the Organizational Context of Decision Making: Vision, Mission and Values

    Consistently effective values-based decision making within an organization requires, among other things, that the organization is solidly grounded in its vision, mission and core values (or guiding principles).  This grounding effort involves the threefold leadership agenda of envisioning (conceiving and articulating the vision, mission and values of the organization), embedding (integrating the vision, mission and core values into the culture, strategy, policies and practices of the organization), and sustaining (taking measures such as grooming values-based successors to ensure that the organization remains solidly grounded).

    Leaders are challenged to create an organizational context that is supportive of particular decisions and actions that reflect and reinforce the principles, values and standards of Catholic Charities.  In connection with the overall effort to establish a values-based context that is supportive of particular values-based decision making efforts, I invite you to read Collins, James C. "Aligning Action and Values" Leader to Leader. 1 (Summer 1996) (Collins is author of Build to Last and Good to Great.) 
    Collins describes vision as including the mission of the organization, its core values and its greatest aspirations.  Different experts in this area use these terms in different ways.  I recommend against getting too caught up in the terminology.  It is more important to identify what bases ought to be covered overall by the vision, mission and values statements, and to ensure that your organization has covered all such bases well somewhere.  Whether a particular base is covered in this statement rather than that one is far less important.

    For purposes of strategic decision making, I do point out that some authors helpfully describe the mission statement as covering what an organization does while the vision statement covers the organizations reason for being, why its work is important and what desired future the organization is working to achieve (one writer who takes this approach is Mark Lipton, in “Guiding Growth: How Vision Keeps Companies on Course,” an excerpt from his book by the same title on the Working Knowledge page of Harvard Business School; the excerpt and an interview are  available online for those who may be interested at On this understanding, the mission would cover what products or services the organization offers, identify who those products or services are offered to, and identify the geographic area in which the organization operates.  (Please consider why it is important for your particular agency to have clarity with respect to both mission and vision.  We will discuss your respective views of that question.)

    With that in mind, in connection with the Collins reading, please focus on and come prepared to discuss the following points:

    • the relative amounts of time spent on articulation and aligning vision, mission and values
    • identifying and correcting misalignment (time will not allow us to cover this, but it would be helpful to ask employees at your agency in a safe environment to identify where they think you are doing a good job of living your core values or guiding principles and where they think you could be doing even better)
    • creating mechanisms for alignment (can you think of any specific policies or practices  in place in your organization for reinforcing your core values?)
    • discovering your organization’s core values (do candidates come readily to mind for your “Mars Group”?  What values do those candidates embody?  Which of your organization’s core values would strike an observant and objective visitor to your organization describe as realized in the manner in which you carry out your work?
    • Both Collins and Pollard (whose article is mentioned more fully below) emphasize the importance of distinguishing that which should from that which should not change in an organization.  Collins states, “Your core values and purpose, if properly conceived, remain fixed.  Everything else—your practices, strategies, structures, systems, policies and procedures—should be open for change.”  Can you think of an instance in your own organizational decision making in which there has been a lack of clarity and agreement as to what should and what should never change?

    III. Harmonizing Mission and Employees’ Values: A Prerequisite to Successful Fulfillment of the Mission and Implementation of Values-Based Decision Making

    Successful fulfillment of an organization’s mission and implementation of the organization’s values-based decision requires harmony or alignment between the values and goals of the organization and the values and goals of those employees who are being counted on to fulfill the organization’s mission consistently with its core values or guiding principles.  This harmony benefits the organization, but also those served by the organization and those who work at the organization itself. 

    This view is consistent with the understanding of the three-fold moral significance of work as articulated in Economic Justice for All, the U.S. Catholic Bishops letter on the U.S. economy:

    “97. All work has a threefold moral significance. First, it is a principle way that people exercise the distinctive human capacity for self-expression and self-realization. Second, it is the ordinary way for human beings to fulfill their material needs. Finally, work enables people to contribute to the well-being of the larger community. Work is not only for one's self. It is for one's family, for the nation, and indeed for the benefit of the entire human family….”

    Time will enable us to discuss the topic of employee engagement only briefly.  But in connection with that important challenge and opportunity, I invite you to read Pollard, C. William "Mission as an Organizing Principle" Leader to Leader. 16 (Spring 2000): 17-21 (Mr. Pollard is former Chairman and CEO of ServiceMaster Company).

    For purposes of our session, please focus on the difference Mr. Pollard emphasizes between Shirley’s and Olga’s experience of work—even though they were involved in the same objective task of cleaning.  What particular decisions have you made and could you make in the future to create workplace experiences for your employees that are closer to Shirley’s than to Olga’s experience? 

    The manner in which Mr. Pollard contrasts the work experiences of Shirley and Olga recalls the distinction, found in the writings of John Paul II and elsewhere in Catholic teaching, between the objective and subjective meanings of work.  The objective meaning of work pertains to the concrete task performed—heart surgery, mopping, marketing, counseling, etc.— and includes the concrete effects of such work on those affected by it—arteries are unclogged, floors are clean, good counsel is given, etc.; the subjective meaning pertains to the spiritual and/or moral significance the worker attaches to her work.  Two people can perform the same objective task but attach very different meaning to it.

    On finding meaning through their work in a faith context by participating in a larger mission or purpose, consider also the following passage from John Paul II’s encyclical, Laborem exercens:

    Awareness that man's work is a participation in God's activity ought to permeate, as the Council teaches, even "the most ordinary everyday activities. For, while providing the substance of life for themselves and their families, men and women are performing their activities in a way which appropriately benefits society. They can justly consider that by their labor they are unfolding the Creator's work, consulting the advantages of their brothers and sisters, and contributing by their personal industry to the realization in history of the divine plan.

    I suggest that it is helpful to distinguish between the objective and subjective dimensions of excellence in work.  The objective dimension involves excellence in craft and adequate training and equipment and excellence in objective results (i.e. the task is done well in a technical sense and confers concrete benefits).  The subjective dimension involves excellence in motive or intent, i.e. the task is done well in a spiritual or moral sense—e.g. performing surgery with great care in order to relieve the patient’s suffering rather than to make a name for oneself in medical circles or to make a bundle, etc.

    Pope Benedict’s encyclical, in Deus Caritas Est, illustrates the need for both objective (professional competence) and subjective (“formation of the heart”) excellence in the work of Catholic Charities as follows:

    “Following the example given in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Christian charity is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for and healing the sick, visiting those in prison, etc. The Church's charitable organizations, beginning with those of Caritas (at diocesan, national and international levels), ought to do everything in their power to provide the resources and above all the personnel needed for this work. Individuals who care for those in need must first be professionally competent: they should be properly trained in what to do and how to do it, and committed to continuing care. Yet, while professional competence is a primary, fundamental requirement, it is not of itself sufficient. We are dealing with human beings, and human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern. Those who work for the Church's charitable organizations must be distinguished by the fact that they do not merely meet the needs of the moment, but they dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity. Consequently, in addition to their necessary professional training, these charity workers need a “formation of the heart”: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbour will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love (cf. Gal 5:6).” (31)

    Please note also the manner in which Mr. Pollard describes the mission of an organization as a principle for the organization’s self-correction:

    “Our beliefs do not mean that everything in the business will be done right.  We experience our share of mistakes.  But because of a stated standard and our reasons for that standard, we cannot hide our mistakes.  They are brought into the open for correction and, in some cases, for forgiveness.” 

    Can you think of an instance in which your vision, mission or values statements have served as a principle for self-correction within your agency?  Such instances highlight the guiding function of such statements.

    Mr. Pollard also makes a statement that is helpful to keep in mind with respect to managing a diverse workforce effectively: “It is a leader’s responsibility to set the tone, to learn to accept the differences of people, and to foster and environment where different people can contribute as part of the whole and achieve unity in diversity.”

    His statement touches on the Judeo-Christian virtue of hospitality without naming it.  I suggest the virtue of hospitality is helpful to keep in mind when making decisions relevant to working with and for an increasingly diverse workforce.  You are invited to read the excerpts in Appendix A to this pre-work document from Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen, on hospitality and to reflect on the ways in which your agency is both Catholic (i.e. Roman Catholic) and catholic (universal or all-embracing).  To the extent we succeed in being both upper-case and lower-case Catholic, people of diverse faith and other backgrounds will feel at home in what they know to be a Catholic organization.

    IV. The Role of the Leader (and Others) in the Values-Based Decision-Making Process

    The importance of a leader’s style is perhaps nowhere more important than in the manner in which he or she engages others (or not) in decision-making.  This is especially true given a commitment to a values-based approach to decision-making.  Time will not allow us to consider this topic in depth, but I will offer some brief reflections on it.  We would also like to make available an article and some questions for those who would like to explore this topic on their own beyond our session.  Those who are further interested are invited to read “What You Don’t Know About Making Decisions,” by David A. Garvin and Michael A. Roberto, Harvard Business Review, September 2001.  The authors state, “Decision making is arguably the most important job of the senior executive and one of the easiest to get wrong.”  They suggest that leaders are more likely to get decision making wrong if they take the advocacy rather than the inquiry approach to the decision making process.

    Consider the two following descriptions Garvin and Roberto offer of the advocacy and inquiry approaches to decision making, and consider which approach tends to dominate decision-making within your agency (and with what effects):

    The Advocacy Approach:

    When a group takes an advocacy perspective, participants approach decision making as a contest, although they don't necessarily compete openly or even consciously. Well-defined groups with special interests -- dueling divisions in search of budget increases, for example -- advocate for particular positions. Participants are passionate about their preferred solutions and therefore stand firm in the face of disagreement. That level of passion makes it nearly impossible to remain objective, limiting people's ability to pay attention to opposing arguments. Advocates often present information selectively, buttressing their arguments while withholding relevant conflicting data. Their goal, after all, is to make a compelling case, not to convey an evenhanded or balanced view. Two different plant managers pushing their own improvement programs, for example, may be wary of reporting potential weak points for fear that full disclosure will jeopardize their chances of winning the debate and gaining access to needed resources.

    The Inquiry Approach:

    By contrast, an inquiry-focused group carefully considers a variety of options and works together to discover the best solution. While people naturally continue to have their own interests, the goal is not to persuade the group to adopt a given point of view but instead to come to agreement on the best course of action. People share information widely, preferably in raw form, to allow participants to draw their own conclusions. Rather than suppressing dissension, an inquiry process encourages critical thinking. All participants feel comfortable raising alternative solutions and asking hard questions about the possibilities already on the table.

    If time allows you to read the article, please note further differences between those two approaches, ask what the upside/downside is to each approach, and ask how the decision making process typically followed in your agency handles “the ‘three C’s’ of effective decision making: conflict, consideration, and closure.”

  • (On the subject of conflicting opinions, on this side of the Fall workplace harmony and organizational effectiveness will always require a constructive approach to those whose views differ from our own, both within our own organization and beyond.  Moreover, the manner in which we handle disagreement within and beyond our own organizations reflects and reinforces our operating values, for better or worse; the challenge in a values-based context is to handle disagreement in a manner that reflects and reinforces the core values we profess.  We will not have time to explore the important topic of how to have fruitful discussions with those who hold conflicting opinions.  But for those who are interested, we have made available the Catholic Common Ground Initiative Principles of Dialogue, available at  These Principles were originally formulated to foster productive exchanges among those who hold different views within the Catholic Church, but the wisdom they contain may be applied within individual Catholic Charities agencies and in discussions held by those inside the agencies with others—e.g. recognizing no one has a monopoly on the truth, presuming those with whom we differ are acting in good faith, putting the best possible construction on positions, being cautious in ascribing motives, etc.)

    Finally, consider how the decision making process typically followed at your agency would fare under the litmus test suggested by Garvin and Roberto, and reproduced for your convenience in Appendix B to this document, in the areas of multiple alternatives, assumption testing, well-defined criteria, dissent and debate and perceived fairness (p. 116).

    V. Toward the Development of a Framework for Moral Decision-Making

    The stated purpose of the CCUSA Code of ethics is “to guide the organization in the concrete implementation of the broad moral philosophy of its mission of justice and love.”  The Code is also recognized has having certain unavoidable limitations, given its subject matter: “The Code provides a set of principles, values and standards to guide decision-making and conduct. It does not, however, provide a set of rules that prescribe how one should act in all situations.”

    The challenge, then, is to develop a framework for moral decision-making that serves as a bridge between the general principles, values and standards of the Code, and particular moral decisions facing your member agencies.  Many if not most of your agencies likely have frameworks for other decisions (what work to accept, how to evaluate performance of that work, etc.); frameworks serve the helpful purpose of indicating what considerations should be kept in mind if sound decisions are to be made consistently.  This is especially helpful with respect to decision-making in high-pressure circumstances, when it would be easy to forget to consider this or that consideration that you later recall and that may have led to a different decision.

    Happily, we have a very helpful framework to use as at least a starting point for the development of a framework that could be used within your agency.  That framework is provided in the Charities USA Magazine article, “Putting the Code of Ethics Into Practice,” by Kendra Garrett.

    Garrett provides a framework or problem-solving process (in her words) to that helps put the Code of Ethics into practice.  She also provides the following hypothetical dilemma to illustrate (and test?) the process she recommends:

    …A Catholic Charities shelter for homeless families received a number of complaints about intoxicated guests, and the agency needed to reassess its policies of admitting guests under the in­fluence of drugs or alcohol.

    For purposes of our discussion, please read the article and apply the framework to real world Catholic Charities dilemma she proposes.  Assume for purposes of our discussion that your agency is facing that dilemma.  Please reflect upon and be prepared to discuss your responses to the following questions:

    1. Would you have arrived at the same answer she arrives at with respect to the dilemma?
      1. If so, would you have arrived at that decision on the same basis?
      2. If not, what decision would you have made and what would your basis for that decision be?
    2. What did you find most helpful about the process she outlines?
    3. What, if anything, would you add to, modify, or subtract from the process she recommends to create a tool that could be used fruitfully in your agency to handle such dilemmas consistently with your mission and vision, on the one hand, and your principles, values and standards, on the other?
    4. Would you use her proposed framework or another if you worked in Illinois in Catholic Charities in Rockford, Peoria, Joliet, Springfield or Belleville and were facing the dilemma of either openly licensing gay foster parents or losing millions of state dollars?  (A recent Chicago Tribune article, “State probes religious foster care agencies over discrimination,” by Manya Brachear, March 2, 2011, discusses this looming issue and has been posted for your convenience to the website for our session.  It notes as you know that Catholic Charities in Boston and Washington have already ended their foster care and adoption services when unable to comply with state anti-discrimination laws after the approval of same-sex marriage in those states.  The answer to the dilemma is likely clear, but the remaining question is how comfortably could you with reference to your mission, identity, core values, etc. explain that decision within and beyond your agency should that become necessary.)

    I will assume that time will allow you to complete this exercise only on an individual basis.  To the extent you have time to discuss the process and dilemma as a team, that will be even more valuable (but it’s fine if that cannot be done conveniently).

    At the risk of complicating the process, I observe that the third step of the process Garrett recommends – “Identifying potential courses of action and resulting consequences”—raises the all-important question of how best to evaluate potential courses of action.  Entire courses are devoted to that topic.  Garrett’s process recommends focusing on the consequences of the potential courses of action to decide which one to take, and that is important; but as the list of 5 sources of standards on Appendix C to this document indicates, consequences are not all that matters and in some cases may not be what matters most.

    Adding too much to a framework for decision-making can make for an unwieldy instrument, but adding to little makes for an instrument that is flawed in its incompleteness.  You as a team must decide how streamlined or full you want any framework you would adopt to be.  The challenge is to be as comprehensive (i.e. all bases that should be covered are adequately covered) and yet streamlined (i.e. the tool can be applied efficiently) as possible.

    The same article cited on Appendix C suggests an alternative framework for moral decision-making.  I produce that for your convenience on Appendix D.  Please consider it, and in particular compare step 3 of the process outlined by Garrett with step 6 of the alternative framework to decide what you would find a more helpful tool for deciding among potential courses of action with respect to the dilemma that Garrett proposes, or another pressing dilemma you are currently grappling with at your agency.  (It would be helpful to apply the Garrett and alternative frameworks to such a dilemma whenever before or after the program time allows as a further step in developing your own framework initially by considering the strengths and limitations of other available frameworks.  If, of course, you or your agency already has such a decision-making framework, please let me know and see that, and bring it to our session.

    I look forward to our discussions!
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