Blue sky thinking from McBainey and Acronym

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A report to CE International plc (formerly the Church of England) on the management challenges it faces.

To: The Chief Executive, CE International plc

(formerly the Church of England)

From: McBainey and Acronym, Management Consultants to

Saints and Sinners

Our philosophy: I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: Matthew 25: 26

Staff morale is low and customer ratings of the corporation are poor. Both staff and customers seem reconciled to continued decline, blaming it on the weak state of the overall faith market.

McBainey and Acronym disagree. Outside Europe and bluestate America, faith products are booming. We consider the perception of market decline to be mainly a result of the weak performance of established producers, particularly CE and Vatican International. Although CE’s brand recognition is high, brand identity is weak.

Our focus groups revealed an apparent paradox: although weakening brand values broadens customer appeal in the short run, in the medium to long term only challenging faiths sustain customer loyalty. Vatican’s predecessor, Church Universal, discovered this in the 16th century: the sale of indulgences generated considerable short-term revenue but led to massive haemorrhaging of market share in northern Europe. Your company’s image has always been blurred relative to Vatican’s. The first executive chairman, Henry VIII, failed to establish a clear strategic direction and this legacy has persisted.

The brand image issue is fundamental. Even though Islamicorp’s brand attributes received very negative ratings from our panel – only Ryanair has recorded lower scores – Islamicorp products are gaining market share (as indeed are Ryanair’s). We strongly urge a clear and strong affirmation of brand values – a creed, in marketing jargon.

The strength of brand values may be more important than what they are. We recognise that “the Tory party at prayer” may no longer be an appropriate slogan for CE International. But successful religious brands in today’s market are mostly rightwing and authoritarian. We observe some tension in CE between the expectations and views of staff and of customers.

Although the marketing measures we envisage may slow decline, some reorganisation and rationalisation of production facilities is inevitable. We found most of your company’s premises wholly unsuitable to the needs of a modern business. Many were poorly located, with inadequate parking facilities and crippling maintenance and utility bills. We recommend that you negotiate wholesale disposal to a tourist-focused business such as the National Trust or English Heritage.

Joint ventures with property developers could exploit the obvious synergies between Sunday church attendance and retail therapy. We also recommend that you visit the US to see how successful churches have achieved 24/7 utilisation of their premises. Many of the facilities we visited were in use for only three or four hours a week.

Customer service was deficient in many respects. The one-to-one customer interface – often described as pastoral work – was generally sympathetically handled, but the management of larger groups was old-fashioned and amateur. Few of your representatives made proper use of presentational aids, many outlets lacked broadband access. Some outlets even produced music in house, usually of lamentable quality.

The average age of staff is high, and while many were strongly committed to the job, others had doubts, and so often did we. Their calibre is, however, high, given the low salaries. We were told that sponsorship from local landowners and businesses used to be common, but has now been more or less eliminated. We recommend these issues should be reopened.

Assessment procedures fall far short of our expectations for a lively 21st-century organisation. We recommend a training programme, including financial management, fund-raising and human relations elements, for all staff expected to reach bishop-grade or above. We also recommend an early retirement scheme for poor performers. Some of the personnel we interviewed acted as if they had already taken early retirement.

We recognise that these changes may be uncomfortable for many within CE International, but believe a restored emphasis on shareholder value is true to the message of your founder in Matthew 25:30: “cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. McBainey and Acronym have consultants available with extensive experience of weeping and gnashing.

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