The Bus: An Organizational Metaphor


By Jim Grubs, reprinted from Minding the Gap.

Over the last decade and more, the metaphor of “The Bus” has become popular within many of our business, service and educational organizations. It, indeed, has been a helpful way to look at both organizations and individuals within the organization. Questions such as “What is the purpose of the ‘bus’?”; “What direction is the ‘bus’ going?”; “Should she/he be on the bus?”; and, “Is she/he in the right ‘seat’ (position) on the bus’?” can all be very helpful questions to making a business/organization and their coworkers more effective.
What delights me is that this metaphor is greatly enhanced by a concept within the Christian tradition. It does so through the concept of charis (the favor of God). One expression of this divine favor or grace, is the charisms of the Spirit – the gifts of the Spirit to individuals. That is to say that our creator has endowed every one of us with certain abilities or talents for living. However, these gifts are given, not for self-aggrandizement, but for the community’s well-being or betterment. One theologian, John Haughey, writes in his essay on wealth and abundance: “charisms are God’s favor that is given, not for those who receive them, but for those who will benefit from their exercise by those who have received them.” Haughey’s perspective is verified much earlier by the apostle Paul, who put charis into the context of life when he wrote: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and varieties of services, but the same Lord and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (I Corinthians 12:4-7).
This idea is a great challenge to much of the hubris or self-promotion which seems to often sneak into, and even dominate, our and others’ work practices. Very easily can we begin to think we’re the originators of our abilities and that they’re to be used for personal benefit. The immediate perception and eventual end result of this is that everyone is in it for themselves. Trust, caring and their accompanying energies created for risk and sharing quickly leave the room. And, we all have a good understanding and experience of what happens to our work setting under such circumstances. However, Scripture (Paul) teaches us as people of faith we have been given a different perspective and challenged to invest our gifts/talents for the enhancement of our coworkers’ lives.
Perhaps as a guideline for moving in this direction, our behaviors need to answer positively the three simple questions continually asked by our colleagues:
  • Can I trust you?
  • Are you committed?
  • Do you care about me?
Again, I’m strongly convinced when our co-workers answer the above questions about us in the affirmative then “The Bus” metaphor is a great mechanism for helping organizations be clear about their purpose and having their members in the right seats.
Blessings to all in your faithful endeavors.

  One thought on “The Bus: An Organizational Metaphor

  1. March 12, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    The bus is a great metaphor. There is a story in this book: The Workplace and Spirituality: New perspectives on research and practice.Sue the Bus Driver gives her riders care and compassion. She sees the bus as “her church” and her riders wait so they can ride with her, instead of the other drivers, because they feel their soul is nourished. It’s the little things that make the difference. Sue says hello to them, she asks about their day, she tells them goodbye.


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