Tzu Chi is by all accounts one of the most effective and efficient humanitarian relief and development organizations at work around the world today. What gives Tzu Chi its extraordinary ability to mobilize quickly in the face of disasters? How is it able to find creative solutions in difficult, confusing, and even unprecedented situations? How is it so successful in procuring resources and organizing people, deploying them to where they are needed, and then orchestrating the efficient and effective delivery of services? How does it cope so effectively with the high degree of uncertainty, chaos, confusion, and stress caused by large-scale disasters? I will suggest three inter-related answers to these questions. First, Tzu Chi does not seek to achieve goals; instead, it is mobilized and driven by trying to advance a set of core values. Second, through the model and teaching of the Dharma Master and through discussions that run throughout the entire organization, Tzu Chi achieves extraordinary alignment of action with its core values. Finally, Tzu Chi is not driven by plans; instead, it is driven by commitments based on its values – it commits to making an effort consistent with its values, and then does everything it reasonably can to be faithful to those values. These three characteristics of the organization come together to form a fourth, which lies in how decisions are made. Consistently, in small operational decisions and in large strategic matters, decision-makers proceed by referring to the core values, asking, “which is the choice that is best aligned with the core values of Tzu Chi?” And, taken together, these four define the fifth key characteristic of Tzu Chi – they make it a highly nimble and adaptive organization. Indeed, the central feature of its strategy is that it is designed and operated for adaptability.
This organizational alignment at the core of the organization has profound consequences. It generates a very high degree of motivation on the part of Tzu Chi volunteers, contributing time and resources to the important projects of the organization. It provides guidance on how to resolve questions about how to proceed in thousands of small and large matters throughout the organization every day. It provides a basis for trust within the organization and a set of principles that people outside the organization can trust Tzu Chi to honor.
Tzu Chi represents a crucially and increasingly important organizational form: it is a model of a values-driven organization, facing a complex and rapidly-evolving world that is full of surprises, whose strategy is to organize itself to be adaptive and to act adaptively in the moment. This model is important far beyond the domain of humanitarian relief and development, even though that domain is important by itself. Many other organizations, in a wide variety of domains, face similarly rapidly evolving circumstances – and they can learn a great deal from the way that Tzu Chi organizes itself for extraordinary high performance in rapidly changing events and situations.
哈佛大學商業管理學院暨甘迺迪政府學院（Faculty Co-Chair of the Social Enteprise Initiative Harvard Business School Harvard University）