Martin Hiebl, Birgit Feldbauer-Durstmüller,
"What can the corporate world learn from the cellarer? Examining the role of a Benedictine abbey?s CFO"
, in Society and Business Review, Vol. 9, Nummer 1, Seite(n) 51-73, 2014, ISSN: 1746-5680
What can the corporate world learn from the cellarer? Examining the role of a Benedictine abbey?s CFO
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Purpose - Benedictine abbeys are highly stable organisations that have existed for almost 1,500 years. The extant literature ascribes this stability in part to the notion of Benedictine governance, which centres on the Rule of St. Benedict. An integral part of Benedictine governance is the cellarer, who plays a role comparable to that of a chief financial officer (CFO) in a traditional corporation. Unlike corporations, however, in which the CFO has emerged into a more important role over the past few decades, the cellarer has been an official position in Benedictine abbeys since the introduction of the Rule of St. Benedict in the sixth century. The present paper explores the cellarer?s role and assesses which parts of it could be
reasonably transferred to the corporate world.
Design/methodology/approach - Informed by organisational role theory, we conducted a single case study in an Austrian Benedictine abbey. We used group discussions and semistructured interviews as the main research instruments.
Findings - We find that the cellarer?s behaviour shows strong signs of stewardship, which could serve as a role model for corporate CFOs. However, because of the studied abbey?s situation of financial distress, the cellarer also experienced severe role conflicts rooted in his obedience to the abbot, the high involvement of the abbey in the local economy, and the cellarer?s conscience as a Christian monk. From these findings, we describe those aspects of the cellarer?s role that should thus be avoided for corporate CFOs.
Research limitations/implications - The presented findings are based on a single case study. Therefore, because of the contextual factors idiosyncratic to the abbey under investigation, the results must be interpreted with care. Nevertheless, the findings explain the cellarer?s role and depict its potential benefits for the corporate world, which should induce further research.