We used to have a guy in our ward (since moved to another state), a great person, young father, taught seminary and the kids loved him. He had studied business at BYU (I think including an MBA) and he does a lot of recruiting for his employer. One time we were talking, and I asked him about what they look for in new hires, and he explained to me the process and the exercises they put potential new hires through to test their ability to think on their feet, to problem solve, to think creatively, to get things done. Although I can’t recall the details, I do recall being deeply impressed by this young man and his business and organizational acumen, and thinking that if I ran a business and needed someone like him I would have hired him on the spot. I’m sure there are lots of people in the Church like that with various educational backgrounds who have similar kinds of training and abilities.
I don’t know why, but for some reason the thought occurred to me this morning that if we could have a team of people like my friend (young, energetic, personable, creative go-getters) be in charge and do an overhaul of our missionary efforts, I truly believe they could be a powerful force for good and greatly improve how we go about doing missionary work now. But that will never happen. Because the Missionary Department is part of Church Headquarters culture, which means it’s hierarchical, top-down, has elements of a “yes man” culture, where people are concerned more about pleasing their superiors than actually doing what needs to be done out in the field. (I have no personal knowledge whatsoever, this is just my impression from what I have seen come out of the Missionary Department, so I welcome rebuttals to this impression in the comments.)
Two years ago, our own John F. posted this fantastic set of suggestions for the missionary program. I do believe the Church has made some good faith efforts to go in this direction, but the result has been sluggish at best.I cannot help but think what a team of people like my friend could do with such a set of suggestions. They would vet them thoroughly, cast aside ideas that wouldn’t work for various reasons, improve upon the suggestions, think through the logistics of implementing them, and ultimately make a final proposal for approval. I don’t get the impression that this type of vetting of good ideas is going on, or if it is it is getting swallowed up in the bureaucracy of the Department.
Instead, we get things like posting missionaries in church buildings to give public tours. Great idea–if your building is in an urban area with significant passing foot traffic. But 99% plus of our buildings are in remote suburban locations you have to get to by car. So you’re left with bored missionaries sitting around a building doing absolutely nothing. My hypothetical team of young and sharp organizational minds would have seen this problem immediately and made adjustments to account for it.
I guess I’m just frustrated that I see so much that needs to change in order to make missionary work more effective, and so little productive change from the late Jurassic when I was a missionary myself. We still worship the almighty baptism statistic and use that as the ultimate measurement of the success of missions and missionaries, apparently without fully realizing the perverse side effects and motivations that result from such a simplistic (and I would argue misleading) metric. My hypothetical swat team of young, creative problem solvers would do something about that, I’m sure.
So what do you think? Am I being too pessimistic about what goes on in the Misisonary Department? Or are there worthwhile changes to be made that just aren’t being made due to organizational brick walls? Does anyone have any insider insight to the dynamics of the Missionary Department and why it seems so slow to make meaningful change and improvements to the missionary effort? And while we’re at it, what ideas do you have to improve the missionary effort? 
 Here’s one to get you started. Instead of having people in the Missionary Department work out of the Church Office Building, maybe have them work remotely and live in less heavily Mormon areas. In Utah these people can go all week and never interact with a non-LDS person. Away from headquarters they would actually get to know and become friends with non-LDS people, join the Rotary Club or whatever, learn to talk to them as flesh and blood people and peers, and perhaps begin to understand why their penchant for the hard sell at historic sites, for example, is counterproductive.