The Value of Unstructured Growth/When Growth Outpaces Structure

Here is a principle of organizational leadership that I have begun to understand and process in recent years:

Your structure shouldn’t limit your growth. Your growth should help define your structure.

Since we started Grace Community Church our growth has been outside our structure. We have continually had instances occur where there was no policy or procedure in place to handle the situation. Often we have not been able to afford to completely fund all the needs of the growing organization. We have usually been stretched as paid staff and key volunteers. This diagram shows a visual of how our growth looks on paper:

(As I’ve said before, I’m not the king of graphics, but this is what it might look like if I were sketching this out for you.)

The tendency as we get larger is to reign that growth into a manageable structure. It would be nice to have all the policies and procedures in place to handle every situation that may arise in the future. I’m concerned, however, that doing so may limit future growth. We are adding more structure (I wrote about that HERE previously), but we will also continue to allow unstructured growth to occur.

From our experience, my advice to organizations is:

Don’t be afraid of growth you cannot understand. It’s messier, harder to contain, even uncomfortable at times, but it also keeps leaders energized, maintains momentum, and helps spur exponential growth. You will need to continually update your structure, but as much as you can, let growth dictate those additions.

Are you in an organization afraid of unstructured growth?

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8 thoughts on “The Value of Unstructured Growth/When Growth Outpaces Structure

  1. Thanks so much for this post Ron. I have always been comfortable — maybe too much so — in unstructured growth, but a lot of people on our team are not. I'm going to have them read your post. It has some great talking points. It will be our "Leadership Lesson" in our staff meeting on Thursday. With us, it's not only numerical growth, but some programmatic growth as well.
    I'll let you know how it goes.

  2. I am actually in 2 right now. One I am a mid-level leader in and we are really feeling the "messiness" vs "clean and safe" realities. Trying to influence as much as I can there. The second is young, fresh, new – and I "the old guy" am the leader. This post today helped me realize I have been doing some of the same things in this new ministry that I have been trying to change in my mid-level leader position in the other ministry! I'll be praying for God's help to take your model to heart so that the new ministry can outgrow our structure when it needs too! Thanks Pastor Ron