5 Suggestions For Adding Structure to a Growing Organization

I think there is value in unstructured growth. We shouldn’t be afraid of growth we 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.

As the organization grows – and as strategy changes – additions in structure have to be added. Even entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid of healthy structure.

Adding structure, however, can be a painful and disruptive process if not handled carefully. We must add structure strategically.

Too many churches and organizations are stalled, because when things got messy due to growth they simply added a new rule.

The fact is structure should never be too inflexible. It should change with the organization. It should even change at times with the people who are in the organization.

How do you add good, helpful structure in a growing organization?

Here are 5 suggestions to add good structure to an organization:

The change should make sense with the organizational DNA.

We have to be careful altering something in a way which could disrupt the fiber, core, or root foundation of the organization. DNA is formed fast, but changed slowly – and sometimes never. It’s who an organization is and who people have come to expect it to be. It’s hard to disrupt this without disrupting future potential for growth.

For example, the structure we tried to add or change in church revitalization looked different from the structure we had in church planting.

And every church and organization is unique.

The structure added should not impede progress.

This seems common sense to me, but I’ve learned this is not always the case. Structure should further enable the completion of the vision, not detract from it.

Notice I said progress not grow with this suggestion. It could be you need some temporary structure which slows growth for a season. When I was in city leadership there was a time we needed to slow the pace of growth so we could catch up with infrastructure in the city. We actually saw that as progress. If it slowed growth forever it would no longer be progress.

An organization which never grows will eventually die (hence the following suggestion.) The key is structure should consider the future potential for long-term sustainability of the organization.

It should accommodate or encourage continued future growth.

Again, this should make sense. The problem is we don’t always ask the right questions to see if this is true.

Structure’s purpose should be to help the organization continue to grow over time. Structure should make things more efficient — not less efficient. Healthy structure enables growth. It does not control growth (except in rare cases as noted previously).

It should hit the center of acceptance.

This is a hard one to balance. Not everyone will agree with any change, but if the structure is universally opposed then it may need to be considered more closely before being implemented.

This goes back to the suggestion about DNA. You shouldn’t make change based solely upon popularity – it needs a better thought process than simply what people like. Leadership is never about making people happy.

But, at the same time, if you want the structure to be sustainable and helpful it must meet general acceptance, which leads to the last suggestion.

People should understand the why.

This may be the most important one of all of these. People are more likely to accept structure when they can identify the value to them and their area of responsibility, but at least the value to the overall organization.

I once interviewed Zig Ziglar. He continually said, “If people understand the why they will be less opposed to the what.” I’ve learned how true this principle is over the years.

We took a year to make one structural change, so people could clearly understood why we were making it. Some people still didn’t understand but most people did. And it was a widely accepted change in our structure.

What would you add to my list?

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Ron Edmondson

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  • […] This article originally appeared here […]

  • […] “As the organization grows – as strategy changes – additions in structure have to be added. Adding structure, however, can be a painful and disruptive process if not handled carefully. We must add structure strategically,” writes Ron Edmondson. Managing a growing organization is exciting, but it can be difficult too. Helpful words from Ron on how to add structure to a growing organization. […]

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  • ronedmondson says:

    Thanks…I think

  • — Make sure that new structure adds value to whole organization.
    — New Srtucture will be an asset to the organization and not the liability
    — New Structure creates synergy and produces exponential outcome
    — New structure is congruent to the vision and mission of the organization

  • suemiley says:

    I think I am hearing that we should never add structure just for structure's sake and I agree with that wholeheartedly. I am a pretty unstructured person, but have learned that structure is of utmost importance in a growing organization. Structure is like a safety net and a spring board all at the same time. It should catch you if things are out of control. Having a policy in place to handle something sensitive helps immensely. But, just as important is having a foundation to create from. This is the baseline of what we need to do will help get people started. The creative ones will start there and soar!

  • Dr. Tom Cocklereece says:

    I would add:

    The new structure should further the organization's mission, vision, and build buy-in. The leader should be able to clarify how the structure achieves this. Communication/connection steps for the new structure must be built in to each item. Doing this will insure that the organization will move forward toward achieving overall goals.

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