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Structure Can Impede Progress

I once received a question about a post entitled “7 Enemies of Organizational Health“. One of those “enemies” I listed as “structure”. The person’s question was, “Are you referring to micromanagement?” He went on to say that we need structure to prevent organizational chaos.

I answered.

Well, yes and no. Micromanagement is an impediment to organizational health, but really I simply meant structure. Let me attempt to explain.

I do agree we need some structure, but not for structure sake, but for progress sake. And there is a difference.

I see it as similar to the concept of grace, freedom and the law. We don’t need laws if we are bound by grace. Grace is actually a higher standard than the law. But, we have to have an established order in our world for progress. It is a wicked world and we could never get anything done without some sense of structure.

In an organizational sense, think about it, if we all did the right thing we wouldn’t need structure. But structure allows for progress. When structure becomes a problem – when it gets in the way – and the kind of structure I was referring to in my post is when a well-meaning structure impedes progress.

Consider this example:

Imagine a rule that says everyone has to be in the church office from 8 to 5. So, because I want to respect authority, I obey the structure and am dutifully at my desk from 8 AM to 5 PM. The fact is, however, that I work best at 6 in the morning out of the office. Sticking to the structure in this case would limit my ability to be at my best. At the same time, because I’m following the structure, I may not go to the emergency hospital visit at midnight. After all, office hours are over by then.

I would personally rather have an understanding that people need to get their work done. They need to have clear goals (they helped develop) that stretch them and moves the organization forward. They need to be held accountable for reaching them, but once they are established we can allow the individual to figure out how to accomplish them.

Or one more:

What if there was a rule which says no one can serve on a committee in your church until they’ve been in the church a year? (This one is a real scenario with churches I’ve known.) What if one of the committees was the garden committee – which includes, in part, pulling weeds? What if someone shows up at the church ready to pull weeds – but not yet ready to join the church? What if them serving is what connects them to the church? (Theoretically someone could actually come to know Christ only after they’ve pulled weeds in the church.)

I personally would rather save the “committee” slots for jobs help by people who’ve been there for a while, but let newcomers serve where they are equipped to do – based on the time they’ve been there. (So, I’d get rid of the garden committee.)

The bottom line is that structure should enhance not impede progress.

Structure should never get in the way of accomplishing what God plants in your heart to accomplish.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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  • Kari Scare

    Balance is essential with regard to structure. A minimum is needed in order for an organization to be an organization. But after that, personality and temperament need considered. Some people work best with lots of structure while others need very little beyond the minimum.

  • True. Agreed Ron! In our accounting and auditing parlance, we have a concept called "substance over form". At any point of time, it is important to ensure that form does not override substance while making the financial statements. The same holds true in our personal and official life too. Never in our life, we should allow structure to overlook common sense.