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5 Challenges Adding Structure as an Organization Grows

As an organization grows, adding structure will be required to sustain it.

Frankly, 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, however, additions in structure have to be added. Even entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid of healthy structure.

That said, it 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.

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

5 challenges adding 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 growth.

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

Every organization is unique.

The structure added should not impede long-term progress – even if it appears to slow short-term growth.

Any added structure should further enable the completion of the vision, not offer a detraction from it.

The key here is you want to maintain progress over the long-term. Granted, you may add some structure that temporarily slows growth. When I was in city leadership there was a time we needed to slow the pace of growth in development so we could catch up with infrastructure in the city. We actually saw that as progress. If it had slowed growth forever, however, it would no longer have been progress.

If a church implements a new membership process, for example, they may not see as many people added immediately, but the goal should be overall that it would improve the process long-term – allowing for even more growth.

An organization which never grows will eventually die – hence the next suggestion.

It should accommodate or encourage future growth.

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 or intentional cases as noted previously).

This should be common sense. The problem is we don’t always ask the right questions or evaluate properly to see if this is true.

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 refuse a change based solely upon popularity – it needs a better thought process than simply what people like. Leadership is never about making people happy.

Yet, 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. I have learned that sometimes it is best to add structure in phases. People can only accept a certain amount of change at a time.

People should understand the why.

This may be the most important one of all of these. People are more likely to accept structure changes when they can identify the value to them and their area of responsibility. At the very least, they need to understand 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 once took a year to make one structural change, so people could clearly understood why we were making it. Some people still didn’t understand. We still moved forward and most people did. In the end, it proved to be a widely accepted change in our structure.

Check out my leadership podcast where we discuss issues of leadership nuggets in a practical way. Plus, check out the other Lifeway Leadership Podcasts.

Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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