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Healthy organizations maintain an unchanging vision they sustain long-term. One way they do so, however, is with a willingness to change their organizational structure as needed.

If the structure is impeding the accomplishment of the vision it is time to make changes.

How do you know when organizational structural change is needed?

7 considerations to discern structure change:

When you continually encounter obstacles trying to move forward.

If every decision you try to make hits roadblocks or dead ends, it may be time to repair the potholes. When it takes layers of people and weeks to make a decision it may be time to change the structure of how decisions are made.

Example: In numerous churches I have worked with they had multiple committees that are included in almost every decision made. When we worked to combine those committees into one stronger committee efficiency and accountability greatly improved.

When the steps to make the change are more exhausting than the value the change provides.

Change should be exhilarating. It is what brings momentum. When the process to get there is so long or difficult it wears you out and you’ve got no excitement left – it may be time for some structure change.

Example: I was coaching a pastor in a church where change is painful to accomplish. He said to me, “In the end, it’s not worth the battle.” My advice – changing that culture IS the battle worth pursuing if he was going to stay long-term.

When you can no longer attract leaders.

If people are controlled more than empowered you will attract doers, but you won’t attract visionary leaders. Creative leadership will die, because genuine leaders rebel against controlling environments.

Example: I learned early in church revitalization that because leaders want something that is moving forward, we had lost many over the years. We had to make changes to attract them again.

When you spend more time discussing than doing.

Granted, we need to meet about some things. We need to plan, strategize and organize. The best structures help you get busy doing not attending another meeting. When people feel drained by meetings it probably means you need some change in how, when and why you meet.

Example: In a number of churches with which I’ve worked we advocated for changes in the bylaws to allow for decisions to be made quicker and more efficiently. This change gave everyone more time to do the “real” work of the church.

When the structure you have now isn’t sustainable long term.

Structure based upon people, for example, rather than progress, will eventually need changing as people change. Ask yourself will this structure work 10 years from now? If not, the time to change is now.

Example: We once recognized our system of business meetings was not sustainable. Younger generations weren’t coming. As an older generation slowly grew smaller there were fewer people making decisions for the church, and some of those didn’t want change of any kind. We went from monthly meetings where less than 1% of the Sunday crowd attended to higher quality quarterly meetings where some 15-20 % attended.

When all creativity is structured out of the system.

If the process is so clearly defined nothing new is needed. There is no room for different ideas or opinions. When people fall into routines, they get bored and complacency becomes the norm. Change is needed, which allows more freedom and creative expression.

Example: I love to empower the staff to create their own goals and objectives. We let new people write their own job descriptions. We sign-off on what they say they want to accmplish – to make sure it lines up with overall goals – and we hold people accountable by what they say they wanted to accomplish, but they get to be their own creatives.

When there is no longer any confusion.

Most people like clarity, but if everything is so carefully scripted the organization has probably become stale. Some of the best discoveries are found amidst chaos. Andy Stanley says “a tension to be managed, not a problem to be solved”. Good organizations have some of those.

Example: We once decided to take one of our largest events of the year and break it down into dozens of smaller events. Our goal was to take the energy invested in a big event and hopefully spread the energy throughout our church to better live our vision of getting more people involved. There were a lot of unanswered questions. It’s harder to manage many events than it is one. We certainly made some mistakes and learned from them, but the unanimous decision afterward is it was a good change.

Does your organization need to make some changes?

Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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