Movements, Organizations, or Institutions?

September 3, 2016
Dave Blundell
3 min
Movements, Organizations, or Institutions?
We’ve always done it that way. Saying “no” until we have a good reason to say yes. A preoccupation with policies. Overly-managed and under-led. Most people have forgotten about the “why”?

Characterized by bureaucracy and control.

If these statements describe your organization’s default in decision making…you might be leading an institution not a movement. Every organization will naturally lean toward institutionalism unless you can hold onto the values that were present when you started.

It’s a natural lifecycle for every organization that gets past infancy and onto maturity. Vision leaks, inspiration wanes, and people feel like “it’s just a job”. At the start, everyone is focused on why the organization exists and the problem it exists to address. There is an optimism and a motivation that is larger than the start-up obstacles we face. People are captured by the ideal of a different future. And that ideal is worthy of sacrifice, scarcity, hard work and straightforward hardheadedness.

For all of the organization's that are skilled…or last beyond infancy, a danger awaits. It’s a subtle change that can even appear healthy. Maturity can easily transform into indifference. We start to risk less and protect more. We pat ourselves on the back and begin to coast for a moment. And very subtly our maturity becomes passionless.

And while this trend is all but certain for every mature and affective organization, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to succumb to. But, for leaders, it takes a rock solid commitment to firmly keep one foot in the present and one in the future. It takes leaders who remind everyone about the “why” you started. It takes leaders who remind everyone about the legacy stories and vision “wins”. It takes leaders who have a death grip on the vision, mission and values and more importantly, who lives them out. It takes leaders who are willing to risk again, like you did at the start. It takes leaders who can continue to grow themselves so they can grow their organizations. It takes leaders who can lead other leaders as they pull around them people who can build so they can keep starting.

The world is so broken and it needs all of our spiritual and social organizations to be as affective as possible. The world needs organizations that don’t fizzle out just after they ignite. The world needs our collective effectiveness. The world needs leaders who are every bit as effective in non-profit as they are in for-profit.