Institutions go through a natural lifecycle. In the early days, everything is focused on the future. People, processes, and even the way they speak centers on possibilities. With time, there is a natural change to being self-protective. Above all, the organization must survive! People in key positions, perceptions, and visuals trump everything else. Without commenting on any organization I have worked with, I have yet to see an organization that avoids this phase.
New companies have something magical that is lost in the move to self-preservation. Recently several organizations have reached into their past looking to recover the energy and drive that made them successful. It is a good sign! The danger is to great not to do anything.
Observation suggests that complacency often leads to careless choices with negative outcomes in time. It is as if they are characters in an old story that need to hear the same warning; “We must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—‘First the people partied, then they threw a dance.’” (1 Corinthians 10.7)
Ironically, organizations reflect what comes naturally for individuals. With time, our carefree youth is replaced by a guarded cautious adult. Intentionally reaching for more is supplanted by being comfortable in the present. Risk avoidance becomes the dominant driver in our life; after all, we must protect ourselves! Experience reminds me of the dangers when I stop reaching for more. Acceptance of the status quo, laziness, and a creeping sense of the dull become norms.
There are options, for companies and individuals. Both involve embracing a bigger story. We are here for a purpose. We can do more. Although it is tempting to accept the present, it is in the present that we can reach beyond yesterday. The potential is shaped by our intent. With compassion, mercy, and community as friends, we can take on the challenges. Hope is an ally. We are not in this alone – others are with us.
I have witnessed change in the past. I know this story can repeat itself. I am willing to play my part.