Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Why are we so Risk Averse? Crucial Challenges The Salvation Army and other Organisations face.

My hands are trembling and my fingers are shaking. I'm nervous even writing this, either that or I've already drank too much coffee this morning. I'll be honest with you, it could be either one.

Let me preface what I'm about to say with this: Change can be painful. Change can be unsettling. Change can even hurt. Though change is necessary for any organisation that seeks to stay relevant and engaged with the world around it. It has been said, that the only thing that doesn't change, is the fact that things change. Actually, the rate at which change happens today is changing. Without spelling out the obvious, change is happening at a more rapid rate than ever before. How do we possibly cope?

In the interest of organisational stability, we attempt to not rock the boat. We do it with great intentions; we want to see great organisations continue to thrive, and not fall apart in the midst of shifting societal values and rapid technological change.

Here is the challenge: The organisation that thrived in its beginnings, generally thrived within a culture of boldness, innovation, a mild disrespect of existing bureaucracy, a little bit of arrogance and risk-taking ingenuity. The organisation some years later tries to hold itself up using fundamentally different ideals, that of, organisational structure, clear administrative processes, authoritative lines of decision-making, risk aversion, workplace health and safety and the list goes on.

The latter list is not wrong, far from it, but it is miles apart from the culture that caused the organisation to thrive in its inception.

So we are seeking to be part of a thriving, growing movement, that has a new learned behaviour of rewarding the fulfilment of the status quo. We then question why the organisation is not thriving to the degree we have in our heart, but fail to recognise we implicitly support an organisation fundamentally different to the one that used to thrive.

The Salvation Army faces that challenge. Right now we are on the precipice of change. We have a decision to make. Who will be in the drivers seat of organisational life? Risk Aversion or Faith-filled visionary ideas?

Let me spell it out. We need good goverance; of course we do. We need to ensure children are safe in our care. We need to ensure the finances are managed well. We need to ensure thrift shops are safe. Absolutely. Though because these things take up so much of our time, they end up being in the drivers seat. Visionary ideas are pushed to the background. Innovation and risk taking are seemingly frowned upon, or atleast perceived to be from leaders who seek to 'do something new.' This happens without a flinch from people upholding good governance, because they seek passionately to keep the organisation stable and productive.

Where do organisations like The Salvation Army move from here?

  • We need to communicate VISION more than COMPLIANCE.
  • We need to reward INNOVATION more than ORGANISATIONAL Box-Ticking.
  • We need to release APOSTLES to be apostolic and allow ADMINISTRATORS to be great administrators that help facilitate apostolic work.
  • We must focus on PEOPLE more than TASKS. Tasks are means to an end. The end is surely to ultimately support the transformation of people.
  • We must not forget the ministry of JESUS that worked to lighten the load of religious expectation upon the people.
What can YOU do to support the edgy, risk-taking, out of the boat kind of people that God is calling us to be?

I have a few thoughts:

  • Remind people to fix their eyes upon Jesus (Remember Peter walked on water when he fixed his eyes/heart/faith upon Jesus)
  • Encourage new ideas. Don't let your first position be, 'No.' Let it be, 'Tell me more...'
  • Get the right people on the right seats on the bus. Allow the prophetic organisational leaders be free to be who they were created to be. Have the people gifted in administration in roles of administration. People need to be working in their gifting.
  • Strongly encourage people to pray with great faith. To believe for the impossible. To believe God for a miracle. To pray with fervour and expectation.
  • Remind people of the history of the organisation - Remind them of the faith-filled stories of days gone by. Reignite in people a belief for greater things!
  • We need to legitimize innovation.

Organisations that succeed find the right balance between risk aversion and innovation. They place vision in the drivers seat and governance in the back seat. (Don't worry, governance will be a good back-seat driver and yell out occasionally when you need to be reminded).

Let me finish with this: Change can be painful. Innovation can be risky.

If we learn to empower dynamic, faith-filled, risk-taking, bold leaders who seek to establish God's kingdom in a broken world, we honour the past, provoke the present and forge a tremendous future!


  1. This is great Pete...keep articulating the way forward.

  2. Unfortunately we have changed the words to Booth's song from "Send the fire!" to "Bless our programs." Thanks, Pete, for challenging us to get back to the original version!

  3. Change is good as long that the change dose not make us some thing else, Go back to your first love. What makes the Salvation Army the Salvation Army and not some other Christian Faith.

  4. One more opinion piece among the thousands proffered in days past! Words....just words!


Popular ALL TIME Posts