10 Organizational Dangers—Caution If You Check 3 or More

By John Pearson

Here’s a quick gut-check for your next board meeting. According to Ted Engstrom (1916-2006), who retired as president of World Vision in 1987, some organizations often begin with a man [or woman], become a movement, develop into a machine, and eventually become a monument.

If your board checks at least three of the 10 organizational dangers listed here, there may be trouble looming, said Engstrom. Does your ministry:
[ ] Settle for the status quo?
[ ] Eliminate creative tensions?
[ ] Fail to plan in depth?
[ ] Fail to listen?
[ ] Depend on past successes?
[ ] Depend on personal experience?
[ ] Neglect the highest good?
[ ] Forget unity?
[ ] Lose the joy of service?
[ ] Forget the bottom line?

To drill down further, Engstrom lists 10 questions that relate to the 10 dangers. He adds, “Note that none of them are bad in themselves. In fact, they may be very good. However, if you check three or more of these as being characteristic of your organization, perhaps it is time to evaluate. Perhaps you have already succumbed to some of the dangers we have outlined above.”

Ted Engstrom’s “Danger Ahead” Checklist

[ ] Our organization chart hasn't changed in the past 12 months.
[ ] I haven't been faced by a new creative idea in the past two weeks.
[ ] We have no way of measuring the quality of our programs against a set of standards.
[ ] Most of our executives are 50 or over. [I would add: Most of our board members are 50 or over.]
[ ] There is a great sense of satisfaction in the organization and all that God has accomplished through the organization in the past.
[ ] Most of the leaders of the organization have a real sense of being on top of their jobs.
[ ] Few of the leaders in our organization are what one would call real Bible students.
[ ] The average person in our organization would question whether we have true biblical unity.
[ ] Most of our leaders think that the primary function of leadership is to lead.
[ ] We seldom ask the question as to whether the ministry we are performing is there for the primary purpose of honoring God.

For more, read Chapter 29, “Understanding the Dangers,” in
The Essential Engstrom: Proven Principles of Leadership, by Ted W. Engstrom (Timothy J. Beals, Editor).

QUESTION: What one danger should be addressed in the next 90 days?


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.