Monday Motivation

An Ecosystem for Success

Why are some organizations so successful while others try really hard but never seem to get there?

Or, when something successful does come along, why doesn’t it last?

Why do successful people leave?

These are big, important conversations for every organization. Every organization.

Your local bank, taco shop, church, school, and even– maybe oddly– sole proprietorships. (Yes, you can quit working for yourself!)

Success Versus Long-term Success

Long-term success is rarely an accident. I find it’s more frequently the byproduct of an ecosystem. Happy, highly motivated, and well-rewarded people are just doing what they are doing… working hard and living life… and success just kind of happens.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a successful organization and asked “Why is this success happening?” and no one can tell me why it’s happening. It just is. That’s because the success they are part of is an entire ecosystem where success on a product/program/people isn’t the aim, it’s the byproduct.

The flip side is that when you see an aberration, success happening in an otherwise not-very-succesful environment, and you ask the same question people often point to something identifiable. (A person, a program, or even an outside force such as a population they are serving.) That’s because this type of success isn’t a byproduct of a healthy ecosystem, it’s the product of the moment.

Control and Power

Last week, I shared a video of a presentation I made at The Summit last Fall. I’ve given versions of that talk over and over again. What’s interesting to me is that when I deliver that talk I’ll hear “Amen” and lots of people will nod their head that what I’m saying is absolutely true.

So why don’t things change? Why is youth ministry nearly wholly focused on reaching 5% of the population of teenagers?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I wish I did.

But I know it has something to do with power— youth workers often don’t feel empowered to do what is necessary to reach and/or exceed the expectations put on them.

And I know it has something to do with control— youth workers often times aren’t equipped to create their own ecosystem, so most of what happens within their area is out of their control.


  • What are examples of healthy ecosystems that you’re aware of where success is the byproduct?
  • What’s the ecosystem like where you work?
Photo credit: Micro Ecosystem by Pierre Pocs Photography via Flickr (Creative Commons) 

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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