Are You Leading A Zombie Organization?

I’ll be honest with you. I am NOT a fan of The Walking Dead or any sub-segment of the horror genre. Before you stop being my friend, hear me out.

I grew up in Camden, New Jersey. There were enough things to fear growing up; I didn’t need to actively add half-dead people who eat human flesh to this list…

But, there is something even scarier than zombies to me….

Zombie Organizations.


Yeah…zombie organizations. What are they?

Zombie Organizations are organizations that have been around for several years that are not really dead enough to close down, but not really strong enough to progress and grow. They just…keep hanging around.

Why does it scare me so much?

Well, mainly because the thought of all these great organizations with good intentions not reaching all the lives that they could be reaching scares me…

They want to create social change, but not bad enough to learn how to scale the impact in a sustainable way.

They’ve been stuck for many years without changing, which can stink (get it? Zombies? They don’t change their clothes…See what I did there? Okay, sorry…moving on).

There is one major thing that keeps Zombie Organizations alive enough to survive..and that is lazy learning.

What is Lazy Learning?

So many organizations think that learning the latest information about their space equates to becoming a better leader…or becoming more equipped to grow an organization…

WRONG. Just, so….very…wrong.

It makes you more informed. That’s it.

Not making the distinction between learning about your industry vs learning about growing your organization is LAZY learning.

You only learn about things that are convenient and interesting to you. You don’t want to challenge yourself with learning things that might be unfamiliar to you…

For example, technology. How up to date is your website, by the way? Not that you have to learn everything, but don’t you need to learn enough to know what you NEED?

Let’s make this very clear: educating yourself is NOT the same thing as empowering yourself.

For example,  if you are a president or CEO of a community change organization, reading the amazing book The New Jim Crow won’t DIRECTLY impact your ability to lead your staff or mobilize the community. It WILL NOT make you more effective in communication as a leader. It WILL NOT make you better at coordinating and mobilizing events for action. And it certainly WILL NOT make you better at fundraising or crowd-sourcing…in like, forever.

You see, reading topical books related to your mission or space will never DIRECTLY impact your ability to lead and grow your organization. Yes, there is a certain point where you have to know what you are talking about, but you also have to know how to make use of it; after all are you a scholar or a social change catalyst?

It may indirectly make you more informed and influential when talking about the subject, which can indirectly make you more effective in communicating as a leader…but that is a passive by-product. It isn’t the same thing.

So, what will make you more effective? What will help you GROW in both size and resources?

Learning about social media marketing from someone like Gary Vaynerchuck

Learning about how to serve and connect with your community online by what we call “Platform Building” with Michael Hyatt…or

Learning how to translate a mission statement into goals and incorporating it into the organization’s culture by reading Verne Harnish

Learning what is already working in creating social change in the inner city with the help of Tavis Smiley and Policy Link…

Oh, don’t front like numbers don’t matter. Of course, numbers aren’t everything, but we all know that increased staff/volunteers and funding can make social change impact easier. These things can help you get there.

If your organization can’t afford experts or experienced consultants…maybe it is time to do the next best thing…read up on experts in other fields and translate that as best you can in your space; learn from them. You would do better at picking their brains through these types of resources, rather than picking the remains of the latest report that tells us what we’ve already known about the problems we’ve faced for decades.

If you want to learn more about other great books or frameworks for growing your organization, email me to tweet me @joedlopez1 or

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