Barbara Coe

​Consultant and Coach

Do you notice that despite enormous effort to eliminate a problem, progress is often minimal or short-lived – or the problem returns? A perfect example is the attempt to achieve sustainable development goals. Another is the problem of global climate change. Much attention is being paid and effort taken to create change in these realms and yet progress is limited.

These failures are explained by a so-far little-known discovery in the field of structural dynamics – that under all human action is a fundamental structure that guides the action. (Fritz, 1989, 1996) This discovery shows that we cannot achieve something lasting by focusing on a problem or even by focusing soley on a vision.

To succeed requires changing the underlying structure. 

What do we mean by “structure?” It's a combination of elements that together drive patterns and behavior. (Fritz, 1989) The structure guiding a river’s flow is the riverbed. The structure of a chair allows for sitting. If the structure changes, behavior changes. In human beings and human-made institutions of all kinds, the structure is made up of thinking, beliefs and the situation. Sometimes we make progress and succeed; however, oftentimes we oscillate back and forth, never getting anywhere. The underlying structure guides the pattern and results. 

What has this to do with reaching sustainable development goals or combatting global climate change? These issues, which include different factions with conflicting goals, demonstrate vividly how the underlying  structure drives the tendency to oscillate toward and then away, never reaching the goals in a lasting way. Achieving results requires a special structure achieved by simultanously focusing on both the desired future and the current state. When we understand how this works, we can use the structural dynamics to achieve sustainable development goals, combat global climate change and achieve a shared desired future. 

This profound new understanding of structural dynamics has enhanced the success of thousands of organizations and individuals worldwide but only now is being applied to large systems such as communities or to huge issues such as global climate change. It has the potential to produce radical change worldwide.

Using our knowledge of structural dynamics, we help you: a. clarify how your structure is or isn’t helping you advance; b. set up a “path of least resistance” that leads toward your goals, c. coach you in implementing and tracking actions and d. guide processes to help stakeholders work together to find and achieve shared goals so that all succeed.


Fritz, Robert (1989) The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Predominant Creative Force in Your Own Life. (Revised Edition) New York; Random House.
____  (1996) Corporate Tides: The Inescapable Laws of Organizational Structure. San                Francisco:
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Coe, B.A. “Linking Communities and Government for Social and Economic                         Development:  How
Villagers in Albania worked with Government to                                 change minds and improve conditions,” ​Journal of the Public Administration                   Academy, Yerevan, Armenia, 2013.  
____“Fostering Democracy and Good Governance,” Public Administration Times               International Supplement, March, 2008.
____"Engaging Communities: Albania as an Example,” Public Administration Times, February, 2008.
____"Facilitating Community Change,” for Manual on: Citizen Participation in the Decision-making Process at the Local Level in CEE Countries: Concepts and Practices, People’s Voice Project, Yaremche, Ukraine, November, 2001.
____"How Structural Conflicts Stymie Reinventing Government," Public Administration Review, Vol. 57, No. 2, March/April, 1997.
____"Sustainable Communities and Open Focus Leadership," Sustainable Futures, Fall 1993.