I recently posted why every church is in transition. The next natural question is how do you lead in transition? While leading change is real work,  I think that most leaders make it more difficult than it has to be. Why? The single greatest problem in leading change has to do with the source of meaning in the organization. If you can keep your eye on the ball of meaning, then leading and experiencing change is a whole new ball game.

Here is one principle to focus on: If you want to lead change, change the common denominator first. Think of the common denominator as the most-likely, most common, source of meaning for people every day. The common denominator in your organization today is most likely "the how." By "the how" I mean  how I, as an individual, get things done, and how we, as an organization, get things done.  The immediate challenge presented with this source of meaning is that "the how" must change to stay viable.  Therefore we want to anchor meaning in something deeper than the "how." And there are at least three alternatives: what, why and where. (What are we ultimately doing? Why do we do what we do? Where is God taking us?) Properly understood and articulated these can and will sustain a timeless sense of shared meaning.

Therefore your four big roadblocks to leading transition are the four reasons why "the how" is so persistent, even addictive in becoming the deepest source of meaning. Consider:

  1. The oppressive, automatic dailyness of "the how"

  2. The concrete nature of "the how"

  3. The personalities and relational connection within "the how"

  4. The tendency to affirm and recognize "the how"

For all of us, "the how" stares is in the face daily almost forcing us to find meaning from it and the patterns, comfort, relational connections, and successes it creates.

But ultimately meaning is waiting to be discovered, found, nourished and celebrated in the what, the why and the where of the organization, not the how. Make no mistake, when vision is clear people are usually more than glad to change "the how."

A recent consulting engagement provides a stunning illustration of "the how" as a common denominator.  While working with a church in Rochester, NY, I learned about Kodak's massive decline in the last decade as a global juggernaut in film-based photography. At their peak, Kodak had 82,000 people in Rochester and had 85% of the world market share in film-based photographic imaging products. Now they have 7,000 people in the city and less the 20% of market share. The simple reason boils down to the problem of "the how" as common denominator. Ironically, they were the ones to invent and even patent digital-based photography methods. But the shear momentum and hubris of "the how," that is,  making images using film, eclipsed the future of making images any other way. Rather than inventing and then leading the new day of photography, they invented it, only to let others to develop the future.

What if every day Kodak employees had been reminded:

  1. Our "what" or our big idea is capturing image (and nothing else)

  2. Our "why" is beauty, and cherishing human memories, and making image capture accessible to all.

  3. Our "where" is doing whatever it takes in innovation and research to lead the world's ability to capture images.

You can see very quickly how much meaning is creating without having to mention "the how" of film-based processing.
Topics: Date: Apr 7, 2010 Tags: church change / church roadblocks / church vision / Kodak / leading change / strategy