Change is inevitable. It may be a gradual, subtle process or it may be an unexpected crisis that happens out of the blue which necessitates change – but change happens. Without change a church or organisation will stagnate and, in my view, eventually die. How we approach and manage change is therefore vitally important if we are to support and keep the confidence of the people the change effects.
I think I’m pretty good at change. I enjoy the challenge of improving systems and processes at work, and I love seeing people develop into new areas at church. Many of the projects I’m involved in at work require a change in work practices (currently a new internal communications system). Although there can be mileage in the thinking ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ I firmly believe that you can only ‘not fix it’ for so long. At some point change will have to take place, or we essentially are going backwards.
Subtle changes are relatively easy to manage – most people may not even be aware of the changes until they look back over a period of time. Major changes are much more of a challenge.
Most reasons for change will fit into one of three categories – and there is one key thing that best alleviates objections or aversion:
Keeping up to date.
These are primarily the more subtle, day-to-day changes that keep a church, organisation or relationship relevant and active. It’s the organic process that should (in my view) be embedded in the ethos of any organisation. Examples of this could be as simple as keeping a website up to date, improving systems, making and developing new personal contacts etc.
This category often is centred around people. Whether it’s a promotion or new job, moving into a new role at church, or a change in direction for an organisation – because the change will affect people directly it is more difficult to manage. Change in this instance can be accepted differently depending on your perspective. I hope that I would see the positive, trust the people proposing or appreciate the necessity for change – even if it doesn’t feel right at that time to me personally. I’m then in a much better place to help shape and facilitate the change. Some people, however, seem to always fight against change – just because they can. I’m all for constructive discussion, but that’s very different from being deliberately obstructive. I think this is the hardest type of change to manage and throws up the greatest challenges.
Change due to crisis is dramatic and often fairly instant. Whether it’s being made redundant from work, the death of someone you love or the final breakdown in a relationship – the effects are immediate and usually painful. I know that when my dad passed away back in February, the changes I (and the rest of the family) had to come to terms with were very difficult. Paradoxically, it can be easier to cope with the challenge of change due to crisis, as you have been forced into a situation (willingly or otherwise) and have no option but to work with the implications of it.
The best tool to manage change.
In my view the single, most effective way to best manage change is good, clear communication. ‘Announcing’ a change will more often than not lead to an automatic reaction or objection. If a change has been carefully explained, and the rationale given, it is much more likely to be accepted and people will work with you to implement those changes – something for us all to work on, no matter how good we might think we are at communicating!
Points to ponder:
- How do I instinctively react to change?
- When was the last time I encouraged someone to develop into a role and help them implement their changes?
- Are my comments about change part of constructive discussion or deliberately obstructive?