Bringing change to an organization isn't easy. Everyone who has ever led a church would agree. Perhaps it's a congregation that's aging and isn't connecting with younger people, but no one wants to make changes that would welcome younger people and integrate them into the life of the church.

Perhaps it's a congregation that has a full calendar and keeps its people busy, but isn't engaged at all with people in the community outside the church.

Where do you start with the necessary changes?

John Kotter, an expert on leadership at the Harvard Business School, has studied how the best organizations actually "do" significant change. He suggests that useful change tends to be associated with a multi-step process, which creates power and motivation sufficient to overcome the inertia, obstacles, and inevitable resistance.

In his book Leading Change, he outlines this eight-step process:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency.

  2. Create a guiding coalition

  3. Develop a vision and strategy

  4. Communicate the change vision

  5. Empower broad-based action

  6. Generate short-term wins

  7. Consolidate wins and produce more change

  8. Anchor new approaches into the culture.

I've found his process has substantial implications for guiding change in my church.

In Kotter's opinion the first three steps are necessary to defrost a hardened status quo. Steps four to seven introduce a number of new practices. And the last step grounds the changes into the organization's culture.

My mistake (and in my observation, the mistake of most churches introducing change) has been to start at step 4: communicating the vision. But Kotter cautions that steps 4, 5, and following won't succeed unless steps 1 through 3 are implemented.

Without the first three steps, there is rarely a solid enough foundation to ...

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Spring 2007: Behind the Curtain: Holiness  | Posted
Change  |  Decision Making  |  Planning  |  Priorities  |  Values  |  Vision
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