Seven lessons from 30 years meddling with strategic change

By Rick James

An old, established mission agency, facing the need for fundamental change, asked me last week to present myself and my learnings about strategic change. I said if they were serious it would need:

  1. Tough decisions – The word decide means to ‘cut off’ other options. Strategy is more about what not to do or stop doing. It is a clear direction of travel, not multiple ones.
  2. Strong motive for change – Intellectual assent to the need for change was not enough. It needed a sense of crisis, that ‘business as usual’ would result in disaster.
  3. Leaders open to changing their own attitudes and behaviours – An organisation’s openness to strategic change is directly correlated to leaders’ openness to their personal change.
  4. A united top team – To take and implement tough decisions, the top team needs to be operating with huge levels personal trust. Are people in top team prepared to attend to their own stuff which lies beneath and open themselves up to God’s presence?
  5. The Holy Spirit to bring human change – We do not change fundamentally through brute logic. It the Holy Spirit who transforms hearts and minds, and deals with our hurt, resentments, self-interests, and frustrations.
  6. Trust from staff and stakeholders to implement change – A major strategic shift will be painful for many people who are accustomed to past ways of doing things. Hurts need managing compassionately. In the end it may come down to whether people trust the leadership to take them where they may not want to go.
  7. Time and effort – Major change does not happen overnight. It may take 5-10 years of careful and intentional work. It takes commitment to see such change through.

This week, think about a change your own organisation wants to make. Which of these areas needs strengthening?

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