Questions to Ask During Change

Leading change is extraordinarily difficult. Go to Amazon and search "Leadership." Then count how many of the leadership books either have "change" in their title or a chapter devoted to leading change. If it's anything less than a vast majority, I'll buy you a cookie. 

There's a reason that books on leading through change sell well. It's tough. Yet the best organizations are constantly changing. You won't do ministry (or business) in 50 years exactly the same way you do ministry or business today (unless you're Amish, in which case you probably aren't reading this blog post). As a result, leaders need to figure out how to lead change - either gradually or dramatically - because change is coming.

Our staff wants to position our church so that change is a part of the culture. We know that good strategies are often the enemy of the best strategies, and are trying to get really good at evaluating everything we do in light of moving toward who we want to be next decade, not just next year.  As a result, we're constantly talking about change. 

But it's really tough, and we're learning a lot about what it looks like to lead change well. 

For us, it means constantly examining our answers to three big questions: (1) Do we believe where we're going is better? (2) What is it going to cost us? (3) Can we afford it?

If you don't believe the destination is worth traveling to, you might as well take your bags out of the car. Don't pass "go," don't collect 200 dollars. It's not worth the anxiety of saving-up for a trip you don't want to take. So forget it and plan to go somewhere else. 

Every destination has a cost. There may be multiple ways of paying the cost (cash, credit, frequent flyer miles, for example) but you need to figure out what the trip is going to cost. If you are a wise traveler, you'll assess the cost before you hop on the plane so you can afford the hotel once you land. In an organization, will a trip cost you money? Will it cost you investors? Will it cost you staff members? Will it cost you good-will or credibility? Will it cost you time and energy? You need to count the potential cost before you hop on the airplane. There may be a few unanticipated costs on your trip - you can expect that. But know the big ones, so you can prepare.

Then you have to figure out if you can afford the trip today. Kari and I would love to travel to New Zealand. It's her #1 dream destination, and we're dying to go there. But we know what a trip to New Zealand would cost us in terms of finances and away-from-home time and we can't afford it right now. But, we've got a vacation line-item in our budget that is slowly saving up for New Zealand. It may take us several more years, but unless something unforeseen happens, we'll make it to New Zealand. Same deal with leading an organization. Once you know where you want to go you are able to figure out whether or not you can afford the trip right now. If you can't, since you know what it is going to cost you know how to save and you can budget wisely so you get there as soon as you can afford it. . 

One last thing: you've got to ask these questions in this order. If you start counting the cost before you decide where you want to go, you'll never go anywhere; you'll lead out of fear. If you wait to save until you've got enough money, you'll hide your talent in the dirt and never invest (Matthew 25). Figure out where you want to go, figure out what it will cost, and then decide if you can afford it now, or if you need to wait.