Leading Change in the Church - Lesson 5

Case Study: Johnson's Shoes

In this lesson, you are presented with a case study about Johnson's Shoes, a fictional family company based in Boise, Idaho. The company has been successful over its 90-year history, but is now facing stiff competition, an aging workforce, technological obsolescence, and a lack of innovation. In order to overcome these challenges, the company must diversify its product line, develop new technology, and introduce new management techniques. The lesson explores the positive and negative outcomes of these strategies, and the lessons that can be learned from this case study.

Rick Sessoms
Leading Change in the Church
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Case Study: Johnson's Shoes

Lesson: Shoe Company Case Study

I. Introduction

A. Overview of Johnson Shoes

B. History of Johnson Shoes

II. Challenges Faced by Johnson Shoes

A. Stiff Competition

B. Aging Workforce

C. Technological Obsolescence

D. Lack of Innovation

III. Strategies to Overcome Challenges

A. Diversification of Product Line

B. Development of New Technology

C. Introduction of New Management Techniques

IV. Results and Conclusions

A. Positive Outcomes

B. Negative Outcomes

C. Lessons Learned

  • In this lesson, Dr. Sessoms discusses the importance of leading change in the church, emphasizing the importance of understanding God's role in change, the effects on people, and the distinctions between leadership and management.
  • Learn about the shift from management to strategic leadership and the necessity of change for growth, and the unique challenges churches face in adapting change ethically, contrasting secular and Christ-centered leadership models.
  • Gain insight into how change affects individuals emotionally, the importance of leadership sensitivity during change, and the stages of the change cycle from comfort to renewal.
  • Gain insight into the emotional stages of change and practical strategies for coping, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging emotions, communicating feelings, maintaining engagement, adjusting responsibilities, and seeking support during times of change.
  • In this lesson, you analyze a fictional case study of Johnson's Shoes, learning about leadership changes during mergers, Patrick Johnson's emotional journey, and the importance of respectful, inclusive leadership processes during organizational change.
  • Learn how to manage reactions to change in a church setting, understanding the role of the grapevine in communication, and effectively implementing strategies to help others cope, such as consistent messaging, providing details, and supporting healthy behaviors.
  • Gain insights into challenges faced by churches coping with change, including the movement of American culture towards post-Christianity and lack of common values, and explore questions to consider to help churches face 21st-century challenges.
  • This lesson teaches you about the challenges of leading in a chaotic context, the process of change according to Kurt Lewin's theory, and the importance of overcoming resistance. Understand the limitations of the 20th-century rational change process model and the unique challenges faced by leaders in the 21st century.
  • Learn about essential leadership qualities, the need for repentance and forgiveness, organizational development, faith integration, and John Kotter's eight steps for leading effective change in the church, highlighting the importance of authenticity, collective intelligence, and genuine dissatisfaction with the status quo.
  • Gain insights on discerning God's purpose in weathering change, learning to ask critical questions to determine if the change is appropriate, and understanding the characteristics of a change that glorifies God, ultimately leading to a stronger church community.
  • Explore force field analysis to understand and navigate organizational resistance to change, focusing on mechanisms of inertia, types of power within the church, and the necessity of a strong bias toward change, conducted discreetly within a leadership group.
  • Gain insight into life cycles and resistance to change within organizations, including the church, and how changing leaders can help an organization change the spiral towards decline or irrelevancy by speaking to people's emotions, not just thought.
  • Learn the essential steps of unfreezing for church change, focusing on urgency, forming a guiding coalition, collaborative visioning, realistic strategy development, and inclusive, redundant communication to manage and embrace change effectively.
  • Learn to empower broad-based action, involve many in problem-solving, generate short-term wins, consolidate gains, promote vision implementers, reinvigorate processes, anchor new approaches in culture, and recognize rare calls for change against odds to honor God.

The dynamics, effects, and strategies for change in the church.

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Leading Change in the Church
Case Study: Johnson's Shoes
Lesson Transcript

Well, what I'd like for us to do at this point is to work on a case study. You ready for another case study? This is a case study that a colleague from London wrote, and it's about a shoe company in Idaho. Can you believe that? And it's a fictional story. When I first read this thing, I asked him, I said, are you sure this is fictional? He said, sure enough, it's fictional. So, I believe it's fictional. And so, we’ll assume that it is. Let me read through this, and then I'd like you to spend some time in groups discussing the questions at the end. It's called “Johnson's Shoes.” 

Johnson’s Shoes was a family company based in Boise, Idaho, over the last 90 years. The company had been very successful throughout its history and had risen to become one of the best-known shoe manufacturing companies in the U.S. Johnson's had also been making headway in the European markets in the 1990s. Patrick Johnson was the company's current CEO. He had taken over the business from his father, George, who had also taken it over from his father, and so on, from the beginning of the company some 90 years earlier. Patrick had been quite successful in the early days of his leadership, but the company began to face stiff competition from some of the emerging offshore shoe manufacturers. Changes in the global economy were having a dynamic negative effect on the fortunes of Johnson’s Shoes. Before long, it became obvious that the company was under serious financial threat and that the future looked bleak. Patrick considered the future and realized that only a successful merger would save the company. There had been one or two companies looking to take over Johnson’s Shoes in the past, and Johnson's had managed to avoid any such merger. 

However, in the light of the current economy and current cash flow crisis, Patrick Johnson realized he must give in and they must merge with one of the highest bidders from the past. Patrick accepted the terms of the merger, which included the fact that Patrick would remain as CEO, but that the board would be replaced with the board from the new company. At first there was a great deal more energy in the new company, and Patrick, though struggling to find his way, enjoyed the new challenges that the company offered, even though it was no longer like the old days. Nevertheless, he was making the best of it until the next set of financial figures came in. It was obvious to the new board that the current strategy would mean that even though they had had a positive merger, they would not survive the current climate. The board met together, and a new plan came into being. 

First of all, changes would be made at the leadership level. The board decided that Patrick was not the man to be the CEO if the new company was to become the shoe store of the future. Patrick was given a new role and asked to become a product consultant in view of his long experience with the product. A new CEO was brought into the company from the outside, someone who had a track record of turning businesses around. There were some additional revolutionary plans in the strategy of the company. The board decided the company would stop manufacturing shoes, a process that had been going on for 90 years. Instead, they would now buy the product from the emerging countries around the world, realizing the competition was difficult, and they could not compete price for product at the same level. It was decided that if this new strategy were to be implemented, a new company name would be needed to meet the demands of the day. The board decided to rename the company. The name would no longer be Johnson’s Shoes, they would now be known as Shoes Direct. This would, of course, mean that there would be staff layoffs, and portions of the building would be sold off since manufacturing space would no longer be required with the new shape of the company. 

Patrick found the changes very difficult to accept. He had never considered himself to be anything other than the boss, like his father and grandfather and great grandfather before that. Due to circumstances that were beyond his control, he had been reduced to the position of product consultant. The new board instituted a sales director and a purchasing director, both of whom reviewed the products that would be bought and sold by the company, with only the occasional reference to Patrick in terms of quality. Patrick seriously considered leaving the company and the industry altogether. He reviewed the future and realized as a man of 57 years of age that perhaps this would not be a good time to start a new career, so he decided to settle in for what was a respectable salary and quietly set out to put in his time until retirement. 

So the questions are to discuss the range of feelings that Patrick may have experienced on his journey to his new role of product consultant -- that’s first -- and secondly, what actions could the board have taken to minimize the negative impact upon Patrick that these changes may have introduced in his life. Fair questions? So what do you suppose Patrick experienced when he went through this merger and then became product consultant, not CEO? What experiences do you think he might have gone through through this process? 

STUDENT: His whole identity changed, his pride in his family name. 

STUDENT: I’ve heard the word disenfranchisement. 

STUDENT: It’s just right off your list, denial, fear, anger, sadness. 

So, it's all there, isn’t it? Yeah. There really is the death of something that was very, very precious to him and was identified even in his family as an identity of who he was, not just a job, so it's a big deal. And I think we experience this more in the church than we realize. Church is family. It's about who we are. It's our identity. It's this culture that we become very identified with in a very real way. 

So you're a consultant now, and you have been asked to come in and say what could have been? What should have been? How might you advise if this Shoes Direct, now, had another go at this, had an opportunity to change the scenario with the way that Patrick was dealt with through this process, maybe starting even back before the merger. How would you advise them to maybe do it differently to save Patrick from some of what he went through? Suggestions, thoughts? I heard some good discussion going on, I'm curious. Would you share it out loud, or whatever you'd like to share would be great. 

STUDENT: Without changing the actual outcome of him not being CEO, because that's a change that probably had to take place, they could have communicated up front that this was a real possibility. He probably should've known that was a real possibility; I don’t know how you could possibly give up control and not think that they're going to keep you around as CEO, but so definitely communicate that this was a possibility; even though they were going to leave him at CEO initially, he might not stay there. 

So you're saying communicating the process to him, not just the end result. 

STUDENT: So, making sure you've got a process before which you can communicate. We were discussing that it could be that some members of the board had a plan which they didn't share at all, but it could have been that the board didn't know what they were doing until they were encountering the problems. 

STUDENT: If it was part of the initial plan, they should not have called it a merger and they should have just told him, we want to buy your company and just been really upfront about that. I mean, if that was the case, it seemed like it could have been maybe from the very beginning that this was the plan, so if that was the case, then... 

So, you feel like it could have been a little bit of bait and switch there? Is that what you mean? 


STUDENT: I don't know, but they bought this company; I mean, I don't know what else you would call it; they took over the board and apparently owned the whole thing. 

So, it really wasn't a merger; it was a buyout. Yeah. Other thoughts? 

STUDENT: One of the things that we talked about a bit was as they were facing the challenges, the board could have done differently in terms of engaging Patrick in terms of how do we approach this, as it seemed to me that the board or a small group of the board had made the decision and were announcing that; we didn't get into too deep a discussion about the CEO's role, how many meetings was he at, and what have you. It seemed like something occurred without him being a part of the process. I think particularly if you think about parallels to churches, how do you involve the people that are part of the process and could be impacted? It still has to be done at a leadership level, but that can still be done intentionally and caringly, as opposed to putting someone on a board and then announcing we're going to make these changes and implementing them. 

STUDENT: I think the new company probably realized that he had this affinity to be leader when he bought their proposal, you know, to stay as a CEO despite the fact that no one else on the board was from his own company and could represent his interests, that they were the only ones representing his interests, really. So I'm thinking that when it came time for them to let him go, they could have looked to give him some worth, so to say, something respectable; maybe they would decide to stop manufacturing shoes, but they still could have put him as one over buying certain things, you know, they could have given him something like that, at least for a time, to prove himself. 

Yeah, it looks like they put him in a role that was being phased out is the real issue, product consultant, and you no longer have a product that you're manufacturing. That's certainly part of it. 

I think you've really hit on the core of this, and what we'll be dealing with as we go along is process is everything. How we go about the process of leading change really matters, and it's one thing to think about the goal, but how we get to the goal is really in so many respects what makes it Christian, and so we'll be talking about that in some detail, but as we look at Patrick, it's a case in point where there really was no process, is what it comes down to, and there probably are a number of potential processes that could have been followed, and I overheard one of you say it may have been the same outcome because obviously, something needed to happen for the organization to survive. So the question, then, is about process; it's about how we respect the dignity of people and treat them as people made in God's image, as precious in his sight, that is so critical, and in the church, the ante goes up because these are God's people, and this is God's church, and they are the sheep, so in a real sense, the shepherding role is a process role so that we work with people.


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