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Leading Change in the Church - Lesson 8

Change Theory

In this lesson, you'll learn about leadership in the context of chaos and the importance of adapting to constant change. You'll explore Kurt Lewin's Change Theory, which outlines the process of unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. The lesson discusses the challenges of overcoming resistance during change and highlights the rational change process model from the 20th century. The nine-step process and the role of the change manager are examined, as well as the 21st century challenges leaders face, including limited time, incomplete information, complex issues, and competing stakeholders.

Rick Sessoms
Leading Change in the Church
Lesson 8
Watching Now
Change Theory

Lesson: Change Theory

I. Understanding the Changing Context

A. From local to global

B. Constant rebuilding and adapting

II. Change Strategies

A. Kurt Lewin's Change Theory

1. Unfreezing

2. Change

3. Refreezing

B. Overcoming Resistance

III. Rational Change Process Model

A. 20th Century Approach

1. Nine step process

2. Role of the change manager

B. 21st Century Challenges

1. Limited time and information

2. Complexity of issues

3. Competing stakeholders


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  • In Dynamics of Change, the speaker discusses the importance of leading change in the church and emphasizes the need to understand the dynamics of change and its effect on people, as well as the uniqueness of the church in this process, before delving into change strategies.
  • Leadership is about catalyzing change as organizations face an ever-increasing rate of change, requiring strategic leaders who can challenge, mobilize, and motivate people in a rapidly changing cultural climate; change is a function of leadership as it involves fundamentally changing the mind, and progress is impossible without change.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature of change, the reasons why it is needed in the church, strategies for overcoming resistance to change, the leader's role in change, and the process of leading change, including creating and communicating a vision for change, implementing and sustaining change, and celebrating success and learning from failure.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the impact of change on individuals through an exercise where you will think about the most significant change you have experienced in the past ten years and how it made you feel. The lesson will sensitize you to the effects of change and explore the dynamics of change and its impact on individuals before discussing change strategies.
  • You will gain insights into the challenges faced by a fictional family company, Johnson's Shoes, based in Boise, Idaho, and the strategies it must employ to overcome these challenges, including diversification of its product line, development of new technology, and introduction of new management techniques, and learn about the positive and negative outcomes of these strategies, and the lessons that can be learned from this case study.
  • 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. You will understand the limitations of the 20th-century rational change process model and the unique challenges faced by leaders in the 21st century.
  • ou will learn about the characteristics of effective change agents in the church, including humility, patience, sacrifice, self-control, and courage, as well as change management strategies like overcoming resistance to change and sustaining change through embedding change in culture and systems and continuously monitoring and improving.
  • In this lesson, you 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.
  • You will learn about the various ways that organizations and churches resist change, including through structural and group inertia, power relationships, and resource allocations. You will also understand how people with access to resources tend to resist change, while those without resources are more accepting. The lesson explains how expertise can also play a role in resistance to change, and how churches have natural systems that promote stability.
  • 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.
  • You will learn about creating a guiding coalition to lead the change in the unfreezing stage of change. This involves assembling a group of opinion shapers who can envision the preferred future state and developing them into a team by understanding team skills, defining purpose, roles, and process, and establishing effective leadership and communication.
  • You will learn how to empower broad-based action by removing obstacles to the future and generating short-term wins. This involves identifying structures, policies, and processes that block change, encouraging new ideas and risk-taking, creating a learning environment from failures, aiming for 90% involvement in problem-solving, and providing appropriate authority, resources, information, and accountability. Short-term wins should be planned for, visible improvements should be celebrated, and those involved should be rewarded. Change should be refrozen by consolidating gains, changing policies and structures, promoting and developing people who can implement the vision, reinvigorating the process with new projects, and anchoring new approaches in the church culture.

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

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Leading Change in the Church
mc612-08
Change Theory
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:02] So we're leading in a context of chaos. The the hurricane is upon us. At times we may feel rested, but we're just in the eye of it, folks. We've moved from local to regional to international to multinational, to global. And we are. Reminds me of this Dragon Air flight that I once saw. And it it in this environment, leadership is is daunting. And there are no magic bullets. In fact, due to the rate of change day, a leading change. It reminds me of taking off in a 4747 and rebuilding it before you land is kind of what we're dealing with. We're building it as we fly it in our little organization. That's what we're we're up against. And and we're having to rebuild it as we fly it on a regular basis. So with that in mind, what we want to do is we want to go into change strategies and here's where we're going to spend the rest of our time in this course is to talk about change strategies. And what I want to introduce to you. Some of you may have seen this before, but but most change strategies in the 20th century were introduced to us by a change theorist by the name of Kurt Lewin. How many of you have heard the name Kurt Lewin? You heard his name. He is probably the grandfather of change theory from the West. And he would explain he would explain change simply this way. It starts with the old state, whatever that state, former state happens to be is the process of by which people become aware of the need for change. If people are satisfied with the state of affairs but. But change is deemed necessary, then it's it's all about helping people understand the importance of the proposed change in such a way that now they're dissatisfied with the status quo and they want to change.

[00:02:20] And then this this old state that when when people come to a point of being aware of the need for change. Kurt Lewin talks about unfreezing the unfrozen state. This is where if you think of something that is frozen, it becomes unfrozen, then it becomes malleable, it becomes moldable, it becomes able to change shapes. Now, the problem is, is that all living systems, as we talked about, resist change. So there's a bias for what we call stability or homeostasis. There's a bias not to move into that unfrozen state. There's a bias to stay in the frozen state. Okay, You follow that. That's the theory. But change is about introducing the the elements, the factors that whether they're intentionally done or unintentionally done, the phenomenon of change requires the state to become unfrozen. That makes sense. That's the change theory behind. Yes, that's phase one called unfreezing. And then there comes a phase two, which is the change. That's while the state is unfrozen, while it's in that unfrozen state. There's a movement from the old state to the new state. The old way, too. The new way. And then finally. The third step in the process is the refreezing. And that's phase three. Where there's an assurance of the permanent change. The change has happened. The system goes back not to the old way, but a new way. But the refreezing takes place. So in effect, the change happens in the unfrozen state. Now, remember, there's a bias toward frozen, not unfrozen. And so you only have a certain amount of time to bring about a change because the system will refreeze. That's important in this model. And by the way, this model is is pretty much accepted by organizational theorists worldwide as it's pretty accepted theory of how living systems change.

[00:04:59] And so you could really look at it and then it moves to the new state in as it refreezes. But the rephrasing is a natural part of the process. It will happen. The question is what will happen during that unfrozen state? And so you think of it simply as a block of ice. If you had a block of ice and it's unfrozen during the unfrozen time, it it changes shape and then it refreezes. And so that's a very easy way to remember the process change. The question is about that. You had never seen the television show on Food Show called Restaurant Impossible? No, I haven't. There's another one on a different channel called Hotel Impossible. That's a. An expert comes into a rundown restaurant or a rundown hotel in the kitchen and recreates it into something that can flourish. But in order for that to happen, they have to overcome the resistance of the owners because they've been running it into the ground for years. Yeah, the reason I bring that up is the the approach in that is always to kind of shock legend and. In your face. Confront these people who are locked in their path, their destructive patterns. But they can't get out of it. And the person comes out really strong and just shocks them and says, You are destroying this place. I have a supervisor who was involved in some major change in our organization. His approach is to very gently, incrementally help people make change rather than give them kind of a shock to unfreeze them. What are your thoughts about which approach is most effective? Well, the classic answer is it depends. You know, if we're in battle, if we're being shot at in war, then maybe the first approach is appropriate.

[00:07:30] But in most cases, it would make sense to unfreeze the block of ice before I start hammering away at it. Because when I hammer away at a block of ice before it's unfrozen, what happens? You got splinters everywhere. It just goes crazy. It just shatters. And you you lose a lot of unnecessary, uh, is a lot of unnecessary loss in that process. So that would be a simple answer. Uh, uh, that, that it is the unfreezing and we'll talk about the strategies for unfreezing that's critical. But that unfreezing part that moving people away from that bias toward equilibrium, cause we all have a bias for stability. The art of unfreezing is critical for effective change to take place in any living organism. That was a great answer with this model. About melting it instead of shattering or dropping in a pot of boiling water, you get the steam. Yeah, but yeah, that's. But I can understand that sort of method if you like. You know, trying to help someone like break their addiction to, you know, cocaine or something, you know, you can't just the individual pays them, will blame, you know, just the regular organizational change. You know, that's. Harley go and we'll get into what does motivate people. We will get into forcefield analysis, we'll get into SWOT analysis, we'll get into some of these things that that do what we call create a sense of urgency in a positive sense. What does create a sense of urgency, what tends to militate against it and so forth. But all of those are about unfreezing that are critical. And because, again, if we if we move too quickly to the change without respecting the unfreezing stage of change, then then we can do a lot of unnecessary damage.

[00:09:38] Questions. Other questions. Thoughts? It takes a lot of wisdom to know when to hit the frozen lock of the universe as to how to unfreeze it like this, because the drug addict, for instance, that may be what he needs is everything. The things that have broken off and scattered. They will be the things that need to be. Well, that's a great point. My sense in working with church leaders is oftentimes. We tend to overestimate. Let me let me see how I could say this and this may need to be edited, but let me just try to get it out. We tend sometimes to think there's crisis when there really isn't crisis. And we we sometimes feel mad if things aren't going to change, this thing's going down. And and so we want to hurry change and so we take out the hammer rather than than allowing the unfreezing to take place. And I find that that's more of a tendency in the church than the other among church leaders. And so it. There is a tendency to move more quickly than we need to because the perceived crisis that really is not as much of a crisis, at least in God's mind, as as we tend to think that it is sometimes. Is that fair? I think that's because of the passion that some church leaders have. I don't think it's self-centered. No, it's not. But I think sometimes it is with that. But oftentimes it's not. You're right. Or it's that epiphany or having spent so much time behind the scenes or in conversations, thinking about things, and it becomes clear to a church leader or leadership group, you know, so they're out of the gate very fast. Right. And then the blowtorch on ice.

[00:11:39] I think that happens in reverse to the people who come for a congregation, they can react to the crisis being, well, this is huge. This is a big deal of it. You know, there's a little something. But I mean, it's just that's not the way we did it in the past 200 years. Right. You know, but then sometimes just little things can happen and nobody ever gets it. Yeah. You know, it just depends on how it's react, the reaction. Let me take one more step and then we'll we'll close for the night. But when we look at the 20th century, 20th century was dominated by what we called a rational change process model. And this looks complicated, but it's really not. It it included a nine step process. You begin by monitoring the environment. If you if you go to any change class that was taught during the the the 20th century, this is what you would get. You define the problem. You specify objectives, you diagnose the problem, you develop alternative solutions. You evaluate the alternatives, choose the best alternative, implement the plan of measure, evaluate and control change. It was all generated by the manager of change, the change manager. And so this change manager was the key to it all of making these nine steps happen. The problem that we face in the 21st century, because the rate of change is this change managers or leaders, whatever you want to call them, they have limited time. They have imperfect or incomplete information. All of us. All of us. Ever complexity of issues simultaneously that we're dealing with. We have finite information processes, processing capacity. And we have competing stakeholders, and that's all going on in the church all the time. And so what's happening is remember, we call that that the rational model change process model we have in the 21st century, what Simon called bounded rationality, which means limited ability to rationalize ourselves through a change process.

[00:14:08] That makes sense so far. So we've got a problem. As church leaders, we have a real problem because this rational change process isn't working. What do we do? Well, the result is chaos. And so there are those in the last few years that have begun to study how do we lead change in a context of chaos? Because that's really what the church is facing today is chaos. And a lady by the name of Margaret Wheatley has talked about change amidst chaos. She talks about chaos theory. And this, I believe, has meaning for us in the church. And this is my little diagram, the best I know how to draw it. So bear with me. If you think of from the outside of the church, we have the environment that is putting pressure on the church for change and a constant rate all the time is change. Pressure is happening. As Roger was alluding to a while ago in our post-Christian culture internally from internal stakeholders. You know what I mean by stakeholders? They can your your staff, the people in your church, and these people are competing. You've got youth that have different desires and needs than the older folks, and you got the choir people who are in competition over funds. Call it what you want, but they're in competition over funds with the women's ministry. And and we've got this stuff going on. And all these are volunteers, by the way. They're not people you can tell what to do because you pay them. They're volunteers. And so we've got these volunteer competing stakeholders. And so there's pressure is being put from internal and from external. Guess what? We got chaos, right? What in the world does a leader do in that kind of context? Well, the leader provides meaning.

[00:16:12] Now this goes back to culture. I was reading again the other night, which goes back to our first course about the role of a leader. In today's society, primary role is to create and maintain culture, which is what we're talking about, about meaning. It's not necessary to control this rational process. It's not necessarily to micromanage that process. But the role of leadership above and beyond anything else in education would even say it's the only role is to provide meaning. And that meaning is interpreted as values, beliefs and a preferred future. That's critical. When we get that in place, then we have hope of leading the church into a healthy tomorrow. But if we try to control this through this nine step process that dominated the 20th century thinking. There are too many forces that are working against us. And so we we begin to reframe our thinking what is the primary and and critical role for leadership. And it's really to provide meaning in the context. And and even though Margaret Wheatley, I don't think claims to be a Christian, in my opinion, there is a very Christian understanding of our role as leaders in the church today.

 

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