I’ve been involved with an organisation outside of the church I pastor for about 10 years now. Historically this organisation has been in existence for about twenty years and has grown substantially in its influence in our local community which has had wider benefit throughout New Zealand.
For most of its history the governance team of this organisation were intensely focussed on building brand awareness through success, quality, and especially through the development of a strong internal culture that was grounded on a set of well-woven values, values that were constantly expressed with the expectation that accountability would be exercised if these values were compromised.
Over my time in this organisation I saw the culture built, strengthened, and maintained. Like anything that has great outcomes, it took time, commitment, sacrifice, the repeated review of past behaviour and the expectation of improved behaviour into the future.
The lesson that I have learnt inside this organisation is that the creation of an excellent organisational culture takes a long time to become reality. A long time. Longer than what most of us have time for. It’s laborious and repetitive.
But it’s worth it.
What I’ve also learnt over the last year is just how quickly what has taken a long time to develop can be uprooted and destroyed. Quicker than what most of us think.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against change, I’m a change agent, I love change, I change my clothes every day, I sometimes change things just because nothings changed for a [short] while.
But change doesn’t have to negatively affect organisations. Rightly worked, correctly considered, and expertly executed by capturing the best of what has been, change can continue to positively drive organisations forward into an exciting future in a fast-paced world that changes at a rate of speed not seen in modern history.
Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote what we know of as the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. This is an important prayer.
I’m a pastor in a NZ Baptist church and I’ve learnt a thing or two about change. When the question was asked a few years ago, how many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?, the answer was given, at least 15 … one to change the light bulb and at least three committees to approve the change and decide how the light bulb should be changed. I have my own challenges with change!
By being a leader of change, a participant in change, and being on the sidelines of lots of change over the last few years, I’ve learnt some fundamental aspects about change that helps me manage change when in breathes into my life:
Change is inevitable: The saying goes that there are three things in life that are certain – taxes, death, and change. It’s true, those things cannot be avoided. Our response to all three of them dictates our future. Change in itself is not a bad thing and we need to be prepared for the challenge of change in all aspects of our lives.
Change needs to be communicated well: As a leader of change, I accept that not everyone will understand why change is happening, nor will some people be convinced that it needs to happen at all. When leading change it is of utmost importance that the reason for the change is communicated as clearly and as regularly as possible. The preparation for that change helps shape the idea around the change. I believe that you cannot over-communicate about change.
Change is not to be feared: The majority of people struggle to embrace change because not everyone is gifted with vision to chart the path ahead. Thank goodness for that. But an acceptance that change will happen helps ease the fear that change is always negative.
If we were to look backwards into history, we would see clearly that change is a natural part of life. We also know that sometimes change means that things won’t work out as positively as we envisage, but with an open heart and an attitude of positivity, change, rightly led, change brings an opportunity for our character to be shaped in ways that often needs shaping.
Culture and change can both be positively embraced.
By the way, I’m still involved with the organisation I write about because I believe in better futures and I’m an advocate for being part of solutions, not just complaining about the problems.
Grant Harris is a reformed banker who has been the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, for eleven years. Grant’s passionate about seeing people catch a glimpse of who they are in Christ and living out the difference that makes. He’s tried living according to the patterns of this world and found that those patterns came up short. He’s still a work-in-progress and always will be. You can contact Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org.