Making Change Effective

One of the responsibilities of a leader is the obligation to facilitate change. Promoting change requires more than objective analysis. The success of efforts to bring about change often hinges on the strategies employed, and in particular upon whether the leader takes into account the feelings of the people involved.

Effective change can be brought about if the following conditions can be met:

1. There must be dissatisfaction with the present situation. Some call this an unfreezing of the present situation.

2. There must be knowledge of an alternative that is better than the present situation.

3. There must be knowledge of the first step to take in claiming the alternative.

4. The sum of the first three conditions must be greater than the cost of making the change.

5. The resources to make the change are available.

A number of things can be done to make change easier, more effective, and more permanent:

1. Begin well and move slowly. Probably this simple bit of advice could help to make many changes more effective.

2. Involve the people in planning. Change can be made easier if the people affected by the proposed changes are involved in its planning and implementation. If a problem is presented and the people are involved in exploring possible solutions, all of which will involve change, they tend to accept the ultimate change with much less difficulty than if the changes are simply announced to them. Even when advance planning has been done, the wise leader will accept improvements to the plan if they are offered.

3. Use reference groups to explore possible changes. People will not be as impressed by research reports as they will observation reports, especially if the observations have been by peers.

4. Pilot projects, done with a small group where everyone is kept informed, and even have a chance to observe the pilot projects, will make change more effective. This removes many of the objections to change if the people can see a successful pilot project.

5. Field trips can help to make change less dramatic. When the people are able to see a successful program that uses the changes being suggested, they can become more motivated to make the changes.

6. Maintain communication in planning for and making changes. When making changes, keep everyone informed, and be sure all the communication is truthful. A positive image about the change by the leadership team will help to produce an effective change. If some of the major leaders are not convinced about the need for the change, and are voicing that opinion, it can cause problems in the process.

7. Use a trial balloon to announce a planned change. This is used often in political circles, but can be used to help in religious circles. The idea is to suggest the change, but to do it in such a way that the leader is not tied to it. If it seems to gain acceptance, then go with it. If the trial balloon is not accepted, then divorce yourself from that change.

8. Consider using a consultant to recommend the change. Sometimes an outsider can be more professional, more objective, and have his opinions more accepted than a local leader. The other obvious advantage is that the consultant can recommend the change, help convince the people, and then leave town. Sometimes the use of a consultant helps prevent a pastor having to leave a town.

9. Realize the importance of timing in planning and promoting a change.

10. Recognize the persons who will probably oppose the change, and plan a strategy for converting them.

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