From time to time, I’ll post a little diddy about a book I’m reading (not Jack and Diane). It won’t be the whole book but rather a BookSlice, kind of like when someone offers you a whole pizza (I’m thinking of college students) and you say “just a slice”. The same could apply to, say, Strawberry Rhubarb pie. And I hope it does. A review. A highlight. A BookSlice:

Leading Change by John P. Kotter (1996, Harvard Business School Press)

If you’ve recently read anything about changing an organization, you already know the buzzphrases: “Change or die”, “Paradigm Shift”, “Global Marketplace” are plentiful in organizational development literature. Refreshingly Kotter doesn’t add to the abyss of terminology, since most authors end up creating a new word to describe an old problem. Instead of a new term (“Strategery”) he sets up a system that takes all the loose ends and ties them into a brilliant mosaic, illustrating eight steps to bringing lasting change to an organization. Since RadBlog is an equipping place for church leaders, let me just say that although this book may look like another business book that you have to pole vault to adapt to leadership in the church, it’s not. Check out Kotter’s Eight-Stage Process of change (with annotation)

  • Establishing a Sense of Urgency :: The first step is to set up the conflict so that people long for a resolution. It’s not that we’re creating conflict, just naming it. It’s amazing that the highest IQ’s of the world can have the lowest action-quotient. People need a good reason to enter the change process.
  • Creating the Guiding Coalition :: Step two is forming a team of like-minded people who all dig change and know the vision. If you were around and aware during the “church growth” campaigns, you may remember thinking that all it takes is a charismatic Senior Pastor/leader to make a comeback (the Lee Iacocca Factor). Having a larger-than-life leader at the helm of the ship is no good if the crew doesn’t know how to row. In this phase, you’re trying to get the right people on board — those that bring expertese, flexibility, leadership and credibility. In a church setting, this might be a board, a ministry team or (sigh) a Committee.
  • Developing a Vision and Strategy :: Part three is where, with your team, you’re developing a picture of the preffered future as well as a way to get there. Two important points to consider, here. 1. You’re doing this with a team (not alone). 2. You’re coming up with vision first and strategy second. This is an important order of operations to strive for in the church. I’m not sure why, but we tend to come up with strategies first and then build visions around them. May the Lord help us to see the Kingdom of God as our ultimate vision and the building of the Kingdom as a strategy.
  • Communcating the Change Vision :: Talk, print, video, banners, brocures, complimentary visors. Your people need time to process, critique and then envision themselves in this new reality that you’re painting. Talk the change vision until it bleeds from every pore. Listen to every question.
  • Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action :: This is where the rubber meets the road. You’ve unveiled the concept car, now it’s time to let your people drive. As pastors we tend to want to keep a tight hold on our ideas, not letting other people run with them because they might get into a wreck. This is true for me, at least! Unless your volunteers, staff, and teams can be empowered (given the keys) to start changing their specific parts of the organization to match the new vision, it’ll never fly.
  • Generating Short-Term Wins :: Since big change takes time and energy, it’s important to have little celebrations along the way that keep people motivated and prove that yes, we can get this right! Let’s say hypothetically that you’re tired of black and white TV and it’s your team’s job to invent full-color high-def. In this scenario, it may take years to get it right, much to the shagrin of your people. Instead, you could celebrate little milestones along the way (this month, we figured out how to get “green” to show up on the screen! Yay!). Little wins are important and should be from meeting sub-goals of the overarching vision.
  • Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change :: With a few wins under your belt, it’s time to ride that wave of credibility and continue the change process. This time it may be bigger, more sweeping or difficult for the organization. But you have shown yourself to be an effective change agent. Celebrate the wins, eat the cake, and keep moving.
  • Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture :: How sad would it be to make all of these changes, only for them to not stick? At this point, you commit to what you’ve aimed for all these days/months/years. I have seen situations where leaders were frustrated or discouraged — worn out from the uphill movement of change — and have let it all crumble. This would be like doing surgery but not sewing the patient back up. Gross. ‘Nuff said.
  • Kotter’s work is less like a book and more like a conversation in your living room with this Harvard professor. Although he goes into much detail on why change is important (since he’s writing to a 1996 audience) it’s still a refreshing, quick, useful read for church leaders who are called to bring healthy change to their organization.

    BookSlice Score: with 10 being “Memorize the Whole Thing” and 1 being “Glance at it as it hits the trash pile” I give it an



    Check it out at Amazon

    About radamdavidson

    When I'm not blogging, I'm hanging out with my family, pastoring a church, or listening to vinyl. I think and write about Jesus, music, communication, organizational leadership, family whatnot, and cultural artifacts from the 1980's -- mostly vintage boomboxes. You can read my blog at, watch [RadCast], a daily 3 minute video devotional, or find me on socials (@radamdavidson). I also help Pastors in their preaching and public speaking (
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