Change management

I haven’t posted for a while but I’m back.

I’ve had some interesting conversations and learning experiences over the last month or so. I want to reflect on some here.

My friend and business colleague, Patrick Mayfield, presented some very interesting findings about change from the world of science, particularly medicine. “The central issue is never strategy, culture, or systems,” says John Kotter. “The core of the matter is always about changing the behaviour of people.”

Most behavioural change programmes fail for patients with preventable disease fail. But Dr Dean Ornish’s programme for turning round people with clogged arteries has bucked the trend.
Without going into details, it was holistic and the marks of its success were:
framing the change with the incentive of the joy of living rather than the fear of death – and telling a different story about life than the one that has become ingrained.
introducing radical changes rather than incremental ones. They are often easier for people!
supporting the change with the help of peers, trainers and motivators.

How might that apply in your life and setting? I’m working it through in mine.


At a recent meeting, Lee Rayfield, my fellow bishop in this diocese, shared two metaphors of transition from the natural world that had struck him from a book he was reading by Howard Friend. The transitions were from tadpole to frog and from caterpillar to butterfly.

Howard Friend compares the marks of the tadpole’s development – which is visible, organised, orderly and uses the basic structure – with the marks of the caterpillar’s transformation – which is hidden, disorganised, chaotic and abandons the basic structure. Change management gurus call the former incremental change and the latter step change.


A lot of what I have learnt over the years about change management has been gleaned from what I would describe as “secular” material, for want of a better term. I have no problem with this but, as a Christian leader, I also ask myself whether there are any distinctives that my faith would bring to this subject.

Given that most of us are not committed to change for change’s sake, we’ve got to reflect on why we are called to change and secondly what we are called to change to.

I’m often asked to address the subject of change and how it can be managed.  Yesterday, at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Exeter, I addressed a group of over 100 bright-eyed and motivated people (all the more amazing as it was in the after lunch graveyard slot!) on the subject of leading for change.  I am interested, though not surprised, that this subject always creates an audience, not least in voluntary and non-profit organisations.

Consequently, I plan to do some posts on the subject of change and how it can be managed.  Obviously, this will relate to churches, but it will also have some value for anyone who is tasked with overseeing change wherever they are.  Here goes…

The first thing is obvious, but often missed by leaders who are introducing change.  Ask yourself this question, “As I seek to lead change, what am I modelling in my own life about an openness to change?” It’s “practise what you preach” stuff.