Posts Tagged ‘organizational’


We Know Change is Hard—But Why?

Posted on: December 15th, 2008 by Hayim Herring

When asked why change takes so long, we’re often given the proverbial answer, “Because change is hard.” Okay—we all know that change is difficult. But that answer doesn’t get us very far in understanding how to facilitate change. It’s the follow up question, “Why is change so hard?,” that is more fruitful because it generates insights about the root difficulties of change.

Researchers suggest that change is so hard because people carry a picture of the present inside of their heads. This picture blocks the view of what the future might look like. As we live in the present, our assumptions, behaviors and mental images of the present exercise a strong grip on our imaginations and shield against new possibilities emerging in our minds.

That’s why so many advertisements feature “before” and “after” pictures of individuals who have undergone some kind of cosmetic intervention.  Think of the difference in the power between hearing that someone named Jim has decreased lost 50 pounds and then seeing two picture of a shirtless Jim, one at 200 pounds side-by-side with the new Jim at a svelte 150 pounds. No words can dramatize this radical picture of change.

Or, let’s take an example from a building campaign. Why is it that architects will build models of buildings with capital improvements and that members will create some sort of graphic allowing people to see how far they have to go to reach their financial goal? It’s because pictures enable us to glimpse the future in a way that words cannot.

One of the strategies for increasing the ability of people to visualize change is to literally give them a picture of what change will look like. Otherwise, no matter how frequently you try, their picture of the present will override a picture of a new and improved future.

Here are two items that I’d like to hear from you about:

  1. Can you relate a story about how visual images have worked to support change in your congregation or organization?
  2. What other explanations do you have as to why change is so hard?

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Pick the Low Hanging Fruit or Reach for the Stars?

Posted on: December 4th, 2008 by Hayim Herring

Conventional wisdom suggests that if you want to create some kind of organizational change then don’t stretch far at first– reach for the “low hanging fruit.” The “wisdom” in doing so is to create trust in the group involved in the change process and confidence in their ability to make a difference.  The “low hanging fruit” approach is group practice for the real change to come. The benefits of this approach are clear but its deficits are rarely discussed. These include:

The opposite approach to change can be described as think large, move quickly and start small.  This approach focuses on practicing imaginative thinking, seeing results soon but in manageable projects. I call this the “reach for the stars” approach.  Some of its disadvantages include:

Clearly, the choice of the approach will be driven by many factors, including congregational culture, tolerance for risk and leadership abilities.  While there isn’t really a right or wrong approach, my experience has been that synagogues take the “low hanging fruit” approach more often. So I’d like to hear your observations on a few questions:

  1. In what situations have you successfully used the “low hanging fruit” approach over the “reach for the stars” approach?
  2. Have you ever been in situations where you felt that one approach was preferable to the other, but you went against your gut feeling for other reasons?
  3. Given some urgent issues facing the Jewish community, do you think that we need to engage more frequently in the “reach for the stars” method of change?

I’m looking forward to a lively discussion—thanks in advance for contributing to it!

Rabbi Hayim Herring