In order for any kind of change effort to succeed, you have to do more than provide a clear, positive verbal and visual message about the intended change. You also need to help the people who are on the front lines of change become successful. While it is important to set goals and expectations about the intended outcomes of the change, it’s equally important to support them with the resources to make the leap from doing things how they are currently done to conducting business in a new manner.
Why? Because those responsible for implementing the change are likely to feel incompetent for a period of time, as they let go of the old (which they were good at) and embrace the new (for which it will take time to gain proficiency). During this transition, they need to have the technical support to help them gain mastery of a new skill or process, and the emotional support to let them know that they have permission to ask questions, to make mistakes and to feel frustrated as they transition from how things were done to how things will be done.
For example, let’s look at the adoption of new technologies. People have different levels of comfort with technology: as a general rule of thumb, the younger the individual, the greater the comfort level. When congregations decide to invest in new technologies, like advanced phone systems, computer software or even photocopiers, they budget for equipment but may not budget sufficient funds for training staff on the new equipment. Moreover, board members may have unrealistic expectations about the timetable for efficiencies that the new technology promises. As a result, feelings of frustration on the part of staff and lay leadership occur, causing some to question the need for the investments or the abilities of this staff. So remember, when investing in any kind of change process, allow time and support for people to adjustments to their new circumstances.
I’d like to hear your story about trying to innovate in your congregation. What were you trying to achieve that was different? In hindsight, do you feel that an appropriate amount of support was offered? What would you do differently next time? Thanks in advance, for sharing your insights!
Rabbi Hayim Herring