Change Happens

by: Ken Stoltzfus

September 2009

In business, ministry, or life in general, properly understanding the relationship between the past, the present and the future is essential to achieving our maximum potential for the future.

There is a way in which each is related to the other. The future is unavoidably built upon the past and the present. There is also a way in which each stands on its own.

The future may be richer or poorer, but it will always be different from the present or the past because life is dynamic, not static. Each era is unique, forcing change upon an organization and its relationship with others even if by default.

Our response to change will bring either life or death. A static organization in a dynamic world will die. It may continue to exist but its “life” will be gone. Its eyes will be sunken and hollow.

Politics and economics (world/national/local/organizational), and the availability of various resources will shape a period. The measure and focus of vision; the style of leadership; and the needs or opportunities the organization is responding to are dynamic factors which shape its life.

In order to plan well for the future we need to objectively look at the present and the past. What served us well in the past may be inappropriate for the future.  A few years ago a 150-meg hard drive was big and a “gig” was unheard of. Today one and a half gig is almost the minimum for new computers!*

Frequently, when change is proposed it is interpreted as a negative judgment upon the past. Those who have shaped the past may feel they are being declared personally inadequate. Persons who have inappropriately found their sense of identity and self worth in past structures and successes will be especially threatened.

Sometimes we feel secure in the safety of doing things as we have always done them. We fear change because it places our perceived future at risk. And it does, because change always brings risk. But is the past something to be protected and defended, or is it a stepping stone to the future?

We need to ask ourselves if the strategies and successes of the past or present are adequate for the future. Is there more we can be doing? Can we do it more efficiently, effectively or safely? Are new resources available? Have conditions and needs around us changed? Is it “a new day” in some way?

If we decide to move on, we must proceed with the humility, wisdom, and courage that enable us to:

  • ask the questions and explore the areas which can lead to our enrichment;
  • clearly state and patiently impart vision for something new which is built upon specific goals and principles;
  • know how much change is appropriate and how fast it can come without undue stress to the organization;
  • be willing to accept the loss of support from some persons who are too deeply vested personally and emotionally in the past and the present, and thus unable to embrace change for the future; and
  • as much as possible, propose change for the future while blessing the past and present and expressing respect and appreciation for those who have contributed to their successes.

If we decide we are unable to change, for whatever reason, we must declare that honestly and accept responsibility for the negative impact it will have upon the organization.

In deciding, let’s remember that the greatest compliment we can pay to the past is to make it a servant to a better future.

*Written in July, 1996

Ken Stoltzfus is an ARC Associate.  Born in 1940, he has worked as a pilot, ordained Christian minister, businessman, missionary to Africa and writer. This is #14 in his series, “The View from up Life’s Path”, and is one of many short articles that can be found at www.flyinghigher.net

© 2003, Ken Stoltzfus, flyinghigher.net, P.O. Box 228, Kidron, OH 44636 USA. May be printed for personal use and may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes without further permission if proper acknowledgment is given.

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