The Only Problem with Incremental Change is that it Brings Incremental Results

So you want to bring about change but you’re afraid of the pushback that you know the change will create?

Totally understand that.

So you’re tempted to do what many leaders have done. Instead of bringing about the deep or radical change you know needs to happen, you decide to introduce change incrementally.

  • Rather than remove the furniture you know needs to go, you move it an inch a week, hoping nobody will notice.
  • Rather than fire the poor performer, you transfer him to a new position and hope one day he’ll leave.
  • Rather than kill the programs that need to go, you add a few new ones instead and skirt the real issue.
  • Rather than make all the changes you know need to be made, you create a 10 year time line, thinking that people will better accept the change the longer you delay.

Sound familiar? What’s wrong with this picture?

More than a few things actually.

The problem with incremental change…

…is that it brings incremental results.

If you want incremental results, then embrace incremental change.

The reality is that most leaders don’t want incremental results. You dream of significant results.  Of radically different results.

Yet for some reason too many leaders fall for the leadership lie that incremental change will usher in radically different results.

It won’t.

Radical change brings the potential for radical results.

Incremental change never does.

Why Do Leaders Fall For This?

Why do you as a leader talk yourself into believing that incremental change will produce the results you’re looking for?

There are at least three reasons:

1. You fear people’s reaction to significant change

You’ve seen other leaders get crucified for ushering in change. And you don’t want that to be you.

Fear is one of the main reasons change isn’t happening fast enough in the church or in many organizations today.

Personally, I think it would be a terrible thing to stand before God one day and explain that the main reason you didn’t do what you were called to do is because you were afraid.

Do you really want fear to be your final epitaph as a leader? Or would you rather go down trying?

Personally, I’d rather die trying.

2. Past opposition to change

You tried change once, and it failed.

Well, awesome. You also had a bad meal once, but you didn’t stop eating.

Why is it leaders shy away from change once they’ve had any opposition to it?

Maybe the change itself isn’t the problem. Maybe your strategy is the problem.

This is why I outlined 5 specific strategies to lead change in the face of opposition in my book Leading Change Without Losing It.  And why I’m so passionate about helping leaders navigate change.

Just because you failed at leading change once doesn’t mean you’ll fail forever.

Get a new strategy. What’s at stake is far too important not to.

3. Belief that progress should come without pain

Now we get closer to the heart of the matter. Many leaders secretly wish progress came without pain.

Progress almost never comes without pain.

Significant things are rarely accomplished without significant struggle. Our heroes are always people who suffered to bring about a better end. Part of us wants to live like that, and part of us doesn’t.

The leadership question is whether you’re willing to endure pain for the sake of a better future.

Real leaders say yes to that. They honestly do.

So…if you want significantly different results, push past the fear and stop thinking incrementally.

Incremental change brings about incremental results. Now you know what you’re dealing with.

What are you learning about change?


Are you ready for change that brings significant results? Learn more about getting things done with Auxano’s Execution services.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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