Leading Change

I have been reflecting on a few questions recently that are the premise for this blog entry: how am I leading change? Am I just managing it? Or worse yet, reacting to it?

John Kotter has written two books that have caused me to look at change differently. It has caused me to change my approach to change. His words have opened my eyes to creating an intentional process for change so that we are truly leading change in our Church. These two books: Our Iceberg is Melting and Leading Change.

Kotter outlines an eight step process to leading change. Before I summarize what he wrote, I think it is important to understand a couple things:

  1. How we lead change in a pastoral ministry setting is going to be different then how we lead change in a business/corporate setting, which is the perspective that Kotter writes from.
  2. Change is not as easy as he lays it out to be. It is my belief that as simple as this process looks on paper, change is much more dynamic and tricky and requires flexibility. With that said, as helpful as I think this is, I don’t beleive that this process can gurantee a successful change every time.

Leading Change – an Eight Step Process:

  1. Establishing a sense of urgency: change cannot happen when people do not believe it is urgent or important. If we cannot see the negative effects of not changing, then one is likely not to change. As many have noted over the years, people will not change until they have to.
  2. Creating the guiding coalition: this is the team of people you bring together to help lead the change. This team should have a mix of people with influence (and power), creativity, relational skills, credibility, and leadership.
  3. Developing a vision and strategy: the vision must be clear and the strategy realistic. If there is no vision or strategy, then the change will fail.
  4. Communicating the change vision: Kotter writes about over-communicating the message so that it continues to be on the fore-front of peoples minds. The guiding coalition must find creative strategies to market and communicate the change.
  5. Empowering broad-based action: the key to this step is to empower the people that will be affected by the change to take ownership of the process and help create the change. Without the buy-in of the community, change is not likely to happen.
  6. Generating short-term wins: I often call this the low hanging fruit. Change is a long process and requires time. However, how can we create short-term measures of our success and progress? When people see success, they stay motivated to move forward.
  7. Consolidating gains and producing more change: this has everything to do with momentum. Take those short-term wins and use that to create more change.
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture: this is often necessary after the change has been “achieved.” I use that term loosely because change continues to require work after there is a perception of “we’ve made it!” Anchor the change in a way that does not allow people to slip back to old habits and routines.

Sounds simple. It can be, but it takes works and thought. I think these books have a broad appeal to pastoral ministers who are looking at how we lead this ever-changing institution we call the Catholic Church.

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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