Saturday, February 04, 2012

Transforming Presence

Had a positive and encouraging meeting with my wardens this morning, looking to take forward the Transforming Presence process in this patch. +Stephen gives inspiring public leadership.


  1. Looks grim.

    1990s business change methods come to the Church of England ....

  2. The method is so familiar to anyone who worked in large corporations (public or private sector) c.1995-2005 (before everyone got fed up of the whole approach and realised it didn't work):

    - Get lots of people together in a big room
    - Sit them in groups round tables
    - Lots of inspiring talk from leaders and others about change, facing big challenges, etc.
    - Sharing ideas (e.g. those "best experiences")
    - The inevitable flip charts and post-it notes (groan)
    - etc. etc.

    Everyone goes away genuinely fired up, but it all fizzles out after a while.

    There's quite a lot of literature now explaining why this "extrinsic" approach doesn't work (see e.g. John Seddon or Chris Argyris).

    One of the underlying themes was the importance of cultural change. Change the culture and all sorts of good things will flow from this. (Events like the Brentwood Centre one were supposed to kick start cultural change, cf. the comments about "brought into the open a desire for change", "A new style was in the air" - again all very familiar stuff for anyone who's been through this process.)

    Very quickly people realised that cultural change is difficult, and began to use this this fact as a rationalisation for the persistent failure these change programmes.

    On the whole the cultural change idea has been quietly forgotten, which is a shame, because there is something important lurking there. The snag is that you can't just change culture in an organisation (any more than e.g. you can build trust in a relationship). As Seddon has pointed, out culture change comes about as a result of other things: it is a consequence, not a (primary) enabler of change, just as trust in a relationship is a consequence. Now, it is true that once the change has happened other possibilities do start to open up (cf. trust again) - this is the grain of truth - but you can't get to that stage without doing all the necessary work changing other things beforehand (but fortunately that work is good and necessary anyway, so you're into a virtuous circle).

  3. Thanks Sir W, that's very helpful (more than you may realise). Would it be fair to say that you can't legislate for virtue? I'll pursue this as it ties in to issues in my benefice.

  4. Quite!

    Dreaming of systems so perfect that no-one will need to be good.

    V. glad to have been of service. (I am not just a reactionary curmudgeon ... honest.)

  5. Justin - thanks for chipping in. Do you have a date for when your book on this is coming out? You've got at least one reader eagerly awaiting it...

    1. Thesis completed, MS has to be with Continuum by May, publication date…? autumn? In the meantime, the debate is on the title: "You are the Messiah, and I should know" or "Jesus, MBA". In either case the subtitle is secure: "Why 'Leadership' is a myth and probably a heresy" (!)

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  7. Morbid curiosity made me click the link and I broadly agree with Sir Watkin. The entire thing reminded me of an American style leadership pet talk. The setup, the layout and especially the grammar is very familiar to office plebs like me. Terms like potential, identity, innovation, accountability, risk taking, growth etc are shoved down my throat every second day at work.

  8. I was involved in the group changed work method back in the 1990's when I worked at Procter & Gamble and yes, the video shows a mirror image of this approach. The Bish' has some nice ideas and sentiments but the reality is that the institution of the C of E will not be able to adapt to a new model. It is encouraging to hear some wise words about the monastic life and how they evangelised Europe first! But local churches will not be able to reflect this in trying to discover a new monastic experience within their current lives. Even though the c of e allows for such expression to be explored, it is stifled by both vicars and the PCC's. I do not have an answer and I am not trying to throw knives into the church I have now left, but I think such honest feedback is important as it would be a dream come true to see the Bishops ideals adopted in the next five to ten years! Over to the. Icars to start the change?

  9. Good to see so many comments from peeps that weren't actually there... And, despite my enthusiasm for what +Stephen is attempting I do agree with what has been said.

    Sir W and Steve are correct, it was an early 21st century style brainstorm BUT... at least that drags the church (as in majority of C of E) forward from the 19th Century. And +Stephen is actually admitting to the problems and encouraging cultural change rather than the usual responses along the lines of 'it's not as bad as it could be' or 'the church has survived for ..... years and will continue to do so'.

    As one of the brainstormers I found that all a tad passé but for some there it was revolutionary. This highlights another challenge for cultural change, maintaining healthy diversity and going in the same direction, hopefully forward!

    My thoughts from the day here: 'The end of the C of E as we know it' which may help to shed more light on the cultural aspects.



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