The International school that my children attend is an example of disfunction. It has one main administrator that has to have her hands in all areas of the school. This type of micromanagement has been taught to the other 2 principals as well. For the last 2 years my wife has worked at this location with the mantra, “I’m here for the kids, stay out the of mess and stay in my own lane.” When organizations seem to squelch cre- ativity and only focus on a top down mentality, then an unhealthy spirit discourages longevity and community.
Quinn’s Book, Deep Change Field guide is book that will need a lot more time to process than I have this week. One reviewer wrote, “Open this book at your own risk. It contains ideas that may lead to a profound self-awakening. An introspective journey for those in the trenches of today’s modern organizations”1
Reading through this book on the characteristics of a slow death I kept getting drawn into thoughts of the international school near us. When a survey was done recently among the teachers to try to identify problems I thought it telling that several items on this list were mentioned. They mentioned “lack of trust” and “lack of direction” as 2 of the biggest issues. It breaks my heart to see an organization with so much potential limited by 1 or 2 individuals and their lack of trust. Quinn says, “The real problem is frequently located where we would least expect to find it, inside ourselves. Deep change requires an evaluation of the ideologies behind the organizational culture”2“To bring deep change, people have to “suffer” the risks. And to bring about deep change in others, people have to reinvent them- selves” 3
Deep change is something that many of us desire but secretly have a growing fear. The international school that my wife teaches at talks a lot about moving forward, get- ting better, improving who they are. The problem is that there needs to be some risk for this change to take place. “Deep change at the collective level requires deep change at the personal level. Organizational change cannot occur unless we accept the pain of personal change” 4 Many of us are not willing to make the personal changes necessary for true organizational change to take place.
This book makes it clear that if one doesn’t desire “deep change” than usually that leads to a slow death of an organization. “When we do decide to initiate action, there are no written guarantees, no insurance policies that will save us if we fail. The possibil- ity of failure is a constant companion who walks beside every real leader” 5. Fear of failure and fear of looking foolish seems to play a huge role in the life of a leader and the organizations they lead.
Without feeling like I am throwing the school administrator under the bus (too much), I do feel as though some of the major issues with the kid’s school is her insecurities. There have been time she has been confronted with some of her leadership issues and she responds like a wounded animal or a victim. She will publicly acknowledge her faults and over compensate with gifts for whoever she has offended. There is a short window of humility and then returns back to the same leadership style as before. “When a system faces the challenge to make deep change, individuals will usually cre- ate an alternative scenario. It is usually the scenario of the painless fix. It is an early stop on the road to slow death”6. My worry is that without real change that this school is headed for disaster.
I have always been one that sees the potential in a group or organization. I almost pains me to see what could be and be aware of the roadblocks or the individuals keep- ing it from reaching its potential. This has been true within the churches that I have pastored as well as the current organization that I am a part of. I don’t want to be that guy picking at the twig in the school administrators eye while I have a log in my own. This book has also started a journey to look deeply into the areas of my own life that might be hindering our organization. I am speaking on Lamentations 3:22-25 tomorrow and this is at the forefront of my mind. In the midst of failures, God’s mercies are new and refreshing each day. So as we evaluate our own lives, orgs, churches, etc..may be remember that we are in need of the change only God can bring.
2 Quinn, Robert E. The Deep Change Field Guide A Personal Course to Discovering the Leader within. J-B US Non-Franchise Leadership. Chichester: Wiley, 2012.103
4 Ibid, 193
5 Ibid, 158
6 Ibid, 94