the shape of leadership

5 Stages of Constructive Change

Building and shaping culture, part 1

Chris Railey on May 11, 2018


We’ve all seen those home building shows on HGTV. They are so great to watch because they show the process of building and shaping something, either constructing from the ground up or taking something already there and increasing its value. The same goes for the culture of your church.

Here are the five stages your culture will and must go through as you lead change. Don’t try to avoid a step or skip to the next. It’s important to lean in at every turn to make the most of each stage.

1. Dream

The first step in building a home or rehabbing a structure is to dream. This is always high energy with low cost. You get to imagine what you could be, what could happen and how high you may possibly go.

On the HGTV show, the owners are going over their must-have lists with the builder, dreaming about how great the home will be. There are no restrictions on materials or costs. There’s nothing holding anyone back at that moment.

This is high energy because the sky’s the limit. But it’s low cost because there’s no investment yet. In leading change, at this point you are throwing it all out there and asking your team to go big. It may be scary, but you aren’t even considering how to get there. You’re just focused on how great it will be once you’re there. This stage can really help set expectations for how much you will trust God throughout the process.

2. Design

Inevitably, you will need to move into the design stage. A dream without implementation is just that — a dream. But design will help you begin to make it a reality. Here you will have high collaboration and low resistance. Everyone at the table has their say and gets their thoughts on the board.

It’s the culture that creates the momentum that makes the vision a reality.

You move from having a dream to talking about specifics. You put teams around the dream and begin to flesh things out a bit more. Now you’re deciding just how many volunteers you may need for that afterschool program, whether the student area will have a basketball court or video games or how many times a year you’ll host a men’s conference.

 When you’re building culture, in the early stages you will have low resistance. First of all, because everyone gets a say. There are no ideas that are off limits as long as they lead to fulfilling that dream. And second of all, because no one has actually paid a price yet. They’ve given time and energy to design the dream, but there is no budget.

3. Tension

Once the design stage is set, you will encounter the next stage: tension. Here you will encounter high resistance and low unity. You must consider costs, and some people realize they may not get everything they want.

Think again about that home renovation show. What always happens at the halfway mark of a one-hour episode? The home builder calls the owner with bad news. They just uncovered termites in the wall or a crack in the foundation. Now it’s time to make some serious decisions and count the costs.

4. Resolution

The shows on HGTV always rely on resolving the tension. Will they finish the project? Are they going to achieve that dream home? After the commercial break, the producers show the decisions made and what work has gone on.

It’s the same with building and shaping the culture of your church. In this stage, you are no longer dreaming big and collaborating, but you are making the hard decisions that ultimately resolve tensions. Here you will experience high unity and low resistance. You’ve overcome the obstacles in your way.

5. Result

The last five minutes of any renovation show is the big reveal. We finally see the results. And this is the culmination of your dream as you build and shape culture around you. You experience high momentum and high credibility. By showing everyone you’ve got what it takes to get the job done, you can move on to the next project with confidence.

Every leader who is able to successfully navigate change and shape a healthy culture gets to the result stage. It’s the culture that creates the momentum that makes the vision a reality.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at how to practically build and shape culture. But the focus is actually on how to move from step three to step four. If you can master tension resolution, you’re on your way to creating a healthy culture that honors God and fulfills His vision in your life.


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