One of the most important and often overlooked core elements in authentic organizational change is repentance and forgiveness. There is a rich wealth of stories and materials on this – here are my favorites:
When the Bishops Repented
by Rick James
The story is about the Secretariat of TEF which was closed three years ago due to resource constraints, weak leadership and lack of clear direction. During one of the workshops, the chair publicly acknowledged his failings and accepted responsibility for many of the errors that had left TEF in such a state. This set the tone for the short biblical devotion that followed. Each participant fell on their knees. Many major church leaders were openly weeping and confessing how they, as TEF, had failed to be an authentic evangelical voice. One participant remarked that “When the Bishops repented, God showed up.”
by Swedish Mission Council
The leadership of a Christian NGO had been trying to make some far-reaching organizational changes for a number of years. But it had been a painful and rocky process with many staff left raw and wounded. The turning point came when the Acting Director stood up in front of all the staff and simply said: “Sorry.” Sorry for the mistakes the leadership had made. The staff were shocked: “I never thought I would hear that word from the lips of our leadership team,” he said with tears in his eyes.
Daring to Be Vulnerable
by Joyce Mataya
This powerful story is about the power of forgiveness to resolve conflict and bring positive change. There was tension and lack of trust in the National Committee by members of COWLHA. Although the consultant was requested to work with one region, she convinced different stakeholders to involve the whole organization in the process. People shared the things that they were sorry about without pointing fingers. This provided room for others to be open. People courageously confessed their wrongs. Some were crying for what they had done wrong. People asked for forgiveness from each other. The consultant has a significant role to play in OD. Bringing in God is powerful.
Spiritual Leadership – Bringing Inside-Out Change
by Rick James
A large Christian NGO in Africa demonstrates the powerful combination of strong, servant leadership with relentless prayer and painful personal confession. Change was not cheap, easy or quick. But it happened. It is a story of leadership prepared to let God transform them as individuals and as a group. It is a story of how a few key individuals catalyzed change within the leadership team and over time within the whole national organization. It is a story full of laughter and tears. This story reveals God at the center of transformation. Prayer, repentance and forgiveness are interwoven throughout. The team began to confess to one another and ask forgiveness on behalf of themselves and their teams. There was reconciliation.
Finding Identity and Forgiveness
By Swedish Mission Council
This is SMC’s own OD story. The organization was in crisis just over 10 years ago. Relations with members were deteriorating. This led to reduction in donor funding which threatened the existence of the organization. Key leadership changes coupled with a participatory and prayerful OD process enabled the organization to rediscover the organization’s identity and role. SMC was able to reconcile internal issues and transform its relationships with its key stakeholders. The General Secretary led a forgiveness ceremony which brought healing to the organization. Organizational identity is a core part of OD.
Public Apology: A powerful Tool in Organizational Change?
by Prof. William Ogara
The article talks about the power of public apology in catalyzing change. Public apology is not easy; it requires a lot of humility. Mzima was suffering from considerable resentment and unrest. Internal conflict and tribalism were rife. The leadership team decided to spend considerable time together in prayer. They asked each other, “What have we done to offend you?” People began to open up about events that had happened in the past and on-going grievances and lack of respect between departments. In a profound and emotional way, people began to confess to one another and ask for forgiveness on behalf of themselves and their teams. Team leaders were reconciled with each other.
One incredibly simple and profoundly useful “tool” is simply asking people the question, “How have you contributed to this situation?” On many occasions personalizing change and getting people to take responsibility themselves has been the key to change. Read “Facing Fears and Taking Responsibility” for these useful exercises.