If you’d rather avoid the risk of change, this is your lucky day!
The easiest way to avoid change with the least amount of effort is by simply mastering the well-timed use of two words. With these words, you can avoid the unpleasant risk and hard work of change almost indefinitely. You can also use them to thwart an initiative that will bring change to an organization or group you are part of.
Those two magic words: "Not Now." Here’s how it works.
Imagine you have a few pounds to lose. Or you need to make some changes in how you spend and save your money. By simply saying, “Yes, those are really important to me, but 'not now.' The timing is just not right. I have this holiday to get through or that trip to take first or that big family event or my favorite TV show…"
Or, maybe, you need to make a few changes at work or you are facing some other challenge that will require courageous change. Look yourself (or anyone else that matters) in the eye. Affirm the need for change in detailed terms, but then in sobering tones finish your offering with something like, “However, with all the other priorities on our plate right now, the timing just isn’t right. I don't want us to forget about it, we’ll need to address this soon, but not now.”
The secret power of this little phrase is nowhere more transcendent than in a group setting. Think about your church. Someone proposes changing a program or tradition or budget allocation or some other part of congregational life that you find personally meaningful. Sure, they frame the proposal around a way to increase ministry effectiveness, but you really don't want it. Take the same approach. At some point in near future, it should be considered, but just not now.
Why suffer through change in silence? Seize the moment. Now is the perfect time to speak up and wax eloquently on why this proposal is a fantastic idea. But, before anyone can shout amen, continue right on and in the most heartfelt manner point to whatever current circumstances you can to make your case that while this should be done, it should not be done now.
Pontificate away on the importance of more study, more reflection, and certainly more prayer before diving into the disconcerting waters of change on something so important. Thank those that have offered the proposal. It is a good idea, but not now.
Before you know it, by exercising your skillful use of the “not now” strategy, you might be able to postpone change indefinitely! You can avoid the risk of failure. You can maintain status quo. Just because something needs to be done, it does not have to be done now.
Unless of course change is actually needed.
I am a little nervous that someone might miss the whole tongue-in-cheek purpose of this post, so let me be clear. This is actually a call to courage.
If you want to lead, you have to come to grips with the fact that people and groups have a tremendous capacity to resist change in the name of something that sounds good and right. Every organizational system has an intuitive capacity for maintaining status quo. Leaders prepare themselves for that resistance and for leading the changes that will shape the future.
One of the greatest skills we can develop is the ability to spot and interrupt polite-sounding, compassionately framed, even spiritualized resistance to change. Fine tune your personal radar to spot the "not now" arguments in real time, before they take root.
Let's take it one step further to apply all of this in real time. Right now across the US, following the murder of George Floyd, a groundswell of attention calls for us to deal with systemic injustice and racism. Listen closely to the conversations in many places and you will hear the equivalent of these two words. "Yes, this is an issue, but we should study the issues or consider our options or not get caught up in reaction. One way or another you will detect a vague scent of affirmation cut short by those two simple words. Not now.