Imagine two cogs, one turning clockwise and the other turning counter-clockwise, and each representing a different paradigm (see illustration and footnote). 1
The cog on the left represents tradition or “what we have always done”; the status quo. The cog on the right represents a significant challenge to the status quo. Assuming that the proposed shift is good or necessary, the optimum outcome would be that every person standing on the side of tradition, or what has always been done, would make the transition into the new paradigm.
The reality is that, any time there is a paradigm shift or significant change to the status quo, there are always people who get crushed “between the cogs” as it were. They simply cannot, or will not make the adjustments necessary to safely cross from status quo to the new paradigm.
Again, assuming the new paradigm to be valuable and necessary, there are some things for the change agents to remember.
1. People are important. This does not mean that people are always more important than the proposed change. Why? Because oftentimes, more people will be hurt if the change is not made than if it is. Still, it matters that those who can’t make the transition are going to be crushed and change agents should not take that lightly and should do their due diligence in helping people make the transitions and in re-purposing people who cannot.
2. Count the cost first, then press on with integrity. Once it is determined that the change must come for the good of everyone, then the change agent, having done his or her due diligence to help everyone make the transition, must be prepared to press on knowing full well that some will not be continuing on with the organization. This may or may not be unfortunate, but it will be difficult. This is why the change agents must count the cost.
3. Finish what you start. No one should deconstruct something, particularly a tradition that has sheltered many people, without reconstructing something viable in its place. To tear down and then quit is evil and frequently will allow all that is wrong about the status quo to grow back and double in its size and power.
4. Once the change comes, be diligent to maintain it. It’s one thing to change, it is another to maintain that change with integrity, not slipping back into old traditions and habits. Be diligent or old habits that tarnished the past will be reborn in the future.