Effective leaders know that too much change too fast creates anxiety, uncertainty, opposition, and unnecessary conflict. As a result they introduce change incrementally – one step at a time. At Transforming Church, we encourage leaders to use a simple but profound tool to introduce change while regulating stress. We call it the 3-D Method.
The 3-D Method allows for change to be introduced in three phases – Dialogue, Discussion, and Decision. Each phase has different ground rules, and each may require a different amount of time to complete.
In the dialogue phase, people simply state personal opinions without feedback or interruption from others. The goal is to gather as much information as possible. Look to outside resources. Listen to each person. In a group setting, this usually happens when people go around a circle and state their opinion about what the key issues are and what they think should be done.
The purpose is to capture the data. The leader’s task here is to use positional authority to enforce the ground rules; no interruptions, no reaction, no feedback. Them stop.
The discussion phase occurs in a separate meeting, sometimes days or months after the dialogue phase, depending on how hot the topic is. No decisions are made in this phase, but unlike the dialogue phase, participants are free to agree or disagree with each other. The goal is to identify the competing values, clarify the issues, and provide scenarios or options.
Healthy competing values, such as “community” versus “outreach”, need to be kept in some sort of balance at a macrolevel. In other words, while leaders need to choose one of the competing values in each unique situation, the two values should remain in dynamic tension in the life of the church.
There are many different sets of competing values, and a healthy exercise for you would be to identify the leading ones in your church. In each case, the task of leadership is to frame the discussion of competing values around the church’s mission.
Some people will experience the exposure of competing values as a personal loss, so they need to understand that their voices have been heard.
Remember, the goal of this process is not consensus; it is to raise the competing values so that leaders have everything on the table to fully consider. If consensus occurs, it is after the fact, as the byproduct of a healthy process.
The decision phase occurs after the discussion phase. At the decision point, conflict will emerge, but it will be much less significant because the group has already processed the issue through dialogue and discussion. If this phase becomes too personal, each participant shares the responsibility of returning the conversation to objective ground. At some point, the authorized leaders make a decision based on what they perceive is the right direction for the church. The leaders earn their ‘pay’ at this juncture.
Although dialogue and discussion are inherently democratic in nature, the final decision belongs to the leader or leaders. Consensus decision making is usually a bad idea because it plays to the lowest common denominator.
The revered leadership author Jim Collins once told a gathering of our clients that “consensus decision-making was the biggest mistake of twenty-first century management”.
The 3-D Method is robust, productive, and ultimately builds relationships. Why not give it a try as you navigate your next change initiative.
A trusted advisor or leadership coach can be invaluable as you lead change, assisting you with framing decisions and using tested processes such as the 3-D Method. We’d love to talk with you about serving you or your church as a trusted advisor and coach – you can talk to a coach here!