SEMINAR TWO: An Invitation to Dialogue

SEMINAR TWO: An Invitation to Dialogue

Focus: Conversations Change Lives

            Welcome to the adventure! We’re glad you accepted the invitation, as many have before us. At first the adventure is easy and exciting, but soon the road becomes more difficult, as Jesus said: Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matthew 7:13-14).

            The road toward change is hard, as Peter Senge writes: Most change initiatives fail. Two independent studies in the early 1990s, one published by Arthur D. Little and one by McKinsey & Co., found that out of hundreds of corporate Total Quality Management (TQM) programs studied, about two thirds “grind to a halt because of their failure to produce hoped-for results.” Reengineering has fared no better; a number of articles, including some by reengineering’s founders, place the failure rate at somewhere around 70%. Harvard’s John Kotter, in a study of one hundred top management-driven “corporate transformation” efforts, concluded that more than half did not survive the initial phases. He found a few that were “very successful,” and a few that were “utter failures.” The vast majority lay “. . . somewhere in between, with a distinct tilt toward the lower end of the scale.” Clearly, businesses do not have a very good track record in sustaining significant change. There is little to suggest that schools, healthcare institutions, governmental, and nonprofit institutions fare any better.

            Even without knowing the statistics, most of us know firsthand that change programs fail. We’ve seen enough “flavor of the month” programs “rolled out” from top management to last a lifetime. We know the cynicism they engender . . .

            This failure to sustain significant change recurs again and again despite substantial resources committed to the change effort (many are bankrolled by top management), talented and committed people “driving the change” and high stakes . . .





[1] The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through

[2][3] [4][5] [6][7] [8]

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

            To understand why sustaining significant change is so elusive, we need to think less like managers and more like biologists.[1]

[1]Peter M. Senge et al., The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations (New York: Doubleday, 1999), 5-6.

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