On this cold, November Thursday, I am sitting on a bench in the tiny community of Buffalo Crossroads, which is not much more than just that, an intersection. I am here to contemplate this building, the first incarnation of the church I attend.
As I sit and watch the empty building, I try to imagine the sounds of a Sunday long ago: the service ending, the doors creak open. Laughing kids sprint out onto the grass, chased by the remonstrations of parents. Compliments are murmured to the pastor. Buggies creak as families climb aboard.
Now the building lies empty. The church they built and moved to in town is 180 years old.
The new becomes old and requires new again.
That brings my musing around to organizational change.
How does change come to organizations? After dedicating five years of hard effort to help transform a local one – with little to show for it – I picture the process as like nudging a cruise ship with a rowboat. At times, it feels impossible. But since I am now a professional eavesdropper on the answers businesses are crafting to that question, I know it can be done. Invariably, change is brought by a forced hand. The wiser companies proactively adjust to a coming crisis. The others react just before the ship hits the rocks.
Transformation always comes with a price. Often, cherished things must be let go. Just down the road, this former elementary school is now – ironically – a church. I’m sure the transition was anything but easy.
And I recognize that not all change is good. Just over the horizon, a local farmer has built a hideous silo that forever alters the beautiful landscape. It’s probably a useful addition for him, but is a regrettable one for the rest of us.
It’s a tricky balance.
And so I turn the question inward: what change needs to come in me?
Am I requiring minor adjustments, or, as my boys are suggesting, it’s time to chart a whole, new course? Thomas Edison once said, “Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress.” Restlessness and discontent: the twin tugboats inside me. But where are they nudging me?
As is often the case on these bench-sittings, there is a visual punch line for me. I look down as I go to leave, and see this
Even in the contented hills of central PA, change comes.
But is it worth the wait?