last four columns focused on one of the greatest leaders of all time. We
considered Moses’ leadership challenge, his nation-building success, his
visionary leadership and his exemplary character. This month we consider
how he implemented change, to get the Hebrews out of Egypt. Here are six
things Moses did.
Magnified the plagues.
The first plague was
bad; the Nile turned to blood. But as important as the Nile was to the
Egyptians, Pharaoh would not let the people go. The tenth and final
plague resulted in the death of all the firstborn in the land except the
protected Hebrew people. The plagues got bad enough that Pharaoh decided
to let the people go. Change comes easiest when people see its
Marked an ending place.
The crossing of the Red
Sea marked an end to bondage in Egypt. The sea which had parted to allow
the Hebrews passage, closed; and in the process, Pharaoh’s army was
drowned. There was no turning back for the Hebrews. Change endures when
there is no way to return to the old way of doing things.
Dealt with their murmuring.
Soon after their
escape, the Hebrew people begin to grumble and claim things were better
in Egypt. Moses did not ignore their murmuring; instead, he called upon
the Lord who provided water, manna and meat. People are more willing to
change when they feel they are being heard and their needs are met.
Gave the people access to
decision makers. Moses followed his father-in-law’s sage advice and appointed “leaders of
thousands, of hundreds of fifties and of tens.” In other words, he
established different layers of managerial decision makers so the people
could voice concerns, get answers, and feel in touch with what was
happening. Successful change implementation requires communication with
people “in the know.”
opportunities in the “neutral zone.” The neutral zone between Egypt
and the Promised Land provided opportunities to prepare the people for
change. There was no way to return and the people did not want to live
forever in the wilderness; therefore, Moses could literally, “Lay down
the Law.” It was during the time in the wilderness when Moses codified
the Law and built a nation. Effective change agents know people look for
structure in the time of transition.
Resisted the urge to push
ahead until the right time. What started out as a quick
trek to the Promised Land became a forty year meandering in the
wilderness. Quite simply, the people were not ready to enter Canaan. Two
things were necessary: (1) the older complaining generation needed to
pass on and (2) the Hebrew people needed to develop an identity. The
time must be right for successful implementation of change.
For a discussion of what it takes to implement change, see my article on
Implement Change in Your Organization.”