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Jan. 2011 - Moses: The Proficient Master of Implementing Change

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John A. Kline, PhD jkline@klinespeak.com
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Dr. John KlineThe 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 necessity.

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.”

Capitalized on 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 “How to Implement Change in Your Organization.”

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

Jan. 2011 - Moses: The Proficient Master of Implementing Change
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