Inner evolution vs. inner revolutionWritten by Eric McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the more challenging jobs I have is that of managing change. I work for an institution that is fickle on the subject. My bosses are always promoting it. My people are often resistant to it. My bosses want it because the past 40 years have been unkind to the overall health of the institutional and organized life of the church. My people resist it because the past 40 years have been unkind to the collection of values, beliefs and ways of life many have held dear.
I have learned that there are three ways to do this job of managing change. The first is not to do it at all; ignore the bosses, let the parishioners fend for themselves and wait for the bishop to move you. If one is smooth and clever and can tell a good joke, one can sneak through a 40-year career in the church in relative ease. The second is to go evolutionary. The idea behind the evolutionary method is to bring about the necessary change in a quiet, steady and incremental way, so as to bring along the whole family. The third route is to go revolutionary. To go revolutionary is to cast caution to the wind and go all out for a complete and dramatic overhaul. Of course, revolutions are bloody. People get fired, abandoned and lost. To the revolutionary, sometimes the change becomes more important than the people the change is suppose to serve.
As I watch the players in this health care debate, I cannot help to feel sympathetic. Here we have the president and Congress elected to manage the necessary change we need to fix a system that is clearly broken. We see all three ways at work. You have the Republicans wanting no part in any of this. Hoping that they are smooth enough, and clever enough, and can tell a joke good enough, they are biding their time until the political equivalent of my bishop, the electorate, makes some “appointment changes.” Then you have our President, the classic evolutionist, working within the system to reform the system in such a way that allows much of what we already have remain while employing a series of changes that will hopefully address its brokenness. Finally you have Nancy Pelosi and the so-called “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” wanting to wage a small revolution that will give us a public option that will probably, one day, morph into a single payer plan.
Do we want evolutionary change or revolutionary change? Perhaps what we want is not relevant. What is relevant is what we need in order to get that the three things health reform is suppose to bring: universal coverage, cost containment and affordability. Will evolutionary change get us there? As a manager of change, I am most comfortable with the evolutionary approach. Whenever one suggests I start a small revolution, I am quick to remind them of words similar to those by the late Sam Rayburn, “Any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes leadership to build one.” Revolutionaries are good at tearing things down. It is the building up of something that is hard. I understand President Obama’s desire to use the evolutionary approach to reform what we have.
But once in a while, a situation reaches a tipping point that may require revolutionary change. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt had to challenge industry to revolutionize the way it made things. The banking system failed a year ago, forcing President Bush and his free-market economic advisers to essentially become socialists. Talk about being revolutionary.
The question I am struggling with is this: “Are we near the tipping point with health care?” If we are, the evolutionary approach by our president may be too little too late. If it is, the proposal to essentially subsidize our existing private health insurance system will collapse in four or five years and we will be in the throws of a new fight over health care. If we are not at this tipping point, then the President’s evolutionary approach may actually lead us all to a better place.
As much as I respect and support this president, I have my doubts. My proclivities toward evolutionary change is sorely being tempted toward revolution on this one.
Eric McGlade is a United Methodist Minister living in Bowling Green.