Strategic Planning: Accepting Change

People are often resistant to change, and leading your company through change is a challenge for which you must prepare before implementing a new strategic plan. Lessons in leading change are timeless, as the following example illustrates.

While in Japan as a professor (1924 to 1929), Eugen Herrigel experienced Japanese culture and became a student of archery from a skilled and somewhat controversial teacher, Awa Keno. As a master of his venerable technique, Keno became disenchanted with traditional approaches to the practice of archery.

He began to refer to long-respected ways of training as “kind of a hereditary disease,” which led him to develop his own style of shooting even while being considered a lunatic for doing so. The essence of his style was to hone proper skills as a foundation and then train one’s mental and spiritual energy to enter into the absolute way of performance and achievement.

As Keno’s student, Herrigel wove his appreciation of Zen Buddhism into his lessons, which inspired his writing for Zen in the Art of Archery (Vintage). Here are a few strategic considerations from his approach:

  • Transformational culture change can be met with fierce resistance. Keno wasn’t afraid to scrutinize and change ritualized approaches to temple archery, even under great institutional and personal scrutiny. Have you taken stock of your rituals or routines lately to verify their utility in today’s environment?

  • Foundational training should be approached as a kind of muscle memory. When training reaches the highest quality possible, achievement becomes a matter of will. What type of muscle memory does your organization need to excel?

  • Never underestimate the power of ideas outside of your culture to impact your reality. The book Zen in the Art of Archery was published in post-war Germany, where the concept of Zen was as familiar as sand is to the Arctic. Yet it took hold and continues to influence the way Westerners interpret archery.

Keno was a visionary in the realm of Japanese temple archery. He created a space for the practice of archery that hadn’t dared to exist within established traditions. He emphasized the evolution of process into a higher realm of individual awareness, which is what empowerment is all about. While Herrigel’s interpretation has its critics, the impact of ideas born from his experience make a difference for readers 60 years later.

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