A Review of Leading Change by John Kotter
Whether you are looking to change careers, jobs or introduce a new process at your current job, change is never easy. Isn’t it so much easier just to do things the way we have always done them? In the short term, that may be true. But over the long term, stifling change can be a recipe for disaster.
So how do we make change less painful and productive in the work place? One of the most prolific authors and scholars on the topic is John Kotter. His book, Leading Change, offers actionable steps you can take to make organizational changes effective and powerful.
He recommends this eight-step process:
Step 1: Establish a sense of urgency
Sometimes referred to as the “burning platform,” as leaders of change we need for others to understand that the need for change is real and not doing so is detrimental. Kotter recommends for leaders to find this sense of urgency by examining the market & competitive landscape; and identifying & discussing crises, potential crises and most importantly, major opportunities.
Step 2: Create a Guiding Coalition
In other words, who is going to help you implement this massive change? We already know that by nature human beings are resistant to change. So we need to put together a group that is powerful enough (aka has the street cred) to lead the change. But it’s not enough to identify the group, an effective change leader needs to be able to get the group to work together like a team.
Step 3: Develop a Vision and Strategy
You’ve got your posse on board, but now what? As an effective change leader, you need to craft a solid vision that will help direct the overall change initiative or effort. Think of it as the “Big Idea.” And once you have that big idea, you need to develop the strategies for achieving that vision.
Step 4: Communicate the Change Vision
So, it’s not enough to come up with a really profound vision for your change, you need to communicate the rationale for your change effort. And sending one email doesn’t count! You need to communicate, communicate, and then communicate again using every vehicle you can get your hands on. Next, you and your posse need to model the new behaviors that you are expecting from others. That’s right: walk the talk.
Step 5: Empower Broad-based Action
Many a change initiative has failed because leaders were unable to empower their employees to take action. This inability to empower others leads to stagnation and possible derailment of the very vision the leader is trying to create. In addition, leaders need to get rid of the obstacles and change the systems that undermine the new vision. Doing so does not come without risk so leaders need to encourage others to take risks and utilize innovative and out-of-the-box thinking.
Step 6: Generate Short-Term Wins
Be strategic and plan for visible signs of progress improvements or wins. Create additional wins along the way, and celebrate those early wins by recognizing those responsible for making the success possible.
Step 7: Consolidate Gains and Produce more Change
At this stage of the change process, you hopefully have earned some credibility through actions such as generating short wins. Now is the time to build on that momentum and seek out other processes, programs and people support the change. It may require hiring some new individuals, retraining and reinvigorating the process the process through new projects themes and change agents.
Step 8: Anchor New Approaches in the Culture
The final step in Kotter’s process is for the change leader to anchor or reinforce the new culture by making the connections between how the change has lead to organizational successes. This can be done through enhanced communication as well as leadership development and succession. Planning.
Kotter’s complete approach is outlined in his 186-page book, Leading Change (Harvard Business School Press, 1986). Don’t have time to read the book? Check out his articles on Harvard Business Review’s website – www.hbr.com