2016 marked the twentieth anniversary of John Kotter’s management guide LEADING CHANGE. Within his influential work he descripts how to managing change by following an eight-steps process. When Kotter published his Harvard Business research findings, nobody expected that his insight and ideas would make the Time magazine list of the twenty-five most influential business/management books. Two decades later his understanding of change, translated into eight comprehensible steps, still every day helps company leader worldwide to implement strategies and lead change into our complex and fast moving twenty-first century.
The first steps, often stressed as the most serious one, is to create a sense of urgency. This will not only help you to get everybody from the top executives down to the janitor on board, it also let them all together start thinking and talking on the same level. To prevent the spread of half-truths and rumors, you can distribute the message, express the need for change. Furthermore, you have the opportunity to bring in an outside perspective to strengthen your argument. The more people start talking about the change you propose, the more the urgency will build and feed on itself.
If you are able to establish the urgency in your first step, you also lay the foundation for step number two, forming a guiding coalition. The target here is to build up a group that is willing and able to lead the change. The member will qualify themselves during the first talks through their strong support for the actual change. This group shout consists of respected people from your organization. Individuals that are intelligent leader, that have established trust in the past and are willing to move in the same direction to support and lead the change process. To cover every aspect and voice, it is essential to recruit a good mix of members from different departments.
With your strike team and driving force at hand, it is time to develop the vision and strategy of the purposed change, what marks step three. To do so you first should determine the key reasons for the change. From there, you need to develop a vision statement, that let you explain the vision easy and puts you in the position to explain how you see the future of the organization. At this point your also should know, how the vision can be executed.
Step four concludes the logical next step after the building process. It is time to communicated the change vision. Therefor you not only should talk at any given occasion about the vision of change, you also should openly and honest address people about their concerns and anxieties. The objective should be to apply your vision to all aspects of operations and always lead by example.
Now is the time recruit more ambassador’s and empower employees to act on the vision, step five on the agenda of change. You will need to identify influencer, change leaders, who’s main role will be to display the change. Also it will be an essential task to identify people who are resisting the change and help them to see what is needed and why. Take action to quickly remove barriers and push along the change.
If you were able to transpose all steps so far, you should now be in the position to create short term wins. This delivers a positive energy to the change process and motivates employees to progress towards smaller milestones. Reward people who help you meet targets. It might be saver to choose projects which you can implement without help from any strong critics of the change. Don’t choose early targets that are expensive.
With progressing to step seven of Kotter’s Leading change guideline, you start to consolidate change to produce more change. Like previously mentioned, you set goals to continue on the momentum you’ve achieved. To improve the process, analyze after ever win, what went right and what needs improving. Keep ideas fresh by adding or rotating new people into the groups.
The final step while shape the culture of your company, when you are anchoring new approaches into the culture and institutional the change. Present the key change ideas and value when hiring and training new staff. Share success stories about the change process by every given change. Recognize key members of the original change coalition to honor the contribution.
Since the first publishing of his milestone, the pace of change in the business world has sped up significantly. In 2014 Kotter updated the process in his new book Acceleration. The four key changes are
- Run the steps concurrently and continuously
- Form a large volunteer army from up, down and across the organization to serve as the change engine
- Function in a network flexibly and agilely outside of, but in conjunction with, a traditional hierarchy
- Operate as if strategy is a dynamic force by constantly seeking opportunities, identifying initiatives to capitalize on them, and completing them quickly and efficiently
The most significant change is point two. In his early version he chose to spread thechange with a small, powerful core group. This was practical then, when company since was rarely over 100 people. This and the information technology has greatly changed, which basically is the reason for this update.