Leading Change

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November 4, 2012 by astancilwomack

As you know, I am in my last year of undergraduate school studying management; I was assigned a book to read called Leading Change by John P. Kotter. The book was about how our (managers/leaders) efforts, to create change in business often fail. Implementations fail for a variety of reasons, so Kotter devised an eight step process in order to create effective change. I found this book pretty interesting especially with the dire need for many companies to implement serious change in order to survive, so I decided to share the eight steps with all of you.

1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency: There is a reason your company is making changes, so Kotter suggests establishing a sense of urgency with everyone needed to help implement these changes. If employees understand the possible implications of failure to change, then they are more likely to jump on board. It is easier to create change when everyone involved wants to make it happen.

2. Creating the Guiding Coalition: Once your employees understand the urgency of the necessary change, leaders will start to emerge. These leaders don’t necessarily come from management positions. They can emerge from any level of the organization, and recognizing their importance is vital. These are the people who will convince the skeptics, and lead the transformation. Managing is not enough when real change is necessary. This will take a group of leaders. Kotter stresses the importance of trust. The leaders in the group have to trust one another, but the other employees will have to trust the group.

3. Developing a Change Vision: The group will need to establish a clear vision for the future. They will also need to clarify how it will differ from the past. Anyone can write a new vision for the future and make it sound great, but the vision needs to be attainable. There needs to be strategies in place to make it happen. Kotter gives six characteristics that should be included when making the vision: imaginable, desirable, feasible, focused, flexible, and communicable.

4. Communicating the Vision for Buy In: This step is pretty simple, but also one of the biggest factors of failure by many organizations. This is when the vision is communicated in simple terms to the rest of the organization. This should be done on a daily basis, more than once a day if possible. The vision should be included in speeches, memos, daily e-mails, meetings, presentations, etc. Kotter gives four guidelines to effectively communicate the vision: make it simple, make it vivid, make it repeatable by anyone in the organization (to help promote the change), and invitational (invite open communication).

5. Empowering Broad-Based Action: This step is about removing barriers and unnecessary working structures that undermine or are now unnecessary with the new vision. The internal structure of the organization needs to mirror the projected vision. Unfortunately, managers can be major barriers when trying to implement change. Not everyone is comfortable with change, or their old habits die hard. Either way, if a manager is not consistent with the vision, then they need to be replaced. It may be harsh, but the change is obviously necessary, and the organization’s managers must be on board.

6. Generating Short-Term Wins: Gauging the successes of the organization’s vision is vital. Not only does it help predict the overall success your company will have with completion of the change, but it also helps boost morale making it possible for the complete transformation. If your employees and managers do not see the change working, they will likely fall back to their old ways, thus destroying the chance of complete (or even partial) transformation. Kotter also suggests these “short-term wins” don’t just happen, they are strategic milestones created with the vision in order to measure the success.

7. Don’t Let Up: Many companies make it to step six and then ease up because they did so well with their short-term wins. This is a futile mistake that will ultimately lead to failure. This is where leaders need to be the strongest because this is the stage where companies should be producing more change, not regressing. Companies who find themselves regressing usually cannot rebuild their previous success. Kotter suggests by step seven your company should see: projects being added, additional people brought in to continue implementation, the leaders should be focused on the clarity of the vision and making sure it is in alignment with progress, all employees embracing leadership roles to create change, continuing the sense of urgency, and sharing small victories as they happen.

8. Incorporating Changes into the Culture: Kotter suggests that too many companies try to force this new culture in the beginning of implementation, but it does not work. Culture is based on behaviors, norms, and shared values. The old culture and the new culture may not necessarily coincide, so trying to force a new culture upon your employees will only make them more resistant to change. Once steps 1-7 are completed the new culture will have already been embraced by most employees. The organizations new culture will happen organically as long as you have a clear concise vision to begin with.

Has anyone else read this book? Do you agree with the phases? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts.



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Mandy Stancil-Womack

My name is Mandy Stancil-Womack. I am interested in pursuing a career in medical management. I am learning as much as I can in order to start my career. This page allows me to explore different aspects of medical administration.

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