Bird’s Eye View of Dr. John Kotter’s 8 Step Process for Leading Change
As we near into the New Year season, many of us get the itch to do more, be more, and somehow, someway make a change for the better in our lives. The same also rings true for management within organizations. Perhaps we’re blinded by the beauty of snow covered mountains, energized by carolers, or simply tired of the present situation, that we are feeling that re-committed to do better bug in our Spirit.
Whatever the case, the purpose of this post is to provide you with a bird’s eye view of Harvard Business School Change Management rock-star, Dr. John Kotter’s 8 Step Process for Leading Change.
- Create a sense of urgency. For the most part, people really don’t like change, especially bigger types of change. This is because of the uncertainty aspects that are associated with change, being something out of the norm, and perhaps, in some situations, see the proposed change as a threat to the current situation. As a result, resistors of change may appear. To avoid or minimize the impact of resistors, it is encouraged to establish a sense of urgency toward the proposed change without bashing the current system. In fact, respecting the current system, and how the system will benefit more from the proposed changes will create more positive attitudes toward the proposed change.
- Build a guiding coalition. That being said, you’re going to need to have backers of your proposed change. Here you’re going to want to identify key stakeholders to implementing a vision of change. Their ability to communicate that vision for change will help to distribute information, initiatives, and serve as recon to identify issues that you may also have to overcome. The idea is that through this coalition, the people involved with building value of the change are close with the change agents, i.e. the people that will need to buy-in and carry out the change initiatives.
- Form strategic vision and initiatives. The information gained, shared, and evaluated through purposeful planning and your guiding coalition will aid you in forming a more cohesive strategic vision and initiatives of proposed changes. Nothing annoys people more than proposing change, not having a plan of getting from point A to Z, and not backing up why that is one of the best options given the situation. This is because as mentioned in Step 1, people typical dislike change and any avoidable opportunities to undermine change initiatives, such as lack of understanding the initiatives, alternatives, and reasoning behind the change will decrease buy-in of your strategic vision. So, here, the careful planning, understanding, and communication have got to come together to build the clearest picture of what, why, how, when, and by whom aspects of change. Furthermore, it should be communicated in a manner that fits the organizational culture. Don’t go out of the norm of communication. Be respectful of the process of communicating the vision and initiatives.
- Enlist a volunteer army. Similar to your guide coalition concept mentioned in Step 2, here you need people that firmly believe in your strategic vision and initiatives. Ideally, people that get along with the change agents that will be carrying out the initiatives. This is because they are people in positions of respect to those change agents. Hearing change initiatives from management is one thing, but confirming those initiatives by peers whom you trust is another. That being said, the best army is one that believes in the purpose, motivation, and direction of the change initiatives and are not parrots of initiatives, but firm believers in it.
- Enable actions by removing barriers. As discussed in Steps 2 and 4, your guided coalition and volunteer army can provide you with essential information about the attitudes, beliefs, and so on about the proposed changes that change agents feel. This is because change agents respect and trust these people. The information gathered through these mediums are priceless when it comes to creating and maintaining buy-in of change initiatives. Don’t ignore barriers, identify them, and create a strategy that recognizes and works to overcome those barriers in the greatest value creation manner. Doing so illustrates your commitment to knowing the ins and outs of your change initiatives and shows your team that you’re committed to the change initiatives, them, and the organization.
- Generate short-term wins. Praise and reward those that are rocking out the initiatives. Often times, management can become complacent with change initiatives and just expect change agents to do it and that is all. Ok, yes that is an option, but is it the best option? This is where short-time wins should be celebrated. Every organization different, so the method of celebrating short-term wins may vary, but the key is to not forget about the people carrying out the initiatives, to thank them, and to show them that they are making a difference. This will help to move forward with change initiatives, and will establish a rapport for future initiatives.
- Sustain acceleration. People get tired. You get tired. This is also the case with sustaining the momentum of initiatives. Focus on strategies that fit with your firm to help motivate change agents with their initiatives. get feedback along the way, and build an environment that is open to lessons learned from initiatives. Doing so will help to move forward with what needs done and creates a culture that not only accepts change, but works to making lasting change.
- Institute change. Lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. Steps 1 – 7 aid management to lead change initiatives. Here, the last step, is about creating an organizational culture that embraces change. This means creating accepted values, norms, and beliefs towards change, change initiatives, communication, carrying out initiatives, rewards, recognition, and overall best practices to support management, change agents, and others within the organization to not only help with the current initiative, but also future ones.
To discuss this framework, and/or other change management best practices in more detail, certainly feel free to reach out to me.
Have the best day ever!
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by Katie Doseck, Ph.D.
Chief Visionary and Strategic Ace Up Your Sleeve | Viral Solutions LLC