Change Management Process – Step 5: Enable Action by Removing Barriers


Previously we discussed Step 4: Enlisting a Volunteer Army. Now we will identify, describe, and analyze strategies used in Step 5: Enable Action by Removing Barriers.

Each step of Dr. John Kotter’s change management process (CMP) builds upon another and identifies a rational method to approach organizational change. 

So far, we have covered the following 4 steps of Dr. Kotter’s 8-step plan: 

The fifth step of removing barriers is essential to the process needed to achieve the change management vision. 

Let’s talk about what you can do to enable action by removing barriers.

What Does It Mean to Enable Action by Removing Barriers? 

Internal and external resistors may continue to exist even after identifying the steps and starting the actions. So, identifying the resistors to change is essential. 

The types and levels of impact may vary from organization to organization. 

The first part of removing barriers is to assess the obstacles and the impact of such restrictions. 

Leadership, the guiding coalition, or the army of volunteers enlisted to help carry out the initiatives may identify the barriers.

Once they are identified, it is essential to understand how to enable action by removing barriers. 

What Strategies Can Be Implemented to Enable Action by Removing Barriers? 

A businessman successfully removes a wooden block from a Jenga tower without it collapsing.

Strategies to enable action by removing barriers may vary between organizations. The difference lies in the “what” and “how” the obstacles are identified and eliminated. However, the key is to…

Once you have identified what barriers could impact your current or next change initiative and crafted a strategy to eliminate those barriers, it is essential to monitor progress. 

This is because there is a risk that barriers reappear after reverting to the “old way of doing things.”

What Factors Could Impede the Effectiveness of Enabling the New Actions? 

There are many factors that could impact the effectiveness of change initiatives. 

However, the most common are going to be gaps that occur in previous stages of the change management process. 

This could result from poor analysis, planning, communication, implementation of change initiatives, or a combination of the four.

The factors could even go beyond the change management process and simply be a resistant organizational culture that is not open to change. 

While barriers are unique to every organization, we’ll discuss some common obstacles that hinder the change process,

1. Poor Analysis and Planning 

If business leaders attempt to plan change management strategies without the input of stakeholders, their efforts to enable action by removing barriers are destined to fail. That is because they won’t fully understand the obstacles to know how to plan to overcome them.

If they don’t get input from employees who understand the organizations’ daily operations, they will miss critical details needed during the analysis and planning phases.

What’s more, failing to understand the interests and challenges of the workforce will lead to resistance among those whose cooperation is essential to implement the changes. 

Ultimately the planning process will lead to initiatives that don’t address the reality on the ground or allocate resources where they are needed. 

That is why we previously discussed how a diverse team of respected leaders, experts, and managers is needed to… 

Including representatives from all departments and levels will help to ensure everyone’s needs are met and encourage cooperation throughout the organization. 

Only with an intimate knowledge of the organization will the guiding coalition be able to ensure a plan and management structure is in place to coordinate the efforts effectively. 

2. Organizational Problems and Culture

When departments operate separately with little interdepartmental communication and coordination, silos can be created. This will lead to rivalries and the pursuit of departmental priorities instead of company goals. Poor cooperation between departments will hinder leaders’ efforts to coordinate change initiatives.

To enable action by removing barriers, Companies that have allowed a silo culture to affect their operations need to break down barriers between departments to align departmental and corporate goals better. 

These measures may include:

3. Ineffective Communication

Two people trying to call one another on the phone have difficulty connecting.

One of the most significant barriers to change is poor communication. Failure to communicate effectively can prevent managers from successfully implementing change initiatives. 

People are more likely to resist change if they don’t understand leadership’s goals, why they are necessary, and the benefits. Without this understanding, they will fear the change rather than embrace it.

To enable action by removing barriers, developing a communication strategy that maintains clear and consistent messaging is necessary. 

Leaders and managers are critically important here to communicate their support for the change initiatives and efforts of the change management team. They must explain overarching goals and be ready to address concerns in order to maintain morale and win over skeptics. In addition, they must: 

4. Ineffective Implementation of Change Initiatives

Poor coordination when implementing change can lead to chaos, conflicts, and counterproductive actions by those trying to achieve them. 

A lack of knowledge about change management processes and skills will be a significant barrier to implementing change. So will a failure to understand how their responsibilities fit into the bigger picture. 

Another barrier to implementing the change initiatives happens when inadequate resources are allocated to change management initiatives. Managers and employees will likely feel overworked and unsupported. 

This will affect morale and may make some people feel unwilling to cooperate. Furthermore, if people can’t get things done, they may lose faith in the process and stop trying.

To overcome barriers that arise during the implementation stage, change managers need to ensure they…

So, the key is to ensure that the steps leading up to eliminating barriers are rock solid. The soundness of each phase will strengthen the next step.

Final Thoughts

Each phase of Dr. John Kotter’s change management process is paramount. Each one builds upon the other. So, if one step is out of sync, it impacts the others. 

Barriers can happen during any phase of the change management process. 

Fortunately, the leadership, the guiding coalition, and the volunteer army can help to remove barriers and enable action that aligns with the change vision. 

When they enable action by removing barriers, they bridge silos, drive innovation, and ensure the change initiatives succeed.Continue on to learn about Step 6: Generate Short-Term Wins.


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Filed Under: Leadership

About Katie Carpen, PhD, Thought Leader

Katie has 14+ years of experience in higher education, consulting, recruitment, and mortgage finance industries. Her areas of specialty include change management, conflict management, corporate social responsibility, emotional intelligence, leadership, organizational culture, strategy, and work-life-balance. Katie has served as a relationship manager, associate dean, consultant, subject matter expert, and coach. She is currently active in higher education, coaching, and various causes. She enjoys fostering critical, creative, and strategic thinking by applying concepts across a variety of domains.