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Kotter Heart Of Change 8 Steps To Critical Thinking

1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency

During this first step it is essential to acquire the cooperation of many individuals and to ensure they are motivated to participate. Kotter writes in the article that well over 50% of the companies he watched failed in this first phase.

  • Begin by examining the firm's competitive realities, market trends, and the effects on financial performance.

  • Communicate this information dramatically in respect of the potential crises.

  • Convince at least 75% of a company's management that the current situation is totally unacceptable, and pursuing change is less risky than maintaining the status quo. Build motivation, involvement and support.

  • John Kotter Risk 1. Kotter refers to this risk of this first phase as: Not Establishing a Great Enough Sense of Urgency

  • When the urgency rate is not high enough to prevent very serious internal problems later on in the process.

  • Underestimating the complexities and potential struggles required to shift management and staff from their comfort zones.

  • Tendencies to become overwhelmed by the risk involved in retreating to the status quo.

  • 2. Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition

  • Form a powerful coalition is terms of titles, information and expertise, reputations, and relationships.

  • Operate outside of the normal hierarchy by definition, outside of formal boundaries, expectations, and protocol.

  • Emphasis team work and whilst recognizing the power of a strong line management leadership within the coalition.

  • John Kotter Risk 2. Not Creating a Powerful Enough Guiding Coalition

  • Maintaining the existing hierarchy where if that were working well, there would be no need for a major transformation.

  • Coalition members having no history of teamwork at the top and therefore undervalue the coalitions importance.

  • Not lead by a strong line manager.

  • 3. Creating a Vision

  • A vision beyond the numbers that clearly defines where the organization is going.

  • Clear and precise project plans that take the organization in the direction it needs to move to achieve the vision.

  • John Kotter Risk 3: Lacking a Vision

  • Plans, directives, and programs with no vision, but confused staff.

  • List of confusing and incompatible projects and activities that can take the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all.

  • Quote John P Kotter: If you can't communicate the vision to someone in five minutes or less
    and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest,
    you are not done!

    4. Communicating the Vision

  • Brighten up the companies existing communications methods. Try new and different methods for sharing the vision.

  • Use every vehicle possible to communicate the strategies for achieving it.

  • Empahise and teach new behaviors by the example of the guiding coalition.

  • John Kotter Error 4: Under communicating the Vision by a Factor of Ten

  • A vision is developed, but only a single form of communication is used.

  • Management not walking the talk. Deeds speak louder than words.

  • Not enough communication to remind of the desired behaviors.

  • 5. Empowering Others to Act on the Vision

  • Action is essential in getting rid of obstacles to change and in time, the big ones must be confronted and removed.

  • Empower people to maintain the credibility of the change effort as a whole, to try new approaches, to develop new ideas, and to provide leadership.

  • Change Systems and structures that seriously undermine the vision.

  • Encourage risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions.

  • John Kotter Error 5: Not Removing Obstacles to the New Vision

  • Failing to remove powerful individuals who resist the change effort and who resist individual employees who want to help make it happen.

  • Organizational structures such as human resource systems that remain intact even when there are clearly inconsistent compensation or performance-appraisal structures.

  • 6. Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins

  • Develop clear performance improvements goals and measurement systems and reward the people involved when they are achieved.

  • Maintain commitments to achieve short term goals to help maintain a high urgency level and force deep thinking that can clarify visions.

  • John Kotter Error 6: Not Systematically Planning for, and Creating, Short-Term Wins

  • Without short-term wins, too many people give up or actively join the ranks of those people who have been resisting change.

  • Absence of defined and measured short term goals - urgency levels can drop.

  • Leaving results to chance.

  • 7. Consolidating Improvements and Producing Still More Change

  • Use increased credibility from early wins to change 'the old way we do things around here' systems, structures, and policies that are undermining the vision and have not been confronted before.

  • Understand that renewal efforts take not just months but often years.

  • Promote, hire, develop employees and use change agents who can implement the vision.

  • John Kotter Error 7: Declaring Victory Too Soon

  • Declaring victory before the changes and business improvements have sunk deeply into a company's culture.

  • Having premature victory celebrations that kill ongoing momentum.

  • Allowing the powerful resistors associated with tradition take over.

  • Quote John P Kotter: After a few years of hard work,
    managers may be tempted to declare victory with the first clear performance improvement.
    While celebrating a win is fine, declaring the war won can be catastrophic.

    8. Institutionalizing New Approaches

  • Communicate frequently how the new approaches, behaviors, and attitudes have improved performance.

  • Create leadership development and succession plans consistent with the new approach.

  • John Kotter Error 8: Not Anchoring Changes in the Corporation's Culture

  • New behaviors not rooted in social norms and shared values; they are subject to degradation as soon as the pressure for change is removed.

  • Not ensuring that the next generation of top management understand the transformation that has taken place and personify themselves, the new approach

  • Poor succession decisions because boards of directors are not an integral part of the renewal effort.

  • John Kotter Error 8: In the final analysis,
    change sticks when it becomes "the way we do things around here,"
    when it seeps into the bloodstream of the corporate body.
    Until new behaviors are rooted in social norms and shared values,
    they are subject to degradation as soon as the pressure for change is removed.

    Kotter, J. P. (1995). Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. Harvard Business Review OnPoint (March-April), 1-10.

    John Kotter Leading Change Links

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    p.s. Did you read Kotter's 7th point about using change agents who can implement the vision. For piece of mind and an absolutely free discussion and review of the challenges facing your business contact me today. More than happy to, I will reply to you as soon as possible.

    What is a Sense of Urgency?

    The results of an IBM Global Study, The Enterprise of the Future, show organizations are flooded with change and many are finding it hard to keep up.  Like many organizational realities, the flood of change organizations face brings both good and bad news.

    The bad news is that the rapid rate of change will not subside. It will only increase.  The good news is that John Kotter’s Eight Step Model for Leading Change remains a viable approach.

    I will address each of his eight steps in separate articles. I'll start with the first step of Kotter’s model, Creating a Sense of Urgency.

    So, what is a sense of urgency? 

    Two explanations of the word urgency are useful for understanding what leaders do as agents of change:

    1. First, leaders take actions that capture the attention of critical organizational stakeholders.
    2. Second, leaders explain the importance of making speedy changes to the existing condition.

    When leaders create a sense of urgency, they alert the organization that change must occur and the leaders also begin preparing the organization for the change process.

    When leaders create a sense of urgency, they alert the organization why change must occur. Click To Tweet

    Why is urgency important to a change effort? Urgency is important because meaningful organizational change cannot occur without the cooperation of the affected stakeholders. This is why creating a sense of urgency for a needed change is the first step  leaders must take to gain the cooperation of management and employees.  

    Leaders create a sense of urgency by both selling the value of a future state to organizational stakeholders and making the status quo a dangerous place for the stakeholders to remain.  In effect, senior leaders create a compelling narrative that tells stakeholders why it is not in their best interest for the organization to stay in its current state.

    This is often done through frank discussions about the current market and competitive realities, sharing relevant financial and customer data, and discussing opportunities and crises facing the organization.  Communication is critical and the communications about the urgent need for change must be honest.  A manufactured sense of urgency will soon be seen for what it is and this will doom a change effort to mediocrity.

    With a sense of urgency, the organization understands why change is no longer optional. Click To Tweet

    How to Create a Sense of Urgency With Your Team

    There are several steps leaders can take to create a sense of urgency and gain the commitment of managers, employees, and other stakeholders.  They include:

    • Showing the seriousness of leadership commitment to the coming change by eliminating obvious waste;
    • Sharing  bad news with the organization;
    • Requiring managers and employees to talk regularly to unhappy suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders to understand their concerns directly;
    • Sharing data throughout the organization that supports the claim that change is necessary; and
    • Ensuring organizational decisions and management actions are in agreement with change communications (walk the talk).

    To lead a change effort and gain the cooperation of necessary stakeholders, the first step leaders must take is to create a sense of urgency.  It requires clear and honest communications that create a sense of urgency rather than a sense of doom.  By creating both a compelling picture of a desired future and the danger of accepting the status quo, leaders greatly improve their chances of gaining the commitment of organizational stakeholders for a necessary change effort.

    You cannot create urgency without effectively communicating with your team Click To Tweet

    A chart of John Kotter’s Eight Step Model for Leading Change follows:

    Chart Data Source: John P. Kotter, Leading Change, Harvard Business School Press

    In my next blog post, I will address Step 2 of the model:  Creating the Guiding Coalition.

    When creating a sense of urgency, leaders explain why keeping the status quo is dangerous and why making change provides a more desirable future for the organization. Click To Tweet