Top-Shelf Tip No. 222:

"Change is the only constant."

Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

Eight Key Steps To Implement Change, Part I

Whether you're focusing on changing one or two simple processes or enforcing a system-wide transformation for the structure of an organization, it's common to feel uneasy and intimidated by the scale of the challenge. You know the change needs to happen, but you may not be certain about the execution and delivery. Where do you start? Whom do you involve? How do you see it through to the end? Thinking of a needed change is the easy part; enforcing that change takes time and focus.

John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School and a renowned expert on change management, designed an eight-step model for change, which is featured in his book, Leading Change. Today and tomorrow, Promotional Consultant Today will share a summary of Kotter's change model. Today, we'll discuss the first four steps.

Step 1: Create A Sense Of Urgency. To ignite the momentum for change, Kotter suggests that you create a sense of urgency about the change. It is crucial to communicate this sense of urgency across all departments and to all employees within an organization. The perception that change needs to take place "now," will encourage people to work toward enforcing the change immediately. Overall, this will drive the motivation and the movement.

For change to be successful, Kotter suggests that 75 percent of a company's management needs to "buy into" the change. In other words, you must really focus on the first step to lay the foundation for change. This doesn't happen from simply sharing statistics in a PowerPoint or via email. This interest and urgency comes from open and honest dialog about what's happening with your competition and with the marketplace. As Kotter says, if many people start talking about the change you propose, the urgency can build and feed on itself.

What you can do:

  • Identify potential threats and develop scenarios demonstrating what could happen in the future if the change were to take place, and if the change did not take place.
  • Examine opportunities that should be, or could be, exploited.
  • Start honest discussions and give dynamic and convincing reasons to get your employees talking and thinking.

Step 2: Form a Powerful Coalition. To convince people that change is necessary, you must have visible support from key people in your organization. As Kotter says, managing change isn't enough: you must lead it. Kotter also says that influencers are not often dictated by the company hierarchy. An effective coalition of change leaders is often composed of a variety of influencers—which is not only attributed by the person's professional title—but by expertise, status and political importance.

What you can do:

  • Identify the true leaders in your organization, as well as your key stakeholders.
  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these people.
  • Work on team building within your change coalition.
  • Check your team for weak areas, and ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company.

Step 3: Create A Vision For Change. As you build a coalition and create important dialog around the need for change, many ideas and recommendations will be shared. It's important to create a vision as a point of reference for these ideas, which will provide your employees with a way to easily remember the goal. When people see for themselves what you're trying to achieve, then the directives they're given tend to make more sense.

What you can do:

  • Determine the values that are central to the change.
  • Develop a short summary (one or two sentences) that captures what you foresee as the future of your organization.
  • Create a strategy to execute that vision.
  • Ensure that your change coalition can describe the vision in five minutes or less.
  • Practice your "vision speech" often.

Step 4: Communicate The Vision. Kotter says that to create and continue the momentum, you have to clearly communicate your vision and communicate it often. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day conversations within the company, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do. Don't simply call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. Also remember that what you do is far more important—and believable—than what you say. Demonstrate the kind of behavior that you want from others.

What you can do:

  • Talk often about your change vision.
  • Address peoples' concerns and anxieties, openly and honestly.
  • Apply your vision to all aspects of your company's operations—from training to performance reviews. Tie everything back to the vision.
  • Lead by example.

In tomorrow's PCT, we'll share Kotter's four remaining steps for implementing change.

Source: Established in 1996, Mind Tools is an on-demand career and management learning solutions company serving more than 27 million people each year, both individuals and top global organizations. Contents from this article was originally from Harvard Business Review, 2012, Leading Change by John P. Kotter.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson



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