Catching up with Kotter

It’s been a while since I’d refreshed my mind with the wonders of John Kotter and his 8 steps for managing change. Our Iceberg is Melting[1] is still one of my favourite change books and I recommend it as a great introduction to anyone about to undergo some change activity.

I thought it worth having a recap of his 8 steps to managing change, and reflect upon each with my own experiences, viewpoints and knowledge. Here are the steps with my commentary on each.

Step 1: Establishing a Sense of Urgency

For me this is all about creating the need to change. If the business or the people working there see no real need to change, then they won’t take forward the change. Don’t try and instil panic! That would be hugely counterproductive. Think about why you are making the change and consider what needs improvement and or removal.

Step 2: Creating the Guiding Coalition

This is about getting all the right movers and shakers together to make things happen. Think about your key people for making the change and pull them together as the team to take things forward. In small businesses the coalition might be everyone. As change leader or manager, you need to tell the people brought together why they are and what skills or roles they are going to play. It needs to reflect a balance of communication skills, experience in the operational area and collaborative instinct to work well. Don’t be afraid to change it about a bit if it doesn’t seem quite right.

Step 3: Developing a Change Vision

Visions are there to strive for and give purpose and aim. Think what tactics are going to be used to get there and how the coalition is going to take it there. This is all about firming up the boundaries and target for the change. If you don’t know where you are going, how do you know which path to take?

Steps 1, 2 & 3 are all about laying the foundations, preparing to change and creating the cultural environment to make a change.

Step 4: Communicating the Vision for Buy-in

Let’s get talking! Well email, text, Facebook, Tweet, present, focus group, and any other options you have available. With such changes taking place around modern communication media, then you have to be ready to post that YouTube video or make a note on the company Facebook page. Maximise the coalition as change agents so that they can encourage communications, but don’t be afraid to use them as positive role models and marshals to deal with agent provocateurs.

Step 5: Empowering Broad-based Action

I find this one of the most interesting stages in the change activity. This is such a great opportunity for the “doers” to start making things happen. This is where you make a note of the obstacles and challenges and find a way to remove, negate or work around them. I guess this is the time for opening the floor, division, or shop to think outside the box, create opportunities from adversity and see the chances to make things possible.

Step 6: Generating Short-term Wins

Getting positive energy into a change event is both necessary and productive. Having the opportunity to get some nice quick wins can really boost attitudes and create a sense of realistic achievement. Plan for a few elements and watch them unfold and become reality. Make sure these achievements are flagged and shouted about. Tell everyone how well things are going and how many successes you are having along the path to your goal. It’s just as important to praise, recognize and reward the achievers here. They are making the difference and will continue to do so, if not more so, if you make sure they feel appreciated for their efforts.

Steps 4, 5 & 6 frame the opportunities and create the engagement with the business and people for the change event.

Step 7: Never Letting Up

This is the time for the big push forward. You’ve got the momentum behind you to make the change, so now it’s time to get a bit stronger with realizing the vision. Cutting the energy wasters and promoting those people, processes and places that support and are making things happen. This may be an opportunity to address a change in balance within the change agents, or address the specific needs of a business unit to enable the changes to start sticking.

Step 8: Incorporating Changes into the Culture

Now you want to make this change instinctive and part of the natural behaviours of the organisation, business or conglomerate! So now you make sure that all the changes implemented are incorporated into process manuals, HR guides, any intranet or internet presences. This is the time for it to not just stick, but become fully integrated. Praise the achievements once more and plan how you can maintain it through the people. Highlight potential for the future and plan for the succession you need to address as business structures realign many times in the future. Who will be your ongoing advocate for this change? Who will be the future leader of this and perhaps future changes?

Steps 7 & 8 confirm the integration of the change into daily working practice as well as establishing its future success and advocacy.

[1] ISBN ISBN-10: 9780312361983 or ISBN-13: 978-0312361983 from all good booksellers

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