Leading Change

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I would like to start by mentioning that I didn’t love nor hate this book. I really had no particular feeling about this book, I felt it had less of an impact than the previous book had, and that I learned a little less that I learned from “Checklist For Change.” This book was kind of redundant after having read the first chapter, and when I look back at the preface and remember that he wrote an article called “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” I really believe that he should have just left it at the article and not pursued further. I digress, I’m being pessimistic, but I really had no motivation to keep reading the book and it got harder and harder to reach the end.

Transforming Organizations: Why Firms Fail

Change is happening more now in than in the past two decades, and for many organizations change leads to pressure and shifting. In John P. Kotter’s “Leading Change” these are some common errors that make change worse:

Allowing Complacency

By letting people get comfortable and used to the way things are going, organizations encourage complacency. Nobody has any satisfaction with their achievements, people are “not willing to come out of their comfort zones.” This is something that I experienced within a student organization that I was a part of on campus. While on the executive board of this organization, we tried to implement changes and were met with a lot of push back with individuals who were used to the old systems and did not approve of change. It made things difficult to introduce new ideas because they didn’t want to try something new.

Failing to Create a Powerful Guiding Coalition

This error is about not having the backing or the support behind the change. This was the area where we didn’t have trouble, all of us on the executive board were behind this change, and supporters of it, We understood that we wouldn’t have failure in this area, because we were always on the same page and worked very hard to implement the ideas that we had.

Underestimating the Power of Vision,

Vision is what helps change by directing, aligning, and inspiring the actions of a lot of people. If people stroll around without a clear direction of goal, transformation projects will lose enthusiasm. This is very similar in my point of view as setting goals and a purpose, because without those, no one really know what they are working to change for. By identifying visions, they know when they reach the end point.

Under Communicating the Vision

Change often demands for sacrifice. A few meetings or inter-office memos just won’t help. Leaders communicate in both word and action. Over Communicate your visualization and make sure that your words are deliver the same message over and over again, rather than changing messages. I think this is something that I struggle with, is communication and making sure that the communication doesn’t change. This is something that I believe that I could still work on. It’s hard to keep an eye on a goal and not mess around with it and change it every other day, instead of sticking to it.

Permitting Obstacles to Block the Vision

The two quotes from this error that resonated really well with me were: “One well-placed blocker can stop an entire change effort” and “Whenever smart and well intentioned people avoid confronting obstacles, they disempower employees and undermine change.” These two quotes really show how powerful one person can be in an organization and when dealing with change. One individual can be the tipping point and this person could just so happen to one of the top executives in the company, and as mentioned above without a guiding coalition than obstacles can be created. It leads to this sort of mindset: If someone from upper management doesn’t have to change, why should I?

Failing to Create Short-term wins

Transformation takes time, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Short team goals and wins are much more encouraging than a long road ahead with no breaks. People lose sight of the vision and are dispirited. Why is why short term wins are better in the long run, by creating shorted attainable goals urgency remains at an even pace and complacency stays down. I am a big ideas type of person, so I can understand all to well that if you are just working toward one large goal over a long period of time, it becomes more tiring to continue toward that goal, where as with short term goals, you also receive rewards in completion and your prize in the end is just more worth it with a lot of other goals built-up toward it.

Declaring Victory too soon

Don’t call the game too soon, just because it seems victory is in the bag, doesn’t mean that it necessarily is. Change needs to absorb into the depth of any culture to have a long-term effect, but once you proclaim your victory to others, you’ll have to push every day to keep people from reverting back to business as usual. A victory celebration stops all motivation, theres is no urgency for forward momentum any more. And that is when the older traits start to redevelop and everything move two steps back.

Neglecting to Anchor Change firmly in the Corporate Culture

Nothing is harder than to penetrate and change the current company culture, because something are so deeply engrained that is “just the way things are done around here.” . As soon as the urgency that first brought on the initiative starts to disappear, individuals may begin to relapse back to the experienced, factual and easy way of doing things. However, there is hope for these company cultures, it just involve a little bit of hand holding and a lot of time. All of these issues can be prevented if you recognize how corporate leadership is able to lead an organization through the challenging course of change.

Successful Change and the Force That Drives It

Globalization is driving change. Forces such as technological change, inebriation economic integration, domestic market maturation within more developed companies, and the collapse of worldwide communication are creating different challenges that we are unused to. But organizations can succeed in change through the efforts of excellent management and, more importantly, excellent leadership – an important distinction. Successful change follows this eight-step process which are further discussed through each chapter of the book:

  1. Establishing a sense of urgency
  2. Creating the guiding coalition
  3. Developing a vision and strategy
  4. Communicating the change vision
  5. Empowering broad-based action
  6. Generating short-term wins
  7. Consolidating gains and producing more change
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture

‘Successful change of any magnitude goes through all eight states, usually in the sequence shown” and “skipping even a single step or getting too far ahead without a solid base almost always creates problems.’ It’s best not to cut corners and to make sure to follow all of the eight-step process so that change can occur successfully.

Management keeps things running smoothly. Leadership creates new things. Successful transformation required more leadership than management, but most organizations value management more than leadership.

Establishing a sense of urgency

People need to cooperate to make change happen, but complacency kills cooperation. Sources of complacency include:

  1. The absence of a major and visible crisis
  2. Too many visible resources
  3. Low overall performance standards
  4. Organizational structures that focus employees on narrow functional goals
  5. Internal measurement systems that focus on the wrong performance indexes
  6. A lack of sufficient performance feedback from external sources
  7. A kill-the-messenger-of-bad-news, low-candor, low-confrontation culture
  8. Human nature, with its capacity for denial, especially if people are already busy or stressed
  9. Too much happy talk from senior management

To increase urgency you must remove complacency. Ways to do that include:

  • Create a crisis by allowing a financial loss, exposing managers to major weaknesses vis-à-vis competitors, or allowing errors to blow up instead of being corrected at the last minute
  • Eliminate obvious examples of excess
  • Set targets that can’t be reached by conducting business as usual
  • Stop measuring subunit performance on narrow goals
  • Send more data to more employees, especially information that demonstrates weaknesses vis-à-vis the competition
  • Insist that people talk regularly to unsatisfied customers
  • Use consultants and other means to force more honest discussion
  • Put more honest discussions in internal communications and stop management ‘happy talk’.
  • Bombard people with future opportunities and their potential rewards, and on the current inability to pursue those opportunities

Creating the Guiding Coalition

Major change requires the powerful force of a group. Isolated CEOs and low-credibility committees can’t do the trick. Key characteristics of a strong guiding coalition are: position power, expertise, credibility (good reputations), and leadership. Avoid including people with big egos or ‘snakes’ who create mistrust and kill teamwork. Build trust and a common goal.

Developing a Vision and Strategy

Authoritarian decree and micromanagement are both inferior approaches to establishing a compelling vision. A compelling vision can move beyond the forces of status quo like expensive but ineffective diversions, short-term interests, and nonstop meetings. An effective vision is imaginable (a strong mental picture), desirable, feasible, focused, flexible, and communicable (explainable within five minutes). The process of vision creation includes a first draft (usually from a single individual), a guiding coalition who models it and works well together, using both the head and the heart, and developing it over a long period of time and being willing to shift as needed before arriving at a final product.

Communicating the Change Vision

Key elements of effective vision communication:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Use metaphor, analogy, and examples.
  • Take advantage of multiple forums. Don’t think it will stick from just one ‘big introduction’.
  • Repetition.
  • Lead by example; make sure the behavior of important people is consistent with the vision.
  • Explain seeming inconsistencies.
  • Allow and encourage two-way communication.

Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action

Sometimes, employees understand and desire the vision but feel boxed in. Structural barriers should be removed, such as those that fragment resources and responsibility, provide too much middle management, spend money unnecessarily in a cost-cutting environment, or put information into silos that slow down efficiency. People need training not necessarily in skills but in attitude – communicate that ‘we will be delegating more, so we are providing this course to help you with your new responsibilities’. (page number unavailable on Kindle edition, location 1643) Align systems with the vision. Deal with supervisors who block empowerment.

Generating Short-Term Wins

A useful short-term win is visible, unambiguous, and is clearly related to the change effort. Publicizing such wins give evidence that sacrifices are worth it, reward change agents, help redirect strategies, undermine cynics, keep upper-level leaders on board, and built momentum. Short-term wins should be generated by strategic planning, not luck. Keep leadership and management balanced. One without the other doesn’t result in meaningful change.

Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change

Resistance is always in the background, waiting for an opportunity to stall change efforts. Change in highly interdependent organizations is difficult because to change one thing, you have to change nearly everything else. Urgency is needed, and a guiding coalition, and all the other steps in the process too. Eventually it may be necessary to reduce some of the interdependencies. At this stage, successful change breeds more change, more help is brought in or developed internally, senior managers keep a shared purpose and sense of urgency, lower level leaders lead and manage specific projects, and unnecessary interdependencies are reduced.

Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture

Culture is about the common ways of acting and that persist in a group because they are taught to new members as well as the shared values that reflect concerns and goals of the group in general. If the desired new practices aren’t consistent with the current group culture, it will take extra effort to ground the new approaches, such as:

  • Showing evidence of performance improvements because of the new practices
  • Eulogizing the old culture while describing why it was no longer helpful
  • Offering people committed to the old culture early retirement
  • Making sure new hires were not indoctrinated into the old culture
  • Making sure promoted leaders were not committed to the old culture

Anchoring change in a culture comes last, not first. It depends on results, required a lot of talk, may involve turnover, and makes succession decisions crucial.

The Organization of the Future

The rate of change will speed up, not slow down. There will be a persistent sense of urgency (which doesn’t mean ever-present panic, but a state of non-complacency with an orientation towards immediate action). Teamwork will be required at top levels. Successful leaders will create and communicate vision. Employees will be empowered to manage their own work groups. Information will be shared widely as leadership is delegated. Unnecessary interdependencies will be dissolved. Corporate cultures will become more adaptive.

Leadership and Lifelong Learning

Leadership is not just nature, it’s nurture. Continual, compounded growth will win the day. Mental habits of lifelong learners include risk-taking, humble self-reflection, collecting the opinions and ideas of others, careful listening, and openness to new ideas. People will need to be flexible to master volatile career paths quite unlike typical career paths of the last century. Embrace the future. ‘And those people at the top of enterprises today who encourage others to leap into the future, who help them overcome natural fears, and who thus expand the leadership capacity in their organizations – these people provide a profoundly important service for the entire human community.’ (location 2782)


Cite this paper

Leading Change. (2021, Mar 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/leading-change/

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