Do We Change Just to Change or Do We Evolve?
by Abel Garza 09/06/19
How change can be successfully implemented within an organization. The steps established by John Kotter to help improve change efforts and avoid pitfalls that often lead to failure. In my organization, we often talk about how change is inevitable in this evolving world of business. The vision of change and understating how to create a sense of urgency can help in establishing a powerful coalition. This coalition requires a clear and concise vision. The communication of this effort will help empower the coalition and plan for short-term wins. Using those wins we can find improvement and perpetuate this change by documenting and solidifying the change.
Many companies are facing extraordinary challenges that require flexibility and adaptability. Changing technologies, faster processes, and global business markets are helping to develop new and improved business strategies. In a dog eat dog world, it’s either change or get left behind.
“Life is change. If you aren’t growing and evolving, you’re standing still and the rest of the world is surging ahead” (Penny, 2008).
Companies are responding to a barrage of threats and continue using archaic standardized processes. But what happens when the threat forces change or the standard process no longer works? A business must learn quickly and shift accordingly or face certain extinction. The question of how business is most effective in promoting change requires a simple approach to flexibility. The fundamental steps necessary for any business to make a change would be to focus on the exchanges between leaders and followers that deal with both aspects of transactional and transformational leadership styles. These exchanges must go beyond individual interests in pursuit of a shared vision. These leadership styles are not exclusive nor do leaders necessarily exhibit one more than the other. Depending on the situation, a leader may change and pivot to gain the most traction over the desired behavior (Lumen, 2017).
In business, we find that change is inevitable. Change is the evolution of which companies continue to compete, succeed and perform at peak performance. Is all change good or do we just embrace the idea that we should transform regardless of need? In theory, flexibility and good business practices lean toward a successful transition. A seasoned company may practice certain skills favorable to change. Inevitably, we see businesses using a myriad of change techniques to improve manufacturing, inventory, accounting, sales, operations, procurement, information security or customer service. Processes can be turbulent within a company and use the correct approach to change requires business legerdemain. John Kotter is a leading professor and speaker dedicated to promulgating the efficiencies of successful change transformation and transitioning within an organization. The effectiveness of change within an organization can easily fail and steps can be taken to improve its success (Matsu**bleep**a, 2018). John Kotter focuses on 8 elements of change that contribute to boosting quality and improving the chance of success when implementing change (Kotter, 1996).
- Establishing a sense of change
- Forming a powerful coalition within the organization
- Creating and vision for change
- Communicating this vision effectively
- Empowering others on that vision
- Planning for short-term wins
- Consolidating and improving change to influence additional change
- Institutionalizing new approaches
The now-retired John Kotter has established himself at the forefront for change management success using these steps.
Establishing a Sense of Change
It has become common in business that people become complacent to immersing themselves in the very day, mundane routine of their job without thinking twice about how a change would affect their situation. Once companies being to look at their situation and begin to understand that change is inevitable and necessary to be competitive and improving revenue, they begin to take the necessary steps to change. The problem is that many change attempts run into barriers and are stifled by ignorance and surrendering to defeat. When looking at establishing a sense of urgency within an organization, it is imperative to draw attention to those areas where change is a necessary and foster change in perspective that will allow a majority of the organization to feel that change is necessary in order for it to be accepted. The proper steps necessary for succeeding in this first step is to look at the organization as a whole and look at the competition, and the realities endowed by the organization. This will help in identifying and discussing any possible situations that will arise and hone in on potential opportunities at present. This leads to establishing an important coalition for empowering your urgency of change (Kotter, 1996).
Establishing a Powerful Coalition
When people look at change the idea of change is often met with resistance. This resistance often paralyzes middle and senior management and hinders the transformation process. A network of people within the organization capable of perpetuating the change idea can help to systemically move through each phase of the change process with more success. A top-down approach to assembling your idea for change begins at the top. It is imperative that the senior leaders and people at the top understand that this change is for the betterment of the organization and transforming this requires the support of leaders and managers of expertise. Once a guiding coalition has been established and the leaders and managers are on board with the idea for a change it is important to communicate this vision unambiguously (Kotter, 1996).
Creating the Vision
It is difficult to see where you are going without a clear vision. The idea for business change is essentially the same if you are going to be successful in your transition. Without a clear understanding of which direction, the change is going, the picture of what the future would look like without the appropriate changes become myopic and relative to one’s own perspective. Sharing this vision is essential in helping leaders and manager perpetuate a re-engineered change that will minimize the chance of failure. Clear concise and unambiguous communication with a systemic vision that can be explained in 5 minutes or less will evoke understanding and interest better than an elaborate and mind-numbing collection of information inundating any possibility of interest (Kotter, 1996).
Communicating the Vision
Communication is essential in implanting change. With so many forms of communication and the digital age allowing more people to tap into more forms of communication, we have become lost in front of our computers and tend to avoid face to face contact. Communicating your vision is important to the success of the change. It is important that senior leaders and people who are part of the guiding coalition share the vision. You want to promote the understanding that the foundation for this change requires commitment at all levels of leadership and needs to be embraced in order to focus on the new direction for the organization. Using many forms of communication, in simple and laymen terms will help establish a two-way communication effort that both leaders, managers, and employees can understand in their daily operations and existing processes. Adding additional understanding can be met with stories, metaphors, and examples of compelling changes for the future while helping leadership align with the vision. Use every process and vehicle in your arsenal to perpetuate the continued vision and teach new behaviors through the guiding coalition. This will help managers who can influence employees feel empowered (Kotter, 1996).
Empowering Others to Act on the Vision
The empowerment of employees is imperative to the success of preventing and stifling the implementation of change. Employees may understand that change is necessary to move forward with the vision of the organization, but without the proper tools or the necessary equipment to continue the vision of the organization, my unmotivated managers and employees to proceed with the change effort. Understanding that removing obstacles and utilizing all of the vehicles within your prevue will help prevent the unintentional stalling of change even before it beings. It is important to identify any possible barriers that would hinder the change process. This adjustment should include any processes, structures, procedures, and reward systems that would otherwise derail the change effort. It is important to identify behaviors, good or bad, that contribute to the change effort and act accordingly by providing positive re-enforcement and rewarding those that invest in the idea for the new vision. Empowerment will result in the implementation of change and will result in changes. Those short-term wins will help propel you to the next level (Kotter, 1996).
Planning and Creating Short-Term Wins
Establishing short-term wins is important in perpetuating the change effort. Short term wins are a continued succession of what the change effort has brought to the organization. These improvements can be seen within 6 to 18 months and it is necessary to continue its momentum by keeping the stakeholders engaged. Identifying the processes and projects that are directly related to the change result in a clear understanding that the change is being effective. These wins can be identified by visible changes that coincide with something specifically being changed in the organization. For example, money savings, the reduction in process time, the additional revenue generate, are examples of specific change efforts that are directly related to the change effort. Identifying these short-term wins may require a reallocation of resources or personnel to continue the change effort and give the guiding coalition the authority to oversee these changes. Continually identify these wins and communicate those wins to senior leadership. We find that short-term wins can give an immediate understanding of the success the change is having and collecting these wins will allow you to implement additional change to further the change effort (Kotter, 1996).
Consolidate Improvements and Producing Additional Change
Consolidating these wins and gains of the change effort will help in implementing additional changes geared toward the change effort. These steps will help prevent the relapse of old behaviors or methods as well as reducing the complacency many have. Highlighting the short-term wins will help re-enforce the idea that the change is working. This will gain leverage for implementing additional changes and persuading leaders, managers, and stakeholders to commit to additional changes. This can help implement processes or procedures that have not become obsolete and removed through departments that may be obstructing or creating a bottleneck in the change effort. Solicit the help of lower-level managers to perpetuate the idea of change and assign lower-level managers to work with guiding coalition projects (Kotter, 1996). This will reassure the participation of lower-level managers and create buy-in for subject matter experts to participate in the change effort. Remove resistant managers who continue to obstruct (Watkins, 2016).
Institutionalizing New Approaches
It is important to document and anchor the change effort. Creating documents, operating instructions and easy to understand information to continue the change effort will solidify the new changes. Additionally, continuing the change effort through the alignment of supervisory operating instructions and using a promotion system to re-enforce the values of the change will help support the continued establishment for the change. This alignment of change and organizational processes will help in adjusting training and essential activates required to sustain the competencies associated with the change.
It is ultimately up to the individual organization to select the best approach to change. Understanding the steps necessary for a successful change effort can improve the chances for success within an organization. The implementation of change can be difficult. The need for change is evolving as business improves technology, and processes become more competitive. These steps are a giant leap forward in the preservation of changes necessary to gain that edge in an evolving business environment. Business is turbulent and requires leadership legerdemain. This co-existence of business change, technology, and competition is a continual process ultimately based on organization and vision.
Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading Change. Harvard: Harvard Business School Press.
Lumen. (2017, 09 11). Types of Leaders. Retrieved from Lumen Learning: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-management/chapter/types-of-leaders/
Matsu**bleep**a, K. (2018, 06 16). John P. Kotter. Retrieved from Harvard Business School: https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=6495
Penny, L. (2008). Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel. St. Martin’s Minotaur.
Watkins, M. D. (2016, 06 18). Leading the Team You Inherit. Harvard Business Review, p. 9.