Posts Tagged ‘Lorne Whitehead’

Is your sense of urgency working for or against you?

Due to the overextended and under-resourced nature of the nonprofit sector, it’s easy to look around your organization and misdiagnose your busy staff and hyperactive meeting schedule as having a sense of urgency. A Sense of Urgency author, John Kotter, argues otherwise.

Is your urgency true or false? Organizations that are truly inspiring transformative change don’t suffer from endless busy work; the employees have a sense of purpose, an emotional attachment to the aspirational goal and shed low-priority activities in pursuit of meaningful milestones that mark progress. The social sector is a breeding ground for these false diagnoses of urgency, and nonprofit leaders must root out busy work in favor of smarter, inspired progress toward game-changing goals.

What’s the single biggest error people make? Two years prior to publishing A Sense of Urgency, it occurred to Kotter how often he was being asked, “What is the single biggest error people make when they try to change?” More than 10 years of research, hundreds of interviews with managers and three books on the subject told him leaders did not create a high enough sense of urgency among enough people to set the stage for making a challenging leap into some new direction.

What managers had to say This observation inspired Kotter to test the idea and probe deeper by systematically asking managers a new set of questions. For example, “How high is the sense of urgency among relevant people around you?” And, “If it’s too low, what exactly are you doing to change this fact?”

Here are the interesting conclusions resulting from these questions:

1. At the beginning of an effort to create change, if a sense of urgency is not high enough and complacency is not low enough, everything else becomes so much more difficult.
2. Complacency is much more common than we might think and very often invisible to the people involved. Success easily produces complacency and it doesn’t have to be recent.
3. The opposite of urgency is not only complacency, but false or misguided urgency which is more insidious. False urgency is driven by anxiety, anger and frustration. It’s characterized by a frantic feeling.
4. Mistaking what you might call false urgency for real urgency is a huge problem today.
5. It is possible to recognize false urgency and complacency and transform them into a true sense of urgency. The book describes these strategies.
6. Urgency is becoming increasingly important because change is shifting from episodic to continuous. Continuous change requires sustaining urgency.

Visit www.KotterInternational.com for more information about the John Kotter and his best-selling books.

See also:

Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down

The Three Laws of Performance

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“Seize Your Big Opportunity” Contest

The nonprofit organization is no stranger to the necessity of buy-in. Be it building a case for support or engaging a board of directors to make a change, buy-in can make or break an organization on a small and large scale.

Without understanding how potential attacks can disrupt consensus around important change, leaders are leaving their organizational growth to chance and potentially empty attacks or unfounded fears of naysayers.

At CausePlanet, we recently featured John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead’s book, Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas from Getting Shot Down. With the benefit of Kotter and Whitehead’s counterintuitive approach, nonprofit leaders can get smart about how objections are formed and delivered as well as overcome them, critical skills for any situation where two or more opposing viewpoints are likely to surface.

In addition to providing responses to common objections in their book, the authors also suggest eight steps for successful, large-scale change:

1. Increase urgency: Urgency breeds energy and focus and motivates complacent people.
2. Build the guiding coalition: A strong group of respected leaders emerge—not appointed or forced.
3. Get the vision right: Ask, “How would we look differently in the future if successful and what strategies will get us there?”
4. Communicate for buy-in: Communicate vision and strategies relentlessly and through a variety of channels.
5. Empower action: The guiding coalition eliminates obstacles and empowers people to create change.
6. Create short-term wins: With visibility and clarity, build momentum by acknowledging progress so cynics lose their power.
7. Keep at it: Maintain urgency, keep the wins coming and never let up until changes are made.
8. Make change stick: Structures, systems and promotion process should support the new order. The new emerging culture is the glue of change.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kotter’s work beyond Buy-In, John Kotter is the Konosuke Matsuhita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School. Kotter is a best-selling author (Leading Change, The Heart of Change, A Sense of Urgency, among others) and widely considered the world’s foremost authority on leadership and change. He is the founder of Kotter International, a firm designed to guide global leaders in transformational leadership.

Slated to launch this month, Seize Your Big Opportunity is a contest that will give leaders the chance to enter to win a free day-long workshop, called a Big Opportunity Session, with experienced change practitioners from Kotter International. KI’s change practitioners will help senior leaders focus on their highest-priority business goals and the opportunities they represent for their organization, then build alignment around these critical opportunities and begin to develop the competencies to lead large-scale change.

During each day-long session, Kotter International will help leaders align around their firm’s “big opportunity,” which is a picture of what the organization can possibly achieve in relationship to changes happening right now in the world around it. It’s a call to action that appeals to employees’ heads and hearts, compelling them to change because they want to, not because they have to. In each session Kotter International will help facilitate creation of a powerful Big Opportunity statement that the leadership team buys into, can stand behind, and clearly defines the opportunity the organization has in leading proactive change.

Seize Your Big Opportunity is open to organizations of all types and sizes – businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, government agencies, and others are all eligible. After an initial nomination round where organizations submit a brief overview of how and why they want to change, Kotter International will invite organizations with the most compelling cases to submit a more detailed application. Organizations that demonstrate their goals are achievable, their senior leaders are committed to the Big Opportunity, and that they have the capacity to build on the lessons of a one-day session will be selected as winners.  There is no limit on the number of winners who will be selected.

Visit Kotter International website for more books and resources from John Kotter or visit our Page to Practice book summary highlights and subscribe for more information and an author interview about Buy-In and other books in our summary library.

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We’ve been successful so why change?

How many times have you heard this phrase in the title or something similar to it? In this month’s Page to Practice book summary about Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead, we asked Kotter “If naysayers typically deploy four different attack tendencies such as death by delay or fear mongering, is it ever necessary to prepare for someone displaying multiple attack strategies or do people generally stick to one?” Here’s what Kotter had to say:

Kotter: Yes, it’s absolutely necessary to prepare for someone deploying multiple attack strategies. Naysayers most often do employ more than one tactic at the same time, as I mentioned before. The best way you can prepare for this is by becoming thoroughly familiar with the four basic strategies and the 24 generic questions and their responses, which will enable you to effectively address even the more complex combinations.

Take, for example, the attack, “We’ve never done it that way before.” I think this attack is a combination of numbers 1 (We’ve been successful, so why change?), 12 (If this is such a great idea, why hasn’t it been done already) and 20 (It won’t work here, because we’re so different). A smart response incorporates tactics that will diffuse all three. First, do not treat the people raising this attack as moronic for not seeing the need for change. Acknowledge their concern, but remind them that life evolves and to continue to succeed, we need to be open to adapting.

Second, remind your audience that someone has to try a new idea out for the first time, and if we are the innovative organization we claim to be, why shouldn’t it be us? Third, remind them that while your organization is unique, it’s not different from others that are seeking to change for the better. And incorporate a simple, specific example that your audience can relate to. More often than not you’ll face an attack like this – one that combines elements from several different attacks – so it’s important to understand how to respond most effectively.

For more information about Buy-In and other great books, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit our Page to Practice book summary library.

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Keep your great ideas from getting shot down

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this month’s feature called Buy-In by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead (Harvard Business Press, 2011). Not only because the book is well-written and thoughtfully explained, but because the applications are virtually everywhere in life and work.

Buy-In is about effectively presenting your great ideas—and protecting them. Often, we get so caught up in creating the ultimate solution that we forget to communicate it properly so everyone is engaged in the transformation we want to implement. More specifically, Buy-In is also about leading change among naysayers who would rather preserve the status quo. Unfortunately, Kotter and Whitehead say multiple studies report that when significant change is needed, 70 percent of the time people back away, go into denial and fail to implement change under budget and within deadlines. Thanks to the authors’ business experience and diligent research, this book isolates naysayers’ attacks into four primary categories and explains how to overcome those different objections. Equally valuable, Kotter and Whitehead specifically illustrate how to prepare for strategic implementation of large-scale change.

Below is an excerpt from our interview with John Kotter:

CausePlanet: Your approach toward leadership and change is a unique one. What inspired you to write Buy-In?

Kotter: Buy-in is a very basic issue and one that appears in several of my previous books, most notably Leading Change. Buy-in is the act of getting people to listen to you, understand your ideas and overcome hesitation they have about supporting them. But asking people to support your idea is part of a much larger process, one that I’ve found throughout my research to be essential in making significant changes actually happen. I outline this 8-step process in Leading Change, and buy-in is step 4. People spend so much time developing good ideas, maybe because of a problem they or their company face, or because they see an opportunity for positive change. But there is very little knowledge out there about how to successfully implement these good ideas. Unless you can win support for your idea from people at all levels of your organization, you can’t move forward. Along with the team at my firm, Kotter International, we help people understand how to move forward, how to go from talking about significant, powerful change to making it happen. And in our work, we found that this one particular step—winning buy-in—is something people really struggle with. So I felt very strongly that it was something we needed to help people understand better and learn how to do well.

For more discussion about the buy-in process or how to purchase the book, visit John Kotter’s blog.

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