Lead change, make it stick and get in on the big opportunity

Thirty years of research by leadership have proven that 70% of all major change efforts in organizations fail. Why do they fail? Because organizations often do not take the holistic approach required to see the change through.

However, by following “The 8 Step Process for Leading Change,” organizations can avoid failure and become adept at change. By improving their ability to change, organizations can increase their chances of success, both today and in the future. Without this ability to adapt continuously, organizations cannot thrive.

My years of research have proven that following “The 8-Step Process for Leading Change” will help your organization succeed.

 

Step 1: Establishing a Sense of Urgency

  • Examine market and competitive realities
  • Identify and discuss crises, potential crises or major opportunities

Step 2: Creating the Guiding Coalition

  • Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort
  • Encourage the group to work as a team

Step 3: Developing a Change Vision

  • Create a vision to help direct the change effort
  • Develop strategies for achieving that vision

Step 4: Communicating the Vision for Buy-in

  • Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies
  • Teach new behaviors by the example of the Guiding Coalition

Step 5: Empowering Broad-based Action

  • Remove obstacles to change
  • Change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision
  • Encourage the risk-taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions

Step 6: Generating Short-term Wins

  • Plan for visible performance improvements
  • Create those improvements
  • Recognize and reward employees involved in the improvements

Step 7: Never Letting Up

  • Use increased credibility to change systems, structures and policies that don’t fit the vision
  • Hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision
  • Reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents

Step 8: Incorporating Changes into the Culture

  • Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success
  • Develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession

One of the most common questions I hear in working with business leaders is, “Now that we’ve embarked on this transformation, how do I make sure these changes stick?” The answer is simple: keep at it. Cultural shifts happen in organizations when new behaviors are displayed, over and over again, to achieve results. Those new behaviors soon become the norm, and sustainable change begins to take hold.

In an interview with Kotter International Senior VP, Mike Evans, I discuss what it takes to make change stick. Here is a transcript of that interview.

Mike Evans:  John, the final step of the 8-Step Process for Leading Change is embedding the change into the culture into the organization. How do you make it stick?

John Kotter:  Well, you get it into the culture. That’s how you make it stick. But the way that happens is you get people to behave in a new way. You make sure it’s a smart new way so you get better results. You make sure that those results maintain themselves over time, not two months, which means people have got to continue to do it in the new way. What happens, I’m not sure why, ask the social anthropologist, but when people behave in a new way, it gets good results and it sustains itself for a while, it just kind of sinks into the DNA of the group, into the culture. Once it’s in there, that’s the anchor that helps things stick.

Mike Evans:  Here’s something that just shot into my thinking process: here is the example of Southwest with Herb Kelleher, the leadership team that built a culture that produced phenomenal business results, a great place to work, devoted, committed employees.

John Kotter:  Astonishing story.

Mike Evans:  Herb leaves, the leadership team leaves, and yet the culture remains the same.

John Kotter:  They drove enough of that totally changed, different way of running an airline, not just into behavior that was being driven by a single personality or behavior that went on for a year, got great yearly performance, the analysts were happy and let it slip away. Because they got it into the culture and the method again is get the people to behave in a way, get enough success, hold onto it enough and it automatically just kind of takes care of itself. It sounds too simple but human groups actually, that’s the way they behave.

Mike Evans:  I just recently had the experience with a client and the CEO asked the question, how will we know when this is in the culture? The response I provided to him was that you’ll know when you can leave and you know that your presence is no longer necessary to sustain that.

John Kotter:  Not a bad answer.

See also:

Leading Change

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

A Sense of Urgency

www.kotterinternational.com

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