“Leading Change” is one of those timeless books that stays around in bookstores and libraries. And there’s a good reason for that: Every company with a pulse is busy seeking to identify new opportunities for growth and productivity, planning to restructure departments, brand visibility, new customer acquisition. In short, businesses today are more competitive and are taking on many new initiatives to stay ahead of others, a fact that makes it all the more necessary to let go of traditional norms and business practices and welcome change.
Change is imperative
Change may be necessary, but often attempts made at changing fail. Kotter’s action plan will help credit unions to comprehend the process of change better, to understand why even their best intentions can fail to deliver results and to stop being intimidated by challenges. Kotter’s work is based on the idea that modern organizations function differently. Globalization brings new opportunities and challenges, making it necessary for organizations to be contemporary to compete and survive. Irrespective of the size of the organization or the markets they are catering to, no one is immune to change.
Once organizations recognize the need to change, they encounter the problem of finding the right leader to implement it. Since change is a continuous process, what drives change is the right leadership. But organizations often lack the right leaders, which itself acts as a major roadblock to change.
Kotter presents an eight-step process to eliminate the challenges of change leadership. He shares practical, realistic, proven examples from his personal experiences with numerous global organizations.
Stage 1: Establish a sense of urgency
“Establishing a sense of urgency is crucial to gaining needed cooperation. With complacency high, transformations usually go nowhere because few people are even interested in working on the change problem”
Stage 2: Create a guiding coalition
The second stage is the creation of what Kotter calls a “guiding coalition.” Kotter maintains that you cannot effect major change by going it alone. You must assemble a group to lead the change effort across the organization.
Stage 3: Develop a vision and strategy
The third stage might seem to be a foregone conclusion for driving change in an organization, but according to Kotter, vision and strategy are often overlooked. Kotter builds a persuasive argument that even though change can be implemented by a strong, dictatorial boss, it occurs much faster when everyone involved understands why the change is needed.
Stage 4: Communicate the change vision
Ironically, many change efforts end at stage 4, but in Kotter’s eight-stage process, you are barely halfway there. At this stage, Kotter emphasizes the importance of communicating the vision accurately and thoroughly.
Stage 5: Empower employees for broad-based action
The final four phases of Kotter’s eight-stage process are about transforming vision into action and action into a new corporate environment where the change vision becomes part of the culture. In the fifth stage, you must remove all barriers that block transformation. Those barriers can include lack of training, lack of infrastructure to support the change, or a boss or other employee who discourages action.
Stage 6: Generate short-terms
With barriers removed and employees empowered to act, it is time to generate some short-term wins. In the sixth stage of leading change, Kotter asserts that short-term gains keep employees focused so that the organization doesn’t lose sight of the change vision.
Stage 7: Consolidate gains and produce more change
During the seventh stage, the change vision process now comes full circle. This is a time for “consolidating gains and producing more change.” During this stage, Kotter says that you overcome the final resistance and maybe even start to celebrate victory. However, Kotter warns that resistance is always waiting to reassert itself. He says that critical ground can be lost because, even at this stage, change is fragile and hold-outs are waiting for opportunities to make their comeback.
Stage 8: Anchor new approaches in the culture
The final state is what Kotter calls “anchoring new approaches in the culture.” If you have succeeded in your transformation, you should now realize that the change vision has become part of the culture. Instead of resistance, employees now proclaim that “this is the way we do things here.” When change is anchored in the culture, Kotter says, your change vision has real staying power that permeates the entire organization and becomes part of the culture itself.
Kotter’s book provides real guidance for managers who are in the process of reinventing themselves as their credit unions change to meet new challenges. Even though “Leading Change” was first published in 1996, it is still relevant as it was 21 years ago. If you are looking to change the manner in which you do business, we recommend this book for inspiration.