5 Leading change
One of the biggest issues for any modern leader is change. People are often reluctant to change but organisations require almost constant variation and transformation as the external environment continues to develop at a fast pace. So, the leader must find a balance between meeting the needs of the organisation and motivating the team to constantly look forward.
Now watch this video:.
Over several decades, John Kotter has developed his eight-step change process, presenting his ideas in two best-selling books (2012’s Leading Change and Accelerate in 2014) and on the Kotter International website:
These points can be summarised as follows:
- Create a sense of urgency – help others to see the need for change by communicating the importance of acting immediately.
- Build a guiding coalition of effective people to guide it, coordinate it and communicate its activities.
- Form a strategic vision and initiatives – clarify how the future will be different from the past and how you can make that future a reality through initiatives linked directly to the vision.
- Enlist a volunteer army – large-scale change can only occur when many people rally around a common opportunity. They must be bought in and moving in the same direction.
- Enable action by removing barriers such as inefficient processes and hierarchies.
- Generate short-term wins – they must be recognised, collected and communicated.
- Sustain acceleration – after the first successes, your increasing credibility can continue to improve systems, structures and policies until the vision is achieved.
- Institute change – regularly articulate the connections between the new behaviours and organisational success until they become strong enough to replace old habits.
In Activity 6, you’ll put Kotter’s plan into practice.
Activity 6 Plan a change
Consider something you’d like to change, for example, at work, in a voluntary organisation you’re involved with etc. and summarise it in the box below. It doesn’t have to be a major organisational change, it could be a process that you think needs updating.
If you can’t think of anything, here’s an example you could use:
Imagine you are running a small customer advice team within a local government office. You want to improve the customer experience by changing the booking process for appointments with your advisers. Currently it is a ‘drop-in only’ service within office hours, but the queues can become huge.
Now consider each stage of Kotter’s eight-step process and make some notes.
1. Create a sense of urgency –Why is your change urgent? How will you create that sense of urgency?
2. Build a guiding coalition – Who would you choose? Try to consider a variety of people at different levels, with different spheres of influence etc.
3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives –What is your vision? How will it improve things? Is it strategic? What initiatives could you introduce to support it?
4. Enlist a volunteer army – Who do you need to influence and how will you persuade them that your change is a good one?
5. Enable action by removing barriers – Are there any barriers to your change? What or who are they?
6. Generate short-term wins – Are there any short term, achievable goals along the way? How can you share those successes with your supporters?
7. Sustain acceleration – How will you keep the change moving? Who/what do you need to be monitoring to ensure the momentum is continuing?
8. Institute change – How will you communicate the success of the change? Who will need to know about it? How will you ensure that it is maintained?
If you’ve used your own example, your leadership journal will be a useful space for recording thoughts and ideas. A next step could be to talk this through with a colleague and to consider implementing it. If you do take action, use your journal to reflect on the experience.
For the example given, here are some suggestions:
1. The change is urgent because customer complaints about the queues are increasing, and advisers are unable to meet everyone’s needs so they are feeling demotivated and under pressure.
2. Key supporters would be senior management, customers themselves, influential members of the advisory team and reception staff who deal with the queues.
3. The vision is to meet customer needs within one week of their request for advice, and within 24 hours for urgent enquiries. It will reduce the queues, clarify realistic expectations for customers, and allow advisers to plan their time more effectively. This will align with government office goals for increasing good customer service and reducing employee stress. Initiatives might include the collection of customer feedback about the proposed changes.
4. The people who need to be ‘on-side’ include customers, advisers and reception staff. Introduce decision-making meetings that involve as many of them as possible in key elements of the change, for example, what appointment booking system should be used.
5. One of your advisers is strongly against this change – talk to her and find out why. If you have a good relationship with her, a one-to-one meeting where you do more listening than talking could be effective. If she is wary of your motives, invite each adviser for a one-to-one discussion so she doesn’t feel she is being singled out.
6. Short-term wins might include securing the support of the IT department to develop a new online appointment system. Invite the advisers to a meeting to discuss their requirements.
7. Make sure you set a clear timeline for the changes and provide regular updates on progress, either at meetings or via email etc.
8. Collect evidence of reduced waiting times and share any positive feedback received from clients with all your stakeholders. Regularly check that the system is working until you are satisfied it has been fully adopted.
If you want to try a different structure, have a look at the Plan Do Study Act tool in your Toolkit. This tool allows you to make small-scale, focused changes, assess their impact and then decide what to do next.
A key reason why change management is challenging for many leaders is the natural discomfort or even active resistance that team members often display.