Managing Change the Kotter’s Way

Once I was working for a blue chip company. As the customer was increasing rapidly the management decided to replace their home grown Customer management system with standard off the shelf CRM software.  After analyzing the pros and cons of various packages, the management decided to carry out necessary customization in the selected world class software to deliver the best services to their customers. But the planning was gravely lacking at certain levels. Therefore when software was launched, it had to be withdrawn just after two weeks of implementation.
In case of change management this was not a unique case of this company rather this happens very frequently if change is not managed well. This situation leads to major issues of financial losses and denting the morale of the team. According to Change Management guru John P. Kotter’s research, organizations fail in managing change.  They mainly fail because of not adopting a systematic plan for implementing the change.
By following the 8-Step Process advised by Kotter, organizations can avoid the dreaded consequences of failing in change implementation.
1. Establishing a Sense of UrgencyIn a hurry of planning and implementation, generally companies ignore that it’s very important to communicate their employee, why the change is required. Almost 50% of the companies fail to win the trust of their employees for need of change. Leaders must drive their people out of their comfort zones and help them see the need for change so that they will be convinced to act urgently immediately. Leaders who convey the sense of urgency to their people do a better job of managing the change.
2. Creating a Powerful Coalition: Every change is characterized by resistance. Therefore having a strong team to lead the change is an important prerequisite. One single person, no matter how competent he is, is not capable of driving and implementing the change across organization. Change Management requires developing the right vision, communicating to all stake holders across organization, removing potential fears, eliminating all of the key obstacles, generating short term wins, leading and managing dozens of change projects, anchoring new approaches deep in an organization’s culture. To successfully complete all the jobs every organization needs to have a group with enough power to lead the change effort, and a leader who encourage the group to work as a team.  Putting together the right coalition of people to lead a change initiative is critical to its success. That coalition must have the right composition of expertise, authority and accountability, a significant level of trust, and a shared objective.
3. Developing a Change Vision:  How the future is going to be brighter after implementing the change? True change leaders shall have a clearly documented change vision. When a vision is undergirded with a strong, credible strategy, it becomes evident to the stakeholders that the vision is not a pipe dream. A vision must  be inspiring and guiding towards the brighter future. Finally, it must be communicable. If it cannot be explained quickly in a way that makes intuitive sense, it becomes useless. Create a vision to help direct the change effort, and develop strategies for achieving that vision.
4. Communicating the Vision: It is very important that people see the clear need of change, benefits  of change and their  role  in change management strategy. Most companies do not spend enough time in communicating need for change, and associated vision for change. A single memo announcing the transformation or even a series of speeches by the CEO and the executive team are never enough. To be effective, the vision must be communicated at high frequency, formally and informally.  The vision will be referred to in emails, in meetings, in presentations – it will be communicated anywhere and everywhere. Executives should use every effective communication channel possible to broadcast the vision. As they say actions speak louder than words” it is always important what is done than what is said. Leaders should present the example of “walk the talk”.
5. Remove Obstacles: There will be obstacles in the journey of change management. The obstacles could be related to organizational Structure, processes, products or even some important people. The change leaders need to identify these obstacles in the system and plan for gradual removal of these obstacles.  Repositioning the product strategy, reassigning of people to different roles, realigning incentives and performance appraisals to reflect the change vision can have a supporting impact on achieving the change vision.
6. Generating Short-term Wins: To achieve successful change management leaders should link their goal with short term targets and it should be celebrated.  Running a change effort without attention to short-term performance is not right strategy. These small wins help ensure the overall change initiative’s success.
7. Build on the Change: One should follow the KAIZEN approach in making the change permanent feature. Small changes in similar direction must be carried on. If one lets up before the job is completely done, critical momentum can be lost and regression may soon follow. The new behaviors and practices must be driven into the culture to ensure long-term success.
8. Anchor Changes into the Culture: Simply informing employees about new culture cannot change the old practices regardless how strong the new culture is. New practices must grow deep roots in order to remain firmly planted in the working processes and organizational culture. Change must become part of Policies, behavioral norms and shared values.

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