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As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “change is the only constant”, it is easy to realize that we are living in a constantly changing world. Technologies developments, innovative solutions, new initiatives and so much more – these things happen at the same time to shape the way we works. Whether you are having changes in small scale or you are changing the whole organization, challenges are inevitable. This essay will first ego through the famous eight-step change process that John Kotter, a Harvard professor, first introduced in his 1996 book, “Leading Change.” After that, several reflections and comments to this theory from other authors will be analysed and discussed.
Kotter mentioned eight steps in his change management process. These steps are presented in the figure below.
Figure 1. Change management process. (Source: Kotter International)
The first step is to create a sense of urgency. In this step you need to emphasise the need of a change with strong statements and images. Kotter clearly notice in his book that to be successful in change, you need to work hard at this step before moving on to next steps. The second step is to form a guiding coalition to lead the rest of the organization through the change. This team should be consisted of influential members from variety of sources. The third step is to create a vision and initiatives for change. In this step, you and your team will brainstorm and come up with a clear vision which can help everyone understand why are we having the change. A strategy to execute the vision should be developed in this step too. The fourth step is to communicate the vision and the operation plan, or as Kotter says to “enlist a volunteer army” (Kotter, 1996.) Fourth stage should be the stage where you spread the vision as wide as you can in order to further obtain buy-in from stake-holder. Don’t forget to “walk the talk” because what you do is far more important that what you say (Mindtools, 2017). The fifth step is to eliminate obstacles. When you get to this step it means that you have been promoting your vision to everyone. There will be agreements and also disagreements. For those who resist the change, you need to remove them to execute your plan. This removal should be applied not only to human but also any other form of barriers. The next step is divide the whole change process into smaller short-term projects so that you can generate short-term wins. This action not only can motivate your employees but also to reinforce buy-in. The seventh step is to sustain acceleration. Kotter argues that many change projects fail because victory is declared too early. Each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right and identify what you can improve. Do not allow early wins to suggest combining remaining projects to leap forwards (Saeed et al., 2013). The final step is to create a culture about the change. In order to make the change you made stick with the corporation, it should become a part of the core. To make it become the corporate culture, you can throw celebrations, promoting employees that have big contribution to the change and shaping first impressions to new employees.
Now, after understanding what the Kotter’s process is, let’s have a look at other authors’ viewpoints about it. In the book Business Strategies and Approaches for Effective Engineering Management, author Saqib Saeed from Bahria University Islamabad, Pakistan also analysed the Kotter’s change process and he had a few takeaways. First, he believed the model offers more detailed guidance. The model includes some new elements to other models: guiding team formally acts as the cause champions and change process should be divided into mini-change projects with easy wins positioned at the beginning of implementation. Second, he believed that also Kotter’s model is meant to be applied to large-scale change, the elements also apply to smaller-scale change projects.
Another example of reflection on Kotter’s model can be a TEDx Talks Embracing Change from Jason Clarke – an Australian expert in innovation and leadership, used to teach in Melbourne School of Business. During his speech, he analysed the excuses that people made to resist change and how to overcome them. This can be considered as a reflection of step five in the model. He brought to audience seven “real” reasons when people resist change: I’m just too full of emotions and fears to think; This has all come as a huge shock; I’m scared of the transition, not the idea; I don’t know how big a deal this change really is; I don’t see how I fit into any of this; I feel like I’ve no say in what happens and the biggest one: I’m fed up with phony change that goes nowhere. Afterwards, he presented solutions for each of the above reasons.
The third example is the speech from Rosabeth Moss Kanter - a professor at the Harvard Business School about change. She presented six keys to leading positive change: show up, speak up, look up, team up, never give up and lift others up. One of her lines that was so powerful that has become my favourite quote: “The person who ends up as the most influential is the person who names the problem and gives people an idea for action". However, I believe there is a flaw in her speech which is when she brought Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as example of success. I do not have personal comment about the success of these two persons, but I believe it would be wiser if she left out potitical examples since political success are defined differently amongs people. If an audience finds Obama and Clinton performances as a failure, Kanter’s examples would be invalid, which would make her speech less persuading.
I have great personal experience of bad change management. During my internship earlier this year, I worked for a company that was experiencing a reform in every sector with new product, new market segment and new strategy. However, even the leader was confused about these things. He kept changing the strategy and even the product every fortnight. This week focused on selling to squash clubs, next week we focused on forming language community. Maybe each of it was a part of a bigger picture, but the leader never communicate to me or my colleagues about his grand plan. When we asked about it, his answer was very generic which led us to the thought that maybe he did not even know what he was doing.
In conclusion, change management is a very important skill to have nowadays. This skill is needed not only for corporations, leaders but also for each of us. One of the most important requirements to acquire this skill is to brave enough to step out of the comfort zone. If you can manage changes and adapt to it, it will benefit you, your company and everyone that you interact with.
Ahmad, R., Khan, M.A. & Saeed, S. 2013. Business Strategies and Approaches for Effective Engineering Management. Business Science Reference. United States of America.
Clarke, J. 22 December 2010. TEDxPerth - Jason Clarke - Embracing Change. TEDx Talks. URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPhM8lxibSU. Accessed: 8 October 2017.
Kanter, R.M. 7 January 2013. Six keys to leading positive change: Rosabeth Moss Kanter at TEDxBeaconStreet. TEDx Talks. URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owU5aTNPJbs. Accessed: 8 October 2017.
Kotter, J.P. 1996. Leading Change. Harvard Busines School Press.
MindTools 2017. Kotter's 8-Step Change Model Implementing Change Powerfully and Successfully. URL: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_82.htm. Accessed 8 October 2017.