Sunday, 18 June 2017

On driving change: Kotter's Model

I've not only been studying organisational change management for a while now but also been part of some of the process in my recent engagements with clients. The subject has started to fascinate me, which has created a deeper sense of appreciation for system dynamics in the workplace.

I've decided to capture some frameworks on my blog for note keeping, since it will become a likely go-to place for me to reference. I'll start with Kotter's model and build from there. 

The source of my information in this post, is cited & referenced from Leach's Critical Chain Project Management book, Chapter 11, Pages 283-286.

1. Create urgency

The first step is to get a sense of urgency building within the organisation that something must be done. Most people in most organisations feel overwhelmed by keeping up with the daily workload so suggesting doing something more to change the way the organisation works looks at best to be just more work and at worst to be something that is going to make things worse than they presently are. People need something to motivate them.  Kotter suggested some things that work:

  • Show others the need for change with a compelling object that they can actually see, touch, and feel.
  • Show people valid and dramatic evidence from outside the organisation that demonstrates that change is required.
  • Look constantly for cheap and easy ways to reduce complacency.
  • Do not underestimate how much complacency, fear, and anger exists in your organisation.

2. Build team

One person can only succeed to cause change in a very small organisation. Many people are not even able to cause changed behaviour in one person: themselves. Think of how many people succeed at losing wait or stopping smoking? Planning real change at an organisation level needs help, you can't do it alone. You need to enlist the leaders of the organisation who have bought into the sense of urgency. Kotter suggested the following that could work:
  • Show enthusiasm and commitment to help draw the right people into the group.
  • Model the trust and teamwork needed in the group.
  • Structure meetings for the guiding team to minimise the frustration and increase trust.
  • Put your energy into step 1 (raising energy / urgency) if you feel you cannot move on to step 2.

3. See vision

People need to be able to see the proposed change because that is what can begin to create an emotional feeling that will motivate them to change. A vision should be a picture of the end result. If you describe it in words, the words need to evoke an image. Kotter suggested:
  • Try to see - literally - possible futures.
  • Make the vision so clear that you can articulate in one minute or write, or better yet draw, it on one page.
  • Supply a moving (emotional) vision such as serving people.
  • Put forth bold strategies to make the vision real.
  • Focus on how to quickly make the change.

4. Communicate

So people can feel the change, you need to communicate:
  • The vision in terms of the benefits people will see when they change their behaviour.
  • What has to be done to make the vision a reality.
  • Reinforcements when people exhibit the right new behaviours.
  • "Wins" by people and groups who do the new behaviours.
  • Anything and everything else about the change that will keep at the top of people's agenda.
Kotter suggests some ideas on communicating:
  • Keep communication simple and heartfelt.
  • Do your homework before communicating, especially to understand what people are feeling.
  • Speak to anxieties, confusion, anger, and distrust.
  • Rid the communication channels of junk so that important messages get through above the noise.
  • Use current technologies to help people see the vision.

5. Empower action

You need to empower action: make sure people know that they are expected to take action now and that they are free to do it as the see fit. Empowering action is as much about removing obstacles to action (pulling) as it is about causing people to act. Kotter's suggestions:
  • Find individuals with change experience to bolster people's self-confidence with "we-won-you-can-too" stories.
  • Recognise and reward in ways that inspire, promote optimism, and build self-confidence.
  • Deal with disempowering managers through coaching or move them out of the way.

6. Create wins

Your team needs to coach people to create successes: wins. Then you need to reinforce the behaviour of those who created the wins and communicate their wins and reinforcements to the rest of the organisation. Pilots are a powerful tool to create short term wins but you need to ensure that people who live those wins with the pilots do not immediately go back to prior behaviours. Kotter's suggestions:
  • Early wins that come fast.
  • Wins that are as visible as possible to as many people as possible.
  • Wins that go through emotional defences.
  • Wins that are meaningful.
  • Early wins that speak to powerful players whom you need to engage.
  • Wins that are cheap and easy even if small.

7. Do not let up

The leadership team has to keep the desired change at the top of agenda through and well beyond the planned-for successes. There will be obstacles and there will be some failures along the way but the winning teams take failure as a learning and motivating experience to add vigour to the change process. Kotter's ideas:
  • Rid yourself of work that wears you down - tasks that mattered in past but may not matter now or tasks that you can delegate.
  • Constantly look for ways to keep up the urgency.
  • Use new situations opportunistically to launch the next waves of change.
  • Show 'em, Show 'em, Show 'em...

8. Make it stick

Once you have completed the first round of getting the organisation to exhibit the desired new behaviours, you need to continue right on to improve what you have accomplished. If you do not continue to improve, the organisation will revert to the previous behaviours in a surprising short period of time. Kotter's ideas that work:
  • Never, never, never give up on step 7.
  • Use new employee orientation to demonstrate what matters most in the organisation.
  • Use the promotion process to place people who exhibit the new behaviours into influential positions.
  • Tell vivid stories over and over about how things now work.
  • Ensure continuity of behaviour and results that help sustain and grow the new culture.