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Monday, December 17, 2007

Leading Organizational Change

John Kotter, now professor emeritus of Harvard's Business School, is considered the father of change. Author of numerous publications, his research and ideas about how change takes place in organizations have been widely applied in business. At the forefront of his thinking is that change is slow (can take years, not months) and change takes a dynamic leader to implement it in a company. Here are his eight steps to transform an organization.
  1. Establish a sense of urgency.
    • People respond better to crises than business as usual with a slight new twist. Somehow leaders have to examine the marketplace and show how their company faces a major problem
  2. Form a powerful guiding coalition.
    • Leaders need help overcoming inertia. Convincing other leaders in the company to form a team and lead the change is essential.
  3. Create a vision.
    • Leaders must be able to succinctly and vividly create the picture of a vision and develop strategies for the team to reach that vision.
  4. Communicate the vision.
    • Use every means available in the company--speeches, newsletters, memos, e-mails, and most of all leadership by example of the guiding coalition team.
  5. Empower others to act on the vision.
    • Remove obstacles to making change.
  6. Plan for creating short-term wins.
    • Gather the low-hanging fruit of change and improvements and reward people in public to create the buzz about the importance of change and to overcome inertia.
  7. Consolidate improvements to produces even more change.
    • Change systems and structures based on increasing credibility and momentum and hire new people and develop others to implement change.
  8. Institute new approaches.
    • Connect new behaviors and corporate success and plan leadership succession.
Source: Harvard Business Review on Leading Change, "Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail" by John P. Kotter (HRS Publishing, 2006). Article originally published in March-April 1995 in Harvard Business Review.

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