Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: Leading Change

Okay, this isn't a new book but nonetheless one I recently read.  Actually, when it first came out I wasn't even in manufacturing and I am not sure it would have made sense.  But having been part of a number of Lean transformations including leading them myself when I saw this book on the shelf I felt compelled to read it.

Leading ChangeLeading Change was first published in 1996 by John P. Kotter after writing an article 1994 called "Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail."  John a professor from Harvard Business School has been studying change for over 30 years.  His research led to the identification of eight common errors to transformation efforts.

Some of the most common mistakes when transforming an organization are: (1) Allowing too much complacency, (2) Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition, (3) Underestimating the power of vision, (4) Under communicating the vision by a factor of 10x-100x, (5) Permitting obstacles to block the new vision, (6) Failing to create short-term wins, (7) Declaring victory too soon, (8) Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture.  He found these errors amplify in a rapid moving competitive world.  John explains that these errors can be mitigated and possibly avoided with the eight stage change process

The 8 Steps of Successful Change and Common Mistakes
Step Lessons from successes
Lessons from mistakes
Establish a sense of urgency.
• Examine market and competitive realities.
• Identify and discuss crises, potential crises, or major opportunities.
Not establishing enough sense of urgency.
• Transformation programs require aggressive co-operation by many individuals.
• Without motivation, people won't help and the effort goes nowhere.
Form a powerful guiding coalition team.
• Assemble a group with enough energy and authority to lead the change effort.
• Encourage this group to work together as a team.
Not creating a powerful guiding coalition.
• Companies that fail in this phase usually underestimate the difficulties of producing change and thus the importance of a guiding coalition with energy and authority.
Create a clear vision expressed simply.
• Create a vision to direct the change effort.
• Develop strategies for achieving the vision.
Lacking a clear vision.
• Without a clear and sensible vision, a transformation effort can easily dissolve into a list of confusing and incompatible projects that can take the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all.
Communicate the vision.
• Use every possible means to communicate the new vision and strategies.
• Teach new behaviors using the example of the guiding coalition team.
Under-communicating the vision.
• Transformation is impossible unless hundreds or thousands of people are willing to help, often to the point of making short-term sacrifices.
Empower others to act on the vision.
• Get rid of obstacles to change.
• Change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision.
• Encourage risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions.
Not removing obstacles to the new vision.
• Obstacles can be: the organizational structure, narrowly defined job categories, compensation or
performance-appraisal systems, and, worst of all, bosses who refuse to change
and make demands that are inconsistent with the overall change vision.
Plan for and creating short-term wins.
• Plan for visible performance improvements.
• Create those improvements.
• Recognize and reward employees involved in the improvements.
Not systematically planning and creating short-term wins.
• Planning and creating short-term wins is different from hoping for short-term wins. The former is active, the latter passive.
• Actively look for ways to obtain clear performance improvements, establish goals in the yearly planning system, achieve the objectives, and reward the people involved with recognition, promotions, or money.
Consolidate improvements and producing still more change.
• Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don't fit the vision.
• Hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision.
• Reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents.
Declaring victory too soon.
• Instead of declaring victory, leaders of successful change efforts use the credibility afforded by the short-term wins to tackle even bigger problems.
Institutionalize the new approaches.
• Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and corporate success.
• Develop ways to ensure leadership development and succession.
Not anchoring changes in the corporation's culture.
• Change sticks when it becomes the way we do things around here, when it becomes part of the corporate culture.
• Until new behaviors are rooted in social norms and shared values, they are subject to degradation as soon as the pressure for change is removed.

John stresses that successful change of any magnitude goes through all 8 stages, usually in sequence.  The progression is necessary because without a solid base you almost always get problems.  And without the follow-through that takes place in step 8, you never get to the finish line and make change stick.

Having led transformations myself this echoes the process I have used without necessarily knowing it.  I learned a lot from this book and it has caused me to reflect on those transformations.  The book is full of examples and practical advice everyone can use.

Although Kotter's book first came out in 1996, it's as relevant today as it was then.  This is a fantastic book on what it takes to lead change. The examples of the eight mistakes of managing change as well as the eight-step change process can be extremely helpful in learning how to lead change throughout one's organization.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank from the heart Tim. You provide a vital link to many of the best Lean thought leaders in the business. I and many others can really appreciate that. I also greatly like as a compliment to The Lean Journey and your many valuable insights.Best Regards, William Ryan.