In his landmark Harvard Business School Press book, Leading Change – An Action Plan from the World’s Foremost Expert on Business Leadership, Harvard professor John P. Kotter offers down-to-Earth advice on how to lead your organization into the future.
Every organization, whatever the size, deals with change as a constant. The owners and managers of emerging companies who embrace and lead change are the ones who consistently lead their companies into new markets, and introduce new products and services. Innovative leaders constantly challenge themselves and their employees to find new and better ways to deliver more and better service to their customers, and Kotter offers:
An Eight Stage Process for Transforming Your Organization:
1. Establish a Sense of Urgency – “Establishing a sense of urgency is crucial in gaining the needed cooperation” of your employees. Without it, your efforts to effectively lead change will fall on deaf ears. Unfortunately, complacency reigns unless you establish current goals and drive towards them with energy and personal commitment.
2. Create a Guiding Coalition – As much as you need to lead the charge, it is extremely important to enlist the support of a guiding group that has the respect of your employees. As Kotter says, “no one individual, even a monarch-like CEO, is ever able to develop the right vision, communicate it to large numbers … and anchor new approaches alone.”
3. Develop a Vision and Strategy – Develop a clear and compelling “picture of the future with … commentary on why people should strive to create that future.”
4. Communicate the Change Vision – The “real power of a vision is unleashed only when most of those involved . . . have a common understanding of its goals and direction.” Most leaders of emerging companies recognize that their most important role in growing the company is clearly communicating where the company is headed and how it will get there. Leaders must “Walk the Talk” and “Lead by Example.”
5. Empower Employees for Broad Based Action – Put simply, this is about removing the structural barriers that prevent well-meaning managers and employees from accomplishing the mission. Whether they know it or not, company leaders often are their own worst enemies when they develop written and unwritten “codes of conduct” that discourage innovation and ownership.
6. Generate Short Term Wins – Spread the accolades around. Reward people who take the initiative and demonstrate enthusiasm for the desired change. The short term wins must be “visible, unambiguous, and clearly related to the endgame.”
7. Consolidate Gains and Produce More Change – Consolidation attacks negative inertia and resistance. Take every opportunity to demonstrate success and combine all the individual efforts into a consolidated effort.
8. Anchor New Approaches in the Culture – Ensure that the change initiative outlives you and your current management team by building a culture of change that everyone in the company embraces.
Implemented correctly, Professor Kotter’s eight stage process will help ensure that your company and its employees look forward to the future and to coming to work every day.