Facilitate Change

As a leader there are many common questions you may ask yourself when considering change.  Where do you start?  Whom do you involve in the process?  How do you see it through to the end? 

There are many theories on how to change. To assist you in facilitating positive change and enlist others in the support of your vision, please look over John Kotter's eight steps for leading change below.

Kotter's Eight Step Change Model

  1. Create Urgency

  2. Form a Powerful Coalition

  3. Create a Vision for Change

  4. Communicate the Vision

  5. Remove Obstacles

  6. Create Short-term Wins

  7. Build on the Change - Don't Let Up

  8. Make the Change Stick


Create Urgency
Develop a sense of urgency around the need for change.  Developing a sense of urgency will help you to get people motivated, involved, and moving toward change.

What can you do:

  • Identify potential threats, and develop scenarios showing what could happen in the future.

  • Examine opportunities that should or could be exploited.

  • Start honest discussions, and give reasons to get people talking and thinking.

  • Request support from stakeholders and people to strengthen your argument.

Form a Powerful Coalition
Convince people that change is necessary.  This takes strong leadership and support from key people within your organization.  Managing change isn't enough.  You have to lead the change.

Identify change leaders.  Change leaders can be found throughout your organization and you don't necessarily have to follow the company hierarchy. As a leader of change you need to bring together people whose power comes from a variety of sources, including job title, status, and expertise.  This will help to create a balanced team.

Once formed, your team needs to continue to build momentum and urgency around the need for change.

What you can do:

  • Identify the true leaders in your organization.

  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these individuals.

  • Work on team building within your group.

  • Check your team for weak areas.  A mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company helps to create a balanced team.


Create a Vision for Change
There will probably be many great concepts and ideas when you first start thinking about change. Link these concepts and ideas to an overall vision that people can grasp and remember.

A clear vision can help individuals understand why you're asking them to do something. If you want an individual to see what your trying to achieve, give them direction.

What you can do:

  • Determine the values that are central to the change.

  • Develop a short summary that captures what you "see" as the vision of your organization.

  • Create a strategy to execute that vision.

  • Ensure that your change coalition can describe the vision in five minutes or less.

  • Practice your "vision speech" often.

Communicate the Vision
What you do with your vision after you create it will determine your success. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the company, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do.

Don't just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. Use the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. When you keep it fresh on everyone's minds, they'll remember it and respond to it.

It's also important to "walk the talk." What you do is far more important than what you say. Demonstrate the behavior that you want from others.

What you can do:

  • Talk often about your change vision.

  • Address peoples' concerns and anxieties openly and honestly.

  • Apply your vision to all aspects of operation.  Tie everything back to the vision.

  • Lead by example.


Remove Obstacles
If you follow these steps and reach this point in the change process, you've been talking about your vision and building buy-in from all levels of the organization. Hopefully, your staff wants to get busy and achieve the benefits that you've been promoting.

Is anyone resisting the change? Are there processes or structures that are getting in its way?

Put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.

What you can do:

  • Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.

  • Look at your organizational structure, job descriptions, and performance and compensation systems to ensure they're in line with your vision.

  • Recognize and reward people for making change happen.

  • Identify people who are resisting the change, and help them see what's needed.

  • Take action to quickly remove barriers (human or otherwise).

Create Short-term Wins
Nothing motivates more than success. Give your company a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short time frame (this could be a month or a year, depending on the type of change), you'll want to have results that your staff can see. Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress.

Create short-term targets - not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each "win" that you produce can further motivate the entire staff.

What you can do:

  • Look for sure-fire projects that you can implement without help from any strong critics of the change.

  • Don't choose early targets that are expensive. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project.

  • Thoroughly analyze the potential pros and cons of your targets. If you don't succeed with an early goal, it can hurt your entire change initiative.

  • Reward the people who help you meet the targets.


Build on the Change - Don't Let Up
Kotter argues that many change projects fail because change occurred too early. Real change runs deep. Quick change is only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change.

Launching one new product using a new system is great. But if you can launch 10 products, that means the new system is working. To reach that 10th success, you need to keep looking for improvements.

Each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right and identify what you can improve.

What you can do:

  • After every win, analyze what went right and what needs improving.

  • Set goals to continue building on the momentum you've achieved.

  • Learn about kaizen, the idea of continuous improvement.

  • Keep ideas fresh by bringing in new change agents and leaders for your change coalition.


Make the Change Stick
Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organization. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your vision must show in day-to-day work.

Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organization. This will help give that change a solid place in your organization's culture.

It's also important that your company's leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and new leaders who are brought in. If you lose the support of these people, you might end up back where you started.

  • What you can do:

    • Talk about progress every chance you get. Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear.

    • Include the change ideals and values when hiring and training new staff.

    • Publicly recognize key members of your original change coalition, and make sure the rest of the staff - new and old - remembers their contributions.

    • Create plans to replace key leaders of change as they move on. This will help ensure that their legacy is not lost or forgotten.

Kotter, John P. and Cohn, Dan S. The Heart of Change. HBS Press, 2002.