What makes an organization unique? notable? praiseworthy? I suggest that one quality of a successful organization is the ability to adapt, and even master, change. Controlling change, in in every organization and in every stage of life, is a crucial challenge–because change can either be something we plan and set forth ourselves, or something that is forced on us. Whatever the circumstances you find yourself in when it comes to change, there will always be some resistance, maybe a little fear, and perhaps even the temptation to stop during a transition.
Recently, I attended a webinar called “The Heart of Change” by Harvard Business School’s Dr. John P. Kotter. Kotter sets forth an 8-step plan in which we can successfully implement change in our companies, and how to allow these positive results to affect our business culture as well.
The truth is, 70% of all efforts to make change within organizations fail. Knowing the planning and efforts that go into change, and the desire from leadership to see changes come to fruition, this statistic makes me cringe. Kotter suggests that the failure of change is not due to a lack of planning or strategy or execution, but instead a lack of emotion.
In order for change to be successful, the need for it must be felt on a heart level, engaging the emotions of the team. Like marketing our brand in order that people fall in love with the story of our company and values, we must apply the same tactic and understanding to our internal team.
Here is a quick summary of Kotter’s 8 Step Process for Leading Change. While some organizations will undergo a battle with those who do not like change, the nature of your battles typically won’t be revealed until you begin. Reviewing Kotter’s process allows us to be aware of these possible roadblocks before they become an issue. I recommend reading the information thoroughly before you begin to implement these steps, but with this overview I think you’ll find some refreshing steps to change and maybe a few “aha!” moments as to where it is that you have previously run into roadblocks.
8 Step Process for Leading Change
First, we must help others to understand a sense of urgency for change for the organization and their individual growth. This urgency must be felt on a level that affects their emotions, for it’s our emotional triggers that usually drive us into action. To do this, our message for the need for change must be explained in terms of values both on a personal level and also of the value’s your company operates under.
50% of the companies that fail in the drive for change do so at this first stage. Without a buy-in on a level that is more than the day-to-day, the process of change has a chance of failing before it has begun.
Successful changes need the commitment of a group of people who have leadership qualities, not just the top tiers of the company. It is these people who will motivate, encourage, and drive the change. When a team of leaders and managers come together to create change, it is their fortitude that will be able to make decisions for the whole group when direction seems unclear.
This team of leaders and managers need to establish trust among the others in order to function cohesively and properly. Kotter suggests an offsite location with carefully planned and facilitated activities that draws the team together. Some companies don’t have the means or time to do this, but perhaps even a weekly lunch might do the job. Whatever route you take, trust among your leading coalition is essential, as it will in turn build trust in the decision making process for the rest of the organization.
Creating Vision seems like an obvious step, but sometimes this step is skipped because of the time consuming and careful strategic planning that must happen in order to carefully create a concise and concrete vision. When a strong vision is created, Kotter explains, it will motivate and draw people together for the sake of the cause, it will rule out tiny decisions, and will empower people to be self-starters even when the steps to live out the vision feel awkward or painful at first. In addition, a clear vision minimizes or even eliminates the need or desire to micromanage, which frees up your employees to use their gifts and talents toward the cause.
A good, clear vision must be able to look forward into the future, but also take into account the realities of the current status of the organization. Visions are about taking what you are good at and making your company great at it. They provide focused guidance and it is easy to communicate to your team. When this happens, little to no explanation is needing, allowing the vision to become second nature to the organization and part of their decision making process.
In order to effectively communicate the vision, a team must be dedicated to doing so. Whatever you think may be overkill, that’s how much you need to communicate the new vision. Kotter suggests as much as hour-by-hour activities in the early stages, and regular messaging as the vision is being carried out. The vision should be referred to in emails, meeting, presentations, conversations, and any other form of messaging your team uses to become a cohesive unit.
Think of your messaging strategy as a marketing campaign. Just as you would market a product, brand image, or service, so, too, you need to market your vision to your organization. And, true to marketing endeavors, the vision must be communicated simply so that it’s easily repeated and understood, and invitational in order to create a vivid environment of two-way participation in your team.
As your team begins to get behind the vision and launches productive and necessary changes, roadblocks will arise that prevent them from doing their best work. Paying attention to these roadblocks, and giving them proper time, attention, and solution is essential in creating successful change. Once these barriers are removed, Kotter says, people are free to do their very best work, using creative strategies and taking ownership of the vision.
The barriers may be as easy as a technical issue, or something more complicated within a person of the organization. Team members often have habits that are hard to change. When this happens with a supervisor in the organization, it can affect the whole team. Often people feel that change will put their jobs in jeopardy because of the inevitable learning curve that a new vision can create. The best way to deal with fears and roadblocks is to empower each person through honest dialogue about the upcoming change and how he can uniquely contribute to the vision.. Make sure each member knows he is a part of a team who are all learning together, not on their own to prove themselves.
Especially when the change to getting to a new culture is a long road, creating achievable and unavoidable success markers along the way is essential for success and team morale. Each win must be clearly defined in relation to the change markers. And changes must be celebrated appropriately, giving recognition where recognition is due. Not only will every observance encourage your organization as they see real results from their hard work, but it will also serve as a means to break down existing barriers. People usually become less reluctant to change once they see positive results, and experience the camaraderie in the organization.
However, don’t be mistaken, short term wins are often unusual, and may fly by you quickly if you are only focused on the end result. Therefore, you must plan for these wins during the early stages of new vision strategy. This will ensure that you are not only reaching your goals, but that you are celebrating all of your hard work along the way.
Often times during a period of change, you can come out of the gates running and then lose speed along the way. Kotter also warns that resistors of change may pop-up during later changes of the vision strategy, and they begin to push back. Usually, this results from someone person losing his emotional connection to the cause. He is no longer engaged or empowered on a level beyond the day to day tasks that overwhelm him.
When we notice this happening, it is the time to dig in and push the vision and change even more. We must re-state the vision and engage our team all over again by keeping the urgency for change high. We should also create new projects and empower employees of all levels to see these through, and continue to celebrate, celebrate , celebrate! The goal in this stage is not to give up, but to fight pushback and mundane tasks with encouragement, delegation, and more communication.
All of this work would be obsolete if we didn’t create and implement new habits and behaviors as an organization that cement the vision with innovation as a given part of the organization’s culture. The temptation is to try to create a new culture and then out of these values, attempt to implement new vision. On the other hand, as Kotter points out, a new culture is solely a result of an implemented vision and successful change. The process of vision and change is rigorous and will create and organization filled with new people who have driven values and emotions about the organization.
An implemented vision and change will establish a new team of people who have been through a major experience together, and create new habits and culture based on the success of the vision.
At Taylor Digital, we know that creating a new web presence is not just about a new design, but about a change you are desiring for your company as a whole. When you create with Taylor Digital, you can trust that we are a company dedicating to helping you succeed, and will assist you in rallying your team around your new vision. I would love to hear from you and your desire to create an organic website that will reflect your organization’s newfound culture. Please give me a call today at 949-391-3333 extension 701 or fill out a complimentary review form to get started in this much needed conversation.