John Kotter’s change model is a reference model for all professionals dedicated to culture change. It is structured in 8 steps:

  1. Create a sense of urgency, awareness and desire. Change leader should first open an honest and convincing dialogue about what’s happening in the marketplace and with your competition, to make the audience foresee the threats and opportunities to tackle. When many people start talking about the proposed change, the urgency can build and feed on itself. In that sense, the leader should:
  • Identify potential threats, and develop scenarios showing what could happen in the future.
  • Examine opportunities that should be or could be exploited
  • Start honest talks, and give convincing reasons to get people discussing and thinking.
  • Request support from customers and outside stakeholders to strengthen your arguments.

Kotter states that for a change to be successful, 75% of a firm’s management has to “buy into” the change, which means to spend time and energy creating urgency, before moving on.

  1. Create a powerful coalition. Culture change has not only to be managed, but also has to be led, and so change leaders should be found throughout the organization. To lead change, you need to gather a coalition of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources (job title, status, expertise, and political importance). Once the change coalition is created, it needs to work as a team and continue to build urgency and momentum around the need for change. This could be done by:
  • Identifying the true leaders in the organization and the key stakeholders
  • Asking for an emotional commitment from these influencers
  • Working on team building within your change coalition
  • Ensuring that you have a mix of people from different areas and levels in the organization
  1. Depict a vision for change. The coalition members have probably great ideas, but these should be linked to create an overall vision that people can understand and remember easily. To help them understand the vision and move them to take action, the leaders should:
  • Determine the values that are central to the change
  • Craft a short summary that captures what they see as the future of the organization
  • Design a strategy to execute that vision
  • Ensure that their change coalition can describe the vision in no more than five minutes
  • Practice their “vision speech” often
  1. Communicate the vision. Once you have created your vision your success will be determined by how effectively, frequently and powerfully you communicate it. You should actually try to embed it within everything that you do, like using it daily to make decisions and solve problems. When you keep it fresh on everyone’s minds, they’ll remember it and respond to it. What you do is far more important than what you say. Walk your talk to be credible.

 

Show the behavior you want from others by practicing what you preach. This can be done by:

  • Talking often about your change vision, linking it to all the aspects of operations
  • Listening to the people’s understanding of the vision and concerns, to clear doubts and reformulate the speech if necessary
  • Addressing peoples’ concerns and anxieties, openly and honestly
  • Leading by example
  1. Remove obstacles. Is there anyone or anything resisting the change? Once the structure for change is put in place, it is necessary to remove obstacles, empowering the needed people to move the change forward in the direction of the vision. This can be done by:
  • Identifying or hiring leaders in charge of delivering the change
  • Ensuring that the organizational structure and incentive systems are in line with the vision.
  • Recognizing and rewarding people for their contribution to make the change happen.
  • Identifying people who are resisting the change, and helping them see what’s needed
  1. Create short-term achievements. It is very convenient to get a taste of victory in the early stages of the process, achieving some visible and relevant results to keep critics and negative thinkers away from the spotlight. To do so, it is necessary to create short term goals as milestones along the whole process, so as to keep the organization members engaged with the change process. This can be done by:
  • Looking for sure-fire projects that you can implement without help from any change critics
  • Not choosing expensive early targets. The project investments should be easy to justify
  • Thoroughly analyzing the pros and cons of every target, to choose attainable goals
  • Rewarding those who help in meeting the goals

  1. Build on the change process. Many change projects fail because victory is declared too early. The change process takes time until it is fully completed and quick successes are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change. Each win provides an opportunity to build on what is right and identify what needs to improve. This can be done by:
  • Analyzing what went right and what should have worked better after every success
  • Setting goals to continue building on the momentum that is being achieved
  • Learning about kaizen, the concept of continuous improvement
  • Bringing in new change agents and leaders for the change coalition to keep ideas fresh
  1. Anchor the changes in corporate culture. To make any change stick, the values behind the vision must show in day-to-day work, and so it is necessary to make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of the organization. It’s also important that the organization’s leaders continue to support the change. This can be done by:
  • Talking about progress every chance you get. Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear.
  • Including the change ideals and values when hiring and training new staff
  • Publicly recognizing key members of the original change coalition, and making sure the rest of the staff remember their contributions.
  • Creating plans to replace key leaders as they move on to ensure that their legacy is not lost

This blog post is from the Whitepaper “Building a culture of collaboration and innovation”, freely downloadable in this weblog. You may check the Whitepaper’s references to know the sources used for its elaboration.

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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